PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - State Rep. John Loughlin has sliced Providence Mayor David Cicilline's lead to single digits in the battle to succeed Congressman Patrick Kennedy, our exclusive WPRI 12 poll shows.
The survey of 250 likely voters in Rhode Island's 1st Congressional District finds 48 percent favoring Democrat Cicilline and 42 percent backing Republican Loughlin with less than four days to go before the polls open.
While Cicilline's support hasn't budged since our last WPRI 12 poll a month ago, Loughlin's has increased by 13 points after independents swung heavily in his favor. Last month, the two were in a statistical tie for that key group.
"John Loughlin has closed a major gap in this race – he's down to six percentage points," Eyewitness News political analyst Joe Fleming said. "He basically did it by doing very well among independents. That's where he really picked it up."
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The telephone poll was conducted last Thursday through Monday by Fleming & Associates of Cumberland, R.I. The survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus approximately 6.2 percentage points.
Our poll shows the share of voters who haven't picked either Cicilline or Loughlin dropped from 22 percent to just 10 percent over the last month – and all of those who made up their minds went for the Republican.
"Basically, independents this year are not voting for Democrats," Fleming said. "It's not a good year for Democrats, and he's getting the benefit of that."
Democrats 'will be concerned'
Democrats have held the 1st District seat since 1994 – the same year Republicans won control of the U.S. House for the first time in decades. Now it appears the G.O.P. stands a chance of getting it back as they head for a big victory nationally next week.
"There's no question in my mind they will be concerned about this race [when they see the new poll numbers], especially with the atmosphere what it is around the country," Fleming said.
Cicilline is running strongly among traditional Democratic voters, including women, 51 percent of whom support him; voters ages 60 and older, at 54 percent; and union members, at 56 percent, our survey finds.
"The key for David Cicilline on Tuesday is a strong turnout among those groups," Fleming said.
He described Loughlin's surge of support as particularly impressive considering that Cicilline has raised and spent more money than his opponent. "I think the race has tightened more than people thought it would originally," Fleming said.
One issue for Loughlin is that he is winning only 13 percent of Democrats, 79 percent of whom are with Cicilline. To win next week, "Loughlin needs to continue to build his base of the independents but also try to get a few Democratic votes," Fleming said.
The tight contest in the 1st District has been drawing attention from prominent politicians. President Barack Obama traveled to Rhode Island to campaign on Monday, while former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney is coming for Loughlin next week.
In Rhode Island's 2nd Congressional District, our WPRI 12 poll shows incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin with a commanding lead over his Republican challenger Mark Zaccaria.
The survey of 250 likely voters there finds 55 percent supporting Langevin, 32 percent backing Zaccaria and 12 percent undecided. But Zaccaria gained eight points compared with our September poll, while Langevin's numbers changed by less than a point.
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