PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - Treasurer Gina Raimondo has the early advantage over Providence Mayor Angel Taveras in next year's Democratic primary for governor, but Taveras is a stronger candidate against Cranston Mayor Allan Fung, according to a new poll released Wednesday by Brown University.
The survey of 638 registered voters - including 433 likely Democratic primary voters - put Raimondo at 42% and Taveras at 34% in a possible primary, with 24% of voters still undecided. Raimondo has an advantage among independents, Democrats, men and women, according to Brown.
Brown's findings are in stark contrast with those of a poll commissioned by Taveras's campaign and released last month that gave the mayor a sizable 19-point lead over the treasurer in a potential primary.
One key difference between the Brown and Taveras surveys is likely how each pollster determined who is likely to vote in next year's Sept. 9 primary. A relatively small change in the size of the projected electorate or share of Democrats versus independents can have a major impact, particularly when forecasting a primary.
The telephone interview poll was conducted Oct. 2 to 5 by Brown's Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions and the John Hazen White Public Opinion Laboratory. The survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus approximately 3.9 percentage points on questions asked of all voters and 4.5 points on questions asked of Democratic primary voters.
Neither Raimondo nor Taveras has formally entered the race for governor, but both have been taking steps to prepare to run and have said they'll announce their decisions before the end of the year. The treasurer had a nearly 3-to-1 financial advantage over the mayor as of June 30.
"Obviously, it's early," WPRI 12 political analyst Joe Fleming said. "Neither candidate has announced." He said the shape of the race may start to become clearer by next spring.
"The voters really haven't tuned in on the 2014 governor's race, especially not the Democratic primary," he said. "Right now what you're getting is the perception of the candidate out there among the voters. The candidates haven't really positioned themselves on the issues yet. That will come next year."
The poll also shows Taveras is currently a stronger Democratic candidate against the likely Republican nominee, Cranston's Fung, in the November election. In two-way matchups, 42% of voters back Taveras versus 33% who back Fung, compared with 38% for Raimondo versus 36% for Fung.
However, in a four-way general election that includes Taveras, Raimondo, Fung and Moderate Party founder Ken Block, the treasurer emerges with a small lead: Raimondo 27%, Taveras 21%, Fung 19% and Block 9%, with another 24% of voters undecided.
Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who announced last month that he won't run for a second term, remains extremely unpopular. Nearly half of Rhode Island voters - 48% - say Chafee is doing a poor job as governor, while only 23% say he is doing an excellent or good job, down from 29% a year ago.
Taveras has opened up a significant lead as the most popular major politician in Rhode Island, with 64% of voters giving him excellent or good marks, down sightly from 66% a year ago. Raimondo's excellent/good rating was 54%, down from 59%.
The poll did not ask voters about the job performance or favorable ratings of Fung or Block.
Among federal officials, President Obama's excellent/good rating fell to 41%, down from 54% a year ago. U.S. Sen. Jack Reed's positive rating fell to 52%, down from 58%. U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse fell to 39%, down from 45%. Congressman David Cicilline fell to just 27% statewide, down from 30% a year ago, while his colleague Jim Langevin slipped to 39%, down from 41%.
Voters remain extremely distressed about the economic situation locally and nationally.
The vast majority of those polled - 90% - described the Rhode Island economy these days as poor or not so good, and 85% said the same thing about the national economy. However, only 35% described their own personal finances the same way, versus 64% who said their own situations were excellent or good.
In addition, 63% of voters say Rhode Island is generally off on the wrong track, compared with only 21% who say the state is going in the right direction and 14% who say things are mixed.
Among state legislative leaders, House Speaker Gordon Fox has become slightly more unpopular than his counterpart and fellow Democrat, Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed. Nearly one-third of voters - 32% - say Fox is doing a poor job as speaker, compared with 26% who say that about Paiva Weed. Less than 3% of voters say either leader is doing an excellent job, worse than Chafee or Cicilline.
Among other state-level leaders, Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts' excellent/good rating fell from 38% to 33%. Attorney General Peter Kilmartin and Secretary of State Ralph Mollis both earned excellent/good ratings of 36%. Roberts and Mollis are barred by term limits from running again in 2014, though Mollis is thinking of running for Roberts' current job.
Copyright WPRI 12
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