PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Democratic incumbent Gina Raimondo has expanded her edge in the race for governor, as the campaign takes a toll on her rivals’ public standing, an exclusive WPRI 12/Roger Williams University poll released Monday shows.
The survey of 416 likely Rhode Island voters finds Raimondo at 45% and Republican Allan Fung at 34%, with 8% of voters undecided. Republican-turned-independent Joe Trillo is at 9%, and 4% of voters are backing three lesser-known candidates (Moderate Bill Gilbert, independent Anne Armstrong and independent Luis Daniel Muñoz).
Raimondo and Trillo are both up compared with the last WPRI 12/RWU survey a little over a month ago, while Fung is down, though all the changes are within the margin of error. Raimondo has gained six points of support since February, while Fung has lost two points. Other public polls have also showed the governor with a clear lead.
“Since July her lead has increased every time we’ve polled,” said Eyewitness News political analyst Joe Fleming, who conducted the poll. “Allan Fung needs to find some area where he can close the gap very quickly. The problem is he is down to eight days in the election, and she has a great deal more money than him.”
“It’s going to be very tough for him to close that gap,” he added.
The landline and cell-phone interview poll was conducted Saturday, Oct. 20, through Wednesday, Oct. 24, by Fleming & Associates of Cumberland, Rhode Island. The survey has an overall margin of sampling error of plus or minus approximately 4.8 percentage points. Fleming has been conducting polls for WPRI 12 since 1984.
While there is a larger margin of error for subgroups, the poll indicates Raimondo leads Fung among nearly all of them, including younger voters (49% to 25%), women (47% to 32%), men (42% to 35%) and Democrats (73% to 7%). Fung leads Raimondo among independents (40% to 33%) and Republicans (86% to 5%), and he is close among middle-aged voters. Trillo is capturing 12% of men and 13% of independents.
“What Democrats have to do is hold their own with independent voters, and right now Gina Raimondo is doing that,” Fleming said. “If she continues to hold her own with independent voters, that’s a good sign for her heading into election day.”
Among voters already backing a candidate, 68% said they will “definitely” stick with their current choice and 15% said they were “pretty unlikely” to change their minds, but 13% said there was a “good chance” they could switch. About one in three Trillo voters said there was a good chance they will wind up casting a ballot for someone else, compared with only 11% of Raimondo voters and 9% of Fung voters.
“That is almost half of Joe Trillo’s voters that could move away from him,” Fleming said. “The question is if they move away from him, where are they going to go? The conventional wisdom is they would probably go to Allan Fung and that’s why Allan Fung has to hope at this point he can grab onto those Trillo voters.”
Negative campaign takes toll on Fung, Trillo
Both Fung and Trillo have been clearly damaged by how the campaign has played out over recent weeks.
The WPRI 12/RWU poll shows 45% of voters now have an unfavorable opinion of Fung, up from 35% last month, while his favorable rating dipped slightly to 46%. Trillo’s numbers are even worse: his unfavorable rating jumped from 36% to 53% over the last month, while his favorable rating dipped to 19%.
“There has been awful lot of negative ads on Allan Fung in the last month and a half,” Fleming said. “And I think it’s having an effect right now.”
Fleming added unlike Fung, Trillo’s uptick in unfavorable ratings comes not from paid advertising, but most likely news reports, including a dust up he had with a young Nick Mattiello, the future House speaker.
“For the longest time Trillo had a problem getting known; now more than 70% of voters know him,” Fleming said. “However, those voters who now know him have an unfavorable opinion of him.”
By contrast, Raimondo’s numbers have barely moved all year. The new poll finds her in slightly negative territory rather than slightly positive territory: Raimondo’s favorable rating was 50% in February and is 48% now; her unfavorable rating was 46% in February and is 50% now.
Fung and Trillo may also be suffering collateral damage due to the unpopularity of President Trump locally. Fung is being tied to Trump in a series of Democratic-funded ads that show him wearing a Trump hat at the president’s inauguration, while Trillo served as Trump’s Rhode Island campaign chairman in 2016.
The poll shows Trump is viewed favorably by 36% of Rhode Island voters but unfavorably by 62%. Both numbers are little changed since the question was last asked in the February WPRI 12/RWU survey. While the president remains overwhelmingly well-liked among Republicans, he is viewed unfavorably by 70% of younger voters, 66% of women, 58% of men and 57% of independents.