PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Democratic primary voters are giving a thumbs-down to state leaders’ plan to use $60 million in taxpayer money to help build the new Pawtucket soccer stadium, an exclusive 12 News/Roger Williams University poll released Tuesday shows.
The survey of 405 likely Rhode Island Democratic primary voters finds 44% oppose the stadium financing plan, while 35% of voters support it, with the remaining 19% unsure.
The stadium is the centerpiece of a proposed redevelopment project called Tidewater Landing, which was first proposed back in 2019. The cost of the stadium has soared in the wake of the pandemic, and last month Gov. Dan McKee cast a tie-breaking vote to shift state money away from future housing development to help cover the increased cost of the stadium construction.
The $60 million public subsidy for the facility has caused controversy, as documents disclosed by the McKee administration revealed the stadium will generate nowhere near enough money to pay off the debt the state plans to float for it.
For stadium supporters, the poll’s finding is “not good news,” said 12 News political analyst Joe Fleming, who conducted the survey.
Fleming emphasized that because the poll surveyed only likely Democratic primary voters, it is only reaching a subset of the overall electorate, and one that leans to the left.
While 39% of self-identified Democrats backed the stadium in the primary poll, only 25% of self-identified independents did. In addition, men were significantly more likely than women to support the project.
“The numbers don’t include Republicans, [as well as] Democrats or independents who don’t vote in primaries,” he said. “So these numbers could change greatly when you add everybody into this.”
The 12 News/RWU poll showed McKee with a narrow lead in the Democratic primary for governor, with 28% support, slightly ahead of Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, who was at 25%. Fleming said the poll results show why McKee’s challengers are trying to make the stadium an issue in the campaign.
“Up to this point there has been very little negative campaigning in this race,” Fleming said. “This could be one of the issues that they go on.”
The cellphone and landline interview poll was conducted Aug. 7 through Aug. 10 by Fleming & Associates of Cumberland, R.I. The survey has an overall margin of sampling error of plus or minus approximately 4.9 percentage points. Fleming has been conducting polls for WPRI 12 since 1984.
Coming up on Wednesday night: who’s ahead in the Democratic primary for general treasurer?
Ted Nesi (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/business editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Threads, Twitter and Facebook.
Eli Sherman contributed to this report.