PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - Gov. Lincoln Chafee faces a decidedly uphill battle if he opts to run for a second term in two years, according to an exclusive WPRI 12 poll released Wednesday night.
The new survey of 601 likely voters in Rhode Island shows just 18% would vote to re-elect Chafee if the election were being held today, 33% would consider another candidate and 42% would vote to replace him. The other 8% of voters aren't sure.
WPRI 12 political analyst Joe Fleming called the numbers "dismal."
"You want to see that re-elect number in the 40% range to start with," he said. "These are going to be very difficult numbers to come back from. But keep in mind, in politics two years is a very long time. Things can change. If the economy changes and things start to look better in Rhode Island, that could help him."
- Interactive: Breakdown of poll results
- Related: Cicilline, Doherty neck and neck
- Related: Whitehouse, Langevin ahead
The telephone interview poll with 601 likely Rhode Island voters was conducted Oct. 24 to 27 by Fleming & Associates of Cumberland, R.I. The survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus approximately 4 percentage points on statewide questions and 5.66 points on questions in a congressional district.
Chafee was elected Rhode Island's first independent governor with 36% of the vote in a four-way race in 2010, four years after the former Republican lost his U.S. Senate seat to Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse. Chafee's public standing has only deteriorated since then, with his job performance rated excellent or good by only 29% of voters in last month's WPRI 12 poll.
Chafee does best with Dems
Chafee may still have a shot at a second term, Fleming said.
"Obviously with these numbers I would think Lincoln Chafee would need another multi-candidate race to have a shot at victory," he said. "Again he would be facing a Democrat, a Republican, him as an independent and possibly another independent. With a four-way race, he would be in the mixture."
Support for re-electing Chafee runs strongest among Democrats (26%) and voters ages 60 and older (23%), while support for replacing him runs highest among Republicans (61%), independents (45%) and voters ages 40 to 59 (45%). The largest swing bloc is among voters ages 18 to 39.
"Among independents only 13% say they would vote to re-elect him," Fleming said. "He has no support among Republicans anymore - that has evaporated. His best hope is to get support among Democrats."
Only one candidate has announced a run for governor so far: former Auditor General Ernie Almonte, running as a Democrat. Other potential Democratic candidates include Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, while possible Republican candidates include 2010 nominee John Robitaille and Cranston Mayor Allan Fung.
Local schools get high marks
Rhode Islanders offered a mixed verdict on Rhode Island's public school system.
The poll shows only 39% rate he statewide K-12 education system as excellent or good, while 49% rate it fair or poor. At the same time, voters are generally pleased with their community's schools: 59% rate their local school district excellent or good, while only 32% rate their local schools fair or poor.
"It's the same thing as the General Assembly," Fleming said. "People do not like the General Assembly in Rhode Island, but they like their own state rep or state senator. We're seeing that with education. They say, 'Well, we don't like the education system overall in Rhode Island. But in my own district, in the school my kids go to, that's a good system.' "
Dissatisfaction with the statewide K-12 system runs highest among voters ages 40 to 59 (55%), men (53%) and Republicans (53%), while satisfaction is highest among independents (41%), women (40%) and voters ages 18 to 39 (40%).
Satisfaction with the local K-12 system is strongest among independents (64%), voters ages 18 to 39 (63%), Republicans (61%) and women (61%), while dissatisfaction with the local schools is highest among Democrats (37%), voters ages 40 to 59 (35%) and men (35%).
Business climate widely panned
Rhode Islanders apparently agree with national rankings that call the state an inhospitable place for commerce. The poll finds 63% of voters think Rhode Island is unfriendly to business, while just 33% say the state is friendly to business.
"I think with unemployment so high and every month we keep hearing Rhode Island is top two in the country with unemployment, people keep being told Rhode Island is unfriendly to business - all that starts to sink in after awhile with the residents of Rhode Island," Fleming said. "I think we're seeing that in these results."
There is a clear partisan split on the issue. Among Republicans, 55% say Rhode Island is very unfriendly to business, compared with just 18% of Democrats who say the same. By contrast, 44% of Democrats say Rhode Island is very or somewhat friendly to business, compared with 20% of Republicans and 29% of independents.
Voters in union households were also markedly negative, with 72% of them saying Rhode Island is unfriendly to business. "The unions want to see the state being business-friendly, because if it's business-friendly there are going to be more jobs for their members," Fleming said, noting the same includes private-sector unions as well as public-sector ones.
Copyright WPRI 12
Police say a missing New Hampshire teenager who disappeared nearly two months ago has been in contact with her mother.
A large lottery jackpot is up for grabs tonight.
A toymaker headquartered in Pawtucket turned its workers around the world into elves Friday, to volunteer in needy communities.
Providence police are investigating after a car crashed and caught fire overnight.
A Warwick business has received initial state approval to become the first Rhode Island business to help patients seeking to join the state's growing medical marijuana program.