The Cicilline-Gemma poll is ready, after more than 5,000 calls

May 16th, 2012 at 4:04 pm by under Nesi's Notes

The new WPRI 12 poll in the 1st Congressional District’s Democratic primary we’re releasing at 6 p.m. surveyed precisely 302 likely Democratic primary voters. You might think that means our esteemed longtime pollster, Joe Fleming, made 302 phone calls to get his results.

But it took many more calls than that to get a representative sample of the district’s voters – more than 5,000 calls when all was said and done, according to Fleming. “You need the right age groups,” he said. “At the end of it, you may be asking for a male or somebody who’s 18 to 39″ – that is, the people hardest to track down.

That’s important because any poll’s results are only as reliable as the people who took the survey. It’s especially tricky with a primary, where only about 25% of registered voters turn out to the polls, he said.

Luckily for us, nobody in Rhode Island has more experience getting polls right than Joe Fleming. He’s been with WPRI 12 since 1984, and still recalls making waves with bygone surveys such as one that put DiPrete and Sundlun in a dead heat.

I’m betting the results dropping at 6 p.m. will cause a similar stir when we release it on TV and online.

• Related: Exclusive WPRI 12 Poll: GOP’s Doherty has big lead over Cicilline (Feb. 27)

Can Gemma beat Cicilline? Find out Wednesday in our new poll

May 14th, 2012 at 1:07 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Congressman David Cicilline is expecting to face Republican Brendan Doherty in the November election – but he’ll never get the chance if businessman Anthony Gemma snatches the Democratic nomination from him in September’s primary. So what are the chances of that actually happening?

We’ll have the answer Wednesday when we release the results of an exclusive new WPRI 12 poll. Democratic primary voters in the 1st Congressional District weighed in on whether they plan to vote for Cicilline or Gemma, how they feel about the two candidates, which one is more electable and how Cicilline’s apology tour is going.

Tim White and I will have the complete poll results online and on air Wednesday at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. The survey of 302 likely Democratic primary voters in the 1st District was conducted last Tuesday through Saturday by our pollster, Fleming & Associates, and its margin of error is 5.7 percentage points.

• Related: Exclusive WPRI 12 Poll: GOP’s Doherty has big lead over Cicilline (Feb. 27)

Duffy: RI-1 fight may be ‘among the ugliest races’ ever in state

February 28th, 2012 at 1:32 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Rhode Island isn’t exactly known for its squeaky clean politics. But Monday’s new WPRI 12 poll has made Cook Political Report senior editor Jennifer Duffy think this year’s 1st Congressional District race could be one for the history books – and not in a good way.

The poll shows Congressman David Cicilline 15 points behind Republican challenger Brendan Doherty. “I think this means if he’s going to win this race, he’s not going to win it pretty,” Duffy, a Rhode Island native, said of Cicilline. “It is going to be among the ugliest races Rhode Island has ever witnessed.”

And considering the state’s political history, “the bar’s pretty high there,” she added.

Cicilline’s allies think he can to close the gap and defeat Doherty by following the strategy employed by Sheldon Whitehouse to defeat then-Republican Lincoln Chafee in 2006 – basically, say that even if the former state police superintendent is a moderate himself, he’ll provide a key vote to empower congressional Republicans who’ve supported privatizing Medicare.


WPRI Poll: Chafee slumps, Raimondo solid, Whitehouse safe

February 27th, 2012 at 9:45 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

By Ted Nesi and Tim White

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Islanders of every stripe are unhappy with Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s performance as he settles into his second year in office, according to an exclusive WPRI 12 poll released Monday evening.

The new survey of 500 registered voters finds just 21% of voters give a positive grade to Chafee, an independent ex-Republican, while 75% give him negative marks. That includes nearly half of voters – 48% – who rate the job Chafee is doing as “poor.”

The widespread antipathy toward Chafee is a stark contrast with how Rhode Islanders view Treasurer Gina Raimondo. The survey shows 56% of voters give Raimondo a positive review.

The poll also finds U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse has a 22-point advantage over his challenger Barry Hinckley, with the Democratic getting 50%, the Republican getting 28% and 20% of voters unsure.

Read the rest of this story »

• Interactive: Complete results from the WPRI 12 poll with cross-tabs

Coming on Tuesday: Should Providence file for bankruptcy? Should Rhode Island allow casinos?

New WPRI 12 Poll: Doherty 49%, Cicilline 34%, undecided 16%

February 27th, 2012 at 5:45 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

By Ted Nesi and Tim White

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Congressman David Cicilline is headed for a double-digit defeat at the hands of Republican Brendan Doherty unless he finds a way to win back a large number of voters by November, according to an exclusive WPRI 12 poll released Monday evening.

The new survey of 250 registered voters in Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional District shows Doherty, a former state police superintendent, would defeat Cicilline 49% to 34%, with 16% of voters undecided. Doherty’s lead over Cicilline has grown by two points since the previous WPRI 12 poll last May.

Cicilline has “moved the needle, but unfortunately for him in the wrong direction,” WPRI 12 political analyst Joe Fleming said. “Clearly, whatever he’s tried to turn it around hasn’t worked to this point.”

Read the rest of this story »

• Interactive: Complete results from the WPRI 12 poll with cross-tabs

Coming up at 10: Whitehouse-Hinckley; approval ratings (Obama, Chafee, Reed, Whitehouse, Raimondo)

PSA: Everything you know about the margin of error is wrong

February 27th, 2012 at 3:26 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

When our exclusive WPRI 12 poll drops at 6 p.m. tonight, you’ll see that the margin of error is plus or minus 4.38 percentage points for the entire poll and plus or minus 6.2 percentage points for the 1st District only.

Inevitably, some well-meaning folks will take our top-line results and then argue that anything in a range of, respectively, 8.76 points or 12.4 points could be true. If Cicilline is down 5 points, these folks may say the race is a “statistical tie.”

Those folks will be wrong, and here’s why, as explained by Kevin Drum back in 2008 (emphasis mine):


Someone else conducted a long poll about Cicilline last week

February 27th, 2012 at 11:39 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Boy, who isn’t doing a survey in the 1st Congressional District this month?

David Segal did a poll. WPRI 12 did a poll (which we’ll release at 6:00 tonight). And now we’ve learned someone else with a keen interest in Congressman David Cicilline did a poll, too.

Two NN readers separately reported getting calls last week to take a part in a telephone survey by an organization that described itself as something like ”Rhode Island Opinion Research.” That doesn’t ring a bell, so it’s quite possible a different group – The Feldman Group, perhaps? – used it as a nom de plume.

One of the two readers, bless her heart, took thorough notes about the questions, which were asked by “a very professional woman,” though she had some trouble pronouncing “Carcieri,” “Segal” and “Boehner.” After the jump, you can scan the reader’s hastily drafted notes about the survey questions.


Just 9 hours left until our new Cicilline-Doherty poll drops

February 27th, 2012 at 9:00 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Everyone loves a good poll, and in Rhode Island there are no better polls than those conducted by WPRI 12′s longtime pollster and political analyst, Joe Fleming. And that makes today a big day in Campaign 2012.

The 1st Congressional District race between Democratic Congressman David Cicilline and Republican challenger Brendan Doherty is already the state’s biggest political battle of the year. The two candidates finished 2011 neck-and-neck in the money race and Doherty’s only obstacle to the GOP nomination – John Loughlin – left the field in January.

Our last WPRI 12 poll, in May, showed Cicilline trailing Doherty by 13 points. There’s been little sign of a comeback for the congressman since then, with last week’s Brown University survey giving him a 15% approval rating and his successor in Providence now saying the capital is nearly bankrupt. Cicilline may face a primary challenge from Anthony Gemma, too.

But there’s a reason top Democrats remain behind Cicilline and political observers refuse to count him out: he’s a dogged campaigner, a prodigious fundraiser and a down-the-line Democrat in a deep-blue state running in a presidential year, while Doherty is a first-time candidate whose few public appearances so far have been so-so.

While the Cicilline-Doherty matchup will likely get most of the ink, other results to keep an eye on include how Gemma would fare against Doherty; whether Barry Hinckley is getting any traction against U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse; how voters feel about Governor Chafee after a year in office; and where Treasurer Raimondo stands post-pensions.

WPRI 12 will release the results of our new poll in four televised installments today and Tuesday starting at 6 p.m. tonight. Here’s what we’ll tell you about this evening:

  • 6 p.m.: Cicilline vs. Doherty; Gemma vs. Doherty; approval ratings (Cicilline, Langevin); right track/wrong track
  • 11 p.m.: Whitehouse vs. Hinckley; approval ratings (Obama, Chafee, Reed, Whitehouse, Raimondo)

My colleague Brian Curtin has created this interactive results page where you can dig into the results for different demographic groups, and I’ll have articles and analysis here. Don’t miss it.

• Related: Exclusive Poll: Cicilline would lose to Republicans Doherty, Loughlin (May 19)

Analysis: Why Chafee can find solace in the new Brown U. poll

February 23rd, 2012 at 2:00 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

The headline numbers in the new Brown University poll are bad – really bad – for Congressman Cicilline and Governor Chafee. But there are other ways to analyze the results that look slightly better, though still pretty bad, for the two incumbents.

Political practitioners have long complained about “the science” of surveys that generate job approval ratings by asking voters to rate an official’s job performance as either “excellent,” “good,” “fair”/”only fair” or “poor.” Their argument is that while “only fair” isn’t a huge vote of confidence, it’s not necessarily a sign of out-and-out disapproval, either.

Evidently, Brown disagrees – the university lumps together “excellent” and “good” to create the metric it calls an approval rating. But by digging into the detailed breakdown of the poll, we can take another look at the numbers and what they say about local leaders’ standing among voters.

One way to do that is to strip out three of the four ratings and just look at the share of voters who describe each politician’s job performance as “poor,” which is clearly negative. While that probably understates the level of disapproval, perhaps Chafee (45%) and Cicilline (43%) can take solace that a majority don’t think they’re doing a poor job:


Cicilline, Chafee approval ratings now worse than Nixon in 1974

February 23rd, 2012 at 9:00 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Analysis: Poll’s possible silver lining for Chafee

Hard as it is to imagine, Congressman David Cicilline and Gov. Lincoln Chafee have managed to lose even more public support.

Cicilline’s job approval rating has sunk to just 15% among all Rhode Island voters, down from 24% in December, according to a new Brown University poll released Thursday morning. Chafee’s approval rating isn’t much higher at 22%, down from 27%.

To put those numbers in perspective, President Richard Nixon’s approval rating was 24% a week before he resigned over Watergate in 1974. Slightly more voters rated Chafee’s job performance as poor (45%) than said so about Cicilline’s (43%).

Cicilline’s successor, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, is the most popular elected official in Rhode Island based on Brown’s polling. The mayor’s statewide job approval rating is up to 60%. Treasurer Gina Raimondo comes next with 58% approving of her job performance.


Nobody felt worse about economy in ’11 than Rhode Islanders

February 7th, 2012 at 6:00 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Cheer up a bit, Rhode Island. You’re going to bum everybody out.

Just 5.4% of Rhode Islanders described economic conditions in the United States as excellent or good in 2011, the smallest share in any state, according to Gallup polling. That was down from the already minuscule 7% who felt that way in 2010.

Oregon had the second-fewest optimists in 2011, but even they had 7.2%. More than half of Rhode Island residents – 52.9% – described the economy as poor last year, compared with 51% who said so in 2010.

Moreover, Gallup found Rhode Islanders’ confidence about the economy has barely budged in the last three years.

Those responses gave Rhode Island a score of minus-43 in Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index for 2011, tied for third-lowest in the nation. That’s an improvement from the state’s rock-bottom score of minus-63 back in 2008, but worse than its scores of minus-39 and minus-41 in 2010 and 2009, respectively.


Poll: Rhode Islanders among gloomiest about US economy

August 16th, 2011 at 10:40 am by under Nesi's Notes

The Ocean State’s jobless rate isn’t the worst in the country, but its mood might be.

Just 7% of Rhode Islanders described economic conditions in the United States as excellent or good during the first half of 2011, according to a new Gallup poll – tied with Oregon for the second-lowest percentage in any state. About half the state’s residents – 51% – described conditions as poor.

The survey shows Rhode Islanders’ opinions haven’t budged over the past 12 months. The share of Rhode Islanders who described conditions as excellent or good was also 7% in the first half of 2010, and the share who described them as poor a year ago was 50%.

Asked about the direction of the economy during the first six months of this year, 58% of Rhode Islanders said they thought it was getting worse, while only 34% said they thought it was getting better. That was slightly better than a year ago, when 62% said the economy was worsening and 34% said it was improving.

Those responses gave Rhode Island a score of -34 in Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index for the first six months of 2011, which ranked ninth-lowest in the nation. That was essentially unchanged from the state’s score of -36 in the first half of 2010.

The only place in the nation with a positive Economic Confidence Index score for this year was Washington, D.C., with a +11, Gallup said. Massachusetts’ score of -19 was tied for fourth-highest. Connecticut posted a -30.

But all those numbers may be lower now, Gallup chief economist Dennis Jacobe warned. “Economic confidence has worsened considerably during recent weeks and, as such, views over the second half of the year may be quite different from those in the first half,” he wrote.

“Gallup Daily tracking each day asks Americans to assess the current state of the U.S. economy and to say whether the economy is getting better or worse,” the firm said in explaining its methodology. The responses to these two questions are combined into Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index, which has a theoretical range of -100 to +100. Negative scores indicate Americans are more pessimistic than optimistic about the state of the U.S. economy.”

Poll: Only 48.9% of Rhode Islanders ‘thriving,’ fourth-fewest

June 1st, 2011 at 1:07 pm by under Nesi's Notes

Maybe this explains why people are so stressed around here.

Just 48.9% of Rhode Islanders were “thriving” in 2010, judging by how they rate their lives now and five years from now, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. That was the fourth-lowest share thriving in the country, behind only Ohio (48.8%), Kentucky (47%) and West Virginia (45.8%).

On a scale of 0 to 10, Rhode Islanders on average rated their lives right now as a 6.8 and in five years as a 7.7. Gallup classifies “thriving” as a current rating of 7 or better and a future rating as 8 or better.

The places with the most residents thriving were Hawaii (65.5%), Alaska (59.5%) and Wyoming (57.7%). Hawaii is also the least-stressed state in the nation, according to Gallup, which said there was “no clear regional pattern” among the states’ thriving scores.

“Americans’ ratings of their lives five years from now consistently exceed ratings of their current lives, both over time and across all 50 states,” Gallup noted. “This suggests that people in various situations – good and bad – tend to express optimism that things will improve in the future.”

Compared with other nations, the percentage of Rhode Islanders who are thriving is on par with Ireland and Venezuela and higher than in Germany or France, according to Gallup’s global wellbeing snapshot.

(map: Gallup)

Gallup: Rhode Islanders 10th most-stressed in the country

May 31st, 2011 at 1:04 pm by under Nesi's Notes

Rhode Island is one of the higher-stress states in the nation, a new survey shows.

In 2010, 41% of Rhode Islanders said they’d felt stressed during the previous day, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. That was the 10th-highest stress level in the country, below No. 9 New Hampshire (41.1%) but above No. 11 Washington (40.9%).

On the bright side, fewer Rhode Islanders felt harried in 2010 than during the previous two years – 42.7% reported being stressed in 2009 and 41.6% reported it in 2008.

Hawaiians were the least stressed in 2010 for the third year in a row, with only 30.2% feeling that way, according to Gallup. Utah residents reported the highest stress level – 45.1% – and Massachusetts was No. 5, at 42.6%. Americans’ average stress level was 39.4%, with the Northeast and West among the higher-level regions.

Here’s how Gallup described its overall findings:

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index state data underscore that stress is a complex emotion that is likely related to numerous life issues. …

That finances and health aren’t the only determinants of Americans’ stress levels reveals that earning more money or being in great physical shape doesn’t necessarily protect against all of life’s stressors. Family and career issues likely play a large role in individuals’ daily stress levels.

That stress levels did not increase much during the recession provides additional evidence that Americans’ definition of stress goes beyond economic experiences. Still, further investigation into what drives stress and how stress affects people is needed as nearly 40% of American adults consistently report experiencing it a lot of the day “yesterday.”

(map: Gallup)

Lincoln Chafee far from most unpopular governor in the U.S.

May 31st, 2011 at 7:00 am by under Nesi's Notes

Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s first term may be off to a middling start, but compared with his counterparts in other states he could be doing quite a bit worse.

Chafee’s net approval rating ranks 28th among the 38 governors tracked by Public Policy Polling, according to figures provided to WPRI.com by the Democratic-affiliated firm. Chafee’s 38% approval and 44% disapproval ratings gave him an overall margin of -6 points.

That’s better than one of Chafee’s next-door governors, Connecticut Democrat Dan Malloy – whose 39%/47% ratings gave him an approval margin of -8 points, ranking him 29th – but worse than Massachusetts Democrat Deval Patrick, whose approval and disapproval ratings were both 45%. Patrick ranked 24th.

Chafee spokesman Mike Trainor said he believes the governor will win over voters as time goes on.

“Governor Chafee – he’s a workhorse, not a show-horse,” Trainor said. “His substantive, measured, methodical approach is going to produce results that I think are going to please an awful lot of Rhode Islanders. But it takes time.”

Trainor also noted Chafee faces big challenges. ”No reasonable person would disagree with the fact that he inherited a colossally difficult agenda,” he said. “His style is to go at things very methodically, very deliberately and substantively. He’s not somebody to put a sugarcoating on anything, and I admire him for that.”

Among the 10 governors whose approval margins are worse than Chafee’s, six are Republicans (Texas’ Perry, Pennsylvania’s Corbett, Wisconsin’s Walker, Michigan’s Snyder, Ohio’s Kasich and Florida’s Scott) and four are Democrats (Connecticut’s Malloy, Washington’s Gregoire, North Carolina’s Perdue and Illinois’ Quinn).

The most unpopular governors are Florida’s Rick Scott and Ohio’s John Kasich, both with approval margins of -23 points. Illinois’ Pat Quinn is right behind at -22. Nebraska Republican Dave Heineman is the most popular governor; his 67% approval and 23% disapproval ratings gave him a margin of +44.

One caveat – these polls were done over a long period of time, so some of the governors could have been caught at particularly high or low points. Chafee’s numbers come from February, while the others range from this month back to January 2010 (though most are more recent than that).

Chafee’s no Jack Reed, anyway. Rhode Island’s senior senator was the most popular Democratic senator in the entire country in 82 Public Policy Polling job approval surveys from January 2010 to February 2011.

Whitehouse, Obama far ahead of Cicilline on job approval

May 19th, 2011 at 9:49 pm by under Nesi's Notes

Congressman David Cicilline’s job approval numbers in the 1st Congressional District are much worse than those of his fellow Democrats, U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and President Obama.

But there may be a silver lining for Cicilline in our new WPRI 12 poll – he’ll be sharing the ballot with Obama and Whitehouse in November 2012, so their presence on the ticket could give him a needed boost.

The survey of 300 registered voters by Fleming & Associates was conducted May 13-15 and has a 5.7% margin of error. Here’s how they rated the job performance of the three Democrats:

  • Obama: 53% positive / 46% negative / 1% don’t know
  • Whitehouse: 46% positive / 47% negative / 7% don’t know
  • Cicilline: 23% positive / 63% negative / 14% don’t know

In our survey, “positive” means a voter described the politician’s job performance as “excellent” or “good,” while negative means he or she described it as “fair” or “poor.”

Tim White and I have more – including extended analysis from our political analyst Joe Fleming – in our new story on WPRI.com. Joe will also be taking about the poll this weekend on WPRI 12′s “Newsmakers” along with Tim, WRNI’s Ian Donnis and Scott MacKay, and yours truly.

You can also see the poll results for Cicilline when he goes head-to-head against his two potential Republican opponents here, and check out complete poll results here.

Doherty, Loughlin beat Cicilline in new WPRI 12 poll

May 19th, 2011 at 5:46 pm by under Nesi's Notes

The results are in, and they’re not pretty for Congressman Cicilline.

Cicilline would lose to his two potential Republican challengers – Brendan Doherty and John Loughlin – by double-digits if the 1st Congressional District election were held today, according to the new WPRI 12 poll being released on air right now.

The survey of 300 registered voters by Fleming & Associates was conducted May 13-15 and has a 5.7% margin of error. Here are the head-to-head matchups:

  • Loughlin: 47%
  • Cicilline: 35%
  • undecided: 17%
  • Doherty: 46%
  • Cicilline: 33%
  • undecided: 20%

We also got favorability ratings – as opposed to job performance ratings – for each of the three. “I’ve seen surveys where people had very high favorability ratings and very low job ratings – they like them as a person but they don’t necessarily like the job they’re doing,” our analyst Joe Fleming said.

Here’s how those broke down:

  • Cicilline: 33% positive / 57% negative / 10% don’t know
  • Loughlin: 38% positive / 16% negative / 46% don’t know
  • Doherty: 43% positive / 5% negative / 52% don’t know

Tim White and I have much more – including reactions from Cicilline, Doherty and Loughlin’s spokesman – in our complete story on WPRI.com.

At 10 p.m. on Fox Providence and 11 p.m. on WPRI 12, we’ll have more results from the poll – this time testing how Cicilline’s standing in the 1st District compares with Sheldon Whitehouse’s and Barack Obama’s. You can look through complete poll results here. (No Nightcap tonight.)

Could a Republican beat Cicilline? We’re about to find out

May 17th, 2011 at 6:06 pm by under Nesi's Notes

It’s the political question of the year in Rhode Island – just how much damage has Providence’s financial crisis done to Congressman David Cicilline’s standing with his constituents?

WPRI 12 will bring you the answer this Thursday when we publish the results of an exclusive poll taken last weekend. Voters weighed in on how they feel about Cicilline’s job performance so far, whether they plan to vote for him or one of his two Republican challengers, and whom they blame for the capital city’s fiscal mess.

Tim White and I will have the complete poll results online and on air Thursday at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. The survey of 300 registered voters in the 1st District was conducted by our estimable pollster Fleming & Associates of Cumberland, and its margin of error is 5.7 percentage points.

Looking under the hood of the Brown U. survey

April 11th, 2011 at 2:36 pm by under Nesi's Notes

Last month’s Brown University poll made quite a splash, not least because it showed freshman congressman David Cicilline’s statewide approval rating at just 17%.

One minor question I had was why Brown gives voters the four terms it does to use in judging politicians – “excellent,” “good,” “fair” and “poor.” The total responses to the first two (“excellent” and “good”) are lumped together to create an approval rating, while the latter two (“fair” and “poor”) are combined for a disapproval rating.

Thing is, couldn’t “fair” be seen by a voter as a way of expressing tepid approval, rather than tepid disapproval? I’ve heard grumbles to that effect (and not just about the Brown poll) from politicians’ aides, though of course they have a reason to call the results into question. (Unless they’re Angel Taveras.)

I put the question to Marion Orr, who directs the Brown poll, and he pointed out to me that the exact wording of the poll question is “only fair,” not just “fair.”

That seemed to me – ahem – a fair point. Especially if you add “meh” before it – “meh, only fair.” That’s not approval!

On the other hand, how come Brown doesn’t just use “strongly approve,” “approve,” “disapprove,” and “strongly disapprove”? Then there’d be no doubt which side the voter was coming down on, but you’d still measure the strength of the feeling.

“That’s the way we’ve been doing it for decades, and for us it’s just good not to make a change unless there’s some reason to do,” Orr replied. Keeping the questions the same, he said, means “one could be comparing polls across time with the same language” – fairly.

What do you think? Is “only fair” a solid proxy for disapproval?

Is Chafee the Democrat? Digging into our latest poll

November 1st, 2010 at 2:51 pm by under General Talk

The big headlines from our new WPRI 12 poll last week were Frank Caprio’s seven-point drop, which put Lincoln Chafee in the lead for governor, and John Loughlin’s rapid gain on David Cicilline in the space of a month. But there were other interesting nuggets buried in the poll’s crosstabs – here are a few that stuck out to me.

• Is Lincoln Chafee the Democrat in the governor’s race? Looking at the coalition he’s put together, you could make the case. Chafee is either winning or nearly tied with Frank Caprio among some of the Democratic Party’s core consistencies.

Chafee is winning 52% of union households to Caprio’s 22%. The pair are tied among women at 29%, and statistically tied among younger voters (ages 18 to 39), with Chafee at 35% and Caprio at 34%. Among registered Democrats, Caprio’s lead over Chafee is just four points, 45%-41%. In the Democratic-leaning 1st District, Chafee leads Caprio 33%-27%.

The problem for Caprio is he hasn’t made up for that with new support elsewhere – Chafee leads him among men, 37%-23%; independents, 34%-13%; and seniors, 31%-28%. Among Republicans, Caprio only leads Chafee by one point, 12%-11%, while John Robitaille has 67%.

• Who’s persuadable at this point in the governor’s race? Only a few groups still have a double-digit number of undecided voters: independents, 17%; women, 14%; people ages 40 to 59, 14%; and 2nd District residents, 12%. They are taking their time, too – the number of undecideds in those groups was not statistically different from our previous poll a month earlier.

• Moderate Party founder Ken Block gets his strongest support from independents, at 7%. He’s also polling at 6% – two points above his overall rating – among men, younger voters, and Republicans.

• Unlike Caprio, David Cicilline is hanging on to traditional Democratic supporters, which is helping him keep a six-point lead over John Loughlin. Cicilline is winning women, seniors, and union members. But independents have deserted him over the past month, giving Loughlin 58% to Cicilline’s 28% – a 24-point gain for Loughlin and a 10-point loss for Cicilline, with 14% still undecided.

• Will Bob Venturini be our own Ralph Nader? Elizabeth Roberts should thank her lucky stars that the Pawtucket cable TV fixture is still in the lieutenant governor’s race – if his 5% support were added to Bob Healey’s 35%, the lieutenant governor’s race would be a statistical tie. It’s also a tad surprising that Healey is only winning 50% of Republicans – did they not get the message when Heidi Rogers dropped out? Or do they dislike the message?

• We also found 16% of likely voters still unsure who to support in the lieutenant governor’s race. With Roberts at 42% and Healey at 35%, which way those undecideds break could decide the outcome. Democrats have rallied to Roberts, but 22% of independents and 18% of Republicans still haven’t made up their minds.

• Ken Block’s fellow Moderate, attorney general candidate Chris Little, is doing far better than his party’s founder, polling at 12% in a five-man field. Little is winning 16% of middle-aged voters, 15% of independents and 13% of men. That may help explain why front-runner Peter Kilmartin, a Democrat, has trained his fire on Little in addition to Republican Erik Wallin.

• Congressman Jim Langevin does best among younger voters – those aged 18 to 39 – at 65%. The older you are, the less you like Langevin – he gets 55% of those ages 40 to 59 and 49% of those ages 60 and older. Langevin also has 23% of Republicans.

• The campaign to change Rhode Island’s formal name by deleting “and Providence Plantations” has gotten very little traction, with just 16% of voters saying they will approve the switch.

• Caprio is winning 14% of voters who say his association with “old-style politics” will prevent them from voting for him. Chafee is winning 8% of voters who say his sales tax proposal will, again, prevent them from voting for him. Yet Robitaille is only winning 1% of voters who say his service in the Carcieri administration will prevent them from voting for him. Weird.

Somebody’s polling the impact of Shoveitgate

October 27th, 2010 at 5:45 pm by under General Talk

Looks like somebody’s doing some polling to see how voters feel about Shoveitgate. Just got this e-mail from a reader:

I received a robo-poll [call] last night at home while watching your debate. They asked two questions:

  1. If you will vote on November 2nd, who is your choice for governor?
  2. Do Frank Caprio’s recent remarks telling President Obama to “shove it” make you more likely or less likely to vote for him?

The robo then informed me that the poll was being conducted by www.publicpolicypolling.com.  So there is at least one poll out in the field already on that question.

Hmmm. Public Policy Polling is a Democratic-leaning firm out of Raleigh, N.C., that uses the same sort of automated calling process as Rasmussen. I wonder who’s paying for it? If you know, fill me in at tnesi (at) wpri (dot) com.

And while we’re here, I’ll take this opportunity to plug yet again that we’ll release the first results from our latest WPRI poll by Joe Fleming tomorrow evening.

Update: On Twitter, Cook Political Report senior editor Jennifer Duffy – a Rhode Island native herself – suggests Public Policy Polling may be doing this poll on its own, as firms often do for the free publicity. “They know the media will cover them so it’s worth the $500,” she writes. (I sure would!) Looks like PPP turns their results around pretty quickly, so perhaps we’ll hear what they found soon.

Memo: Rasmussen understating Robitaille’s chances

October 27th, 2010 at 1:19 pm by under General Talk

Rasmussen's results since February

John Robitaille’s outside advisers think Rasmussen’s Friday poll understated how much support the Republican candidate for governor is likely to get when voters go to the polls on Tuesday, according to an internal campaign memo obtained by WPRI.com.

Rasmussen’s survey, made up of 750 likely voters, had Chafee at 35%, Caprio at 28% and Robitaille at 25%.

But the survey sample was made up of 55% Democrats, 32% independents and 13% Republicans, making it “heavily weighted towards Democrats,” Profile Strategy Group, Robitaille’s New Hampshire-based consulting firm, argued in the memo.

The consultants said that if the poll had been weighted to reflect Rhode Island’s actual voter registration numbers, it would have shown Chafee at 33%, Robitaille at 28% and Caprio in third place at 25%. The strategists also pointed out that national surveys show Republicans and independents more enthusiastic than Democrats about casting ballots next week, which could also tilt the electorate in Robitaille’s favor.

It’s a somewhat surprising argument, since Rasmussen’s polls are frequently described as being friendly to Republicans, but certainly interesting. As I discussed when our last WPRI poll by Fleming & Associates came out, conducting accurate surveys is an art as much as a science, so there’s always room for debate once they get released.

The memo also pointed out that Rasmussen’s poll showed Robitaille winning independents and put his unfavorable rating at 40%, lower than Chafee’s 50% and Caprio’s 48%, whereas all three have nearly identical favorable ratings (49% for Caprio and Robitaille, and 48% for Chafee).

Bottom line? Profile Strategy Group thinks a higher-than-usual turnout among Republicans and independents would put Robitaille “within the margin of error of Chafee.” They counseled him to emphasize his message of bringing back jobs and countering the Democratic-dominated General Assembly to position him as the anti-Chafee choice.

All this should just whet our appetites for tomorrow evening, when WPRI will release the results from our final poll of the campaign. I’ll have full coverage right here on WPRI.com starting at 6 p.m.

Robitaille nears Caprio in new Rasmussen poll

October 22nd, 2010 at 5:09 pm by under News and Politics, Poll Results

New: RGA’s Robitaille buy down the drain after it misses deadline to deliver ad

Rasmussen is out with a new survey of 750 likely voters about the Rhode Island governor’s race, conducted on Oct. 21. Margin of error is plus or minus 4 points. Here are the results:

  • Lincoln Chafee: 35%
  • Frank Caprio: 28%
  • John Robitaille: 25%
  • Ken Block: 6%
  • Not sure: 6%

The big headline is how close Democrat Frank Caprio and Republican John Robitaille are compared with Rasmussen’s previous survey on Oct. 4 – more good news for the Republican after yesterday’s announcement that the national G.O.P. is going to invest in his campaign. This is the first time Rasmussen has had Caprio under 30% since March. Chafee’s two-point gain is within the margin of error, and Robitaille is back where he was in May. Undecideds are steadily shrinking in number.

Here’s an updated version of my chart tracking Rasmussen’s results since it started polling the race in February (Block isn’t in here because Rasmussen only started including him recently):

The growing support for Robitaille helps explain why Caprio is going after him in a new mailing, as The Associated Press’ Eric Tucker reported earlier today:

The front of the mailing includes photos of Robitaille and the Statehouse and carries the headline, “John Robitaille is not ready to manage Rhode Island’s budget crisis.” It includes a quote from an August newspaper article in which Robitaille, while discussing his intention to surround himself with smart advisers, said, “I am not a budget guru.”

Robitaille campaign manager Mike Napolitano called the mailing ridiculous and said the quotes were taken out of context.

“I think it shows that they’re afraid of us,” he said, later adding that the campaign planned no negative ads of its own between now and the Nov. 2 election.

Today’s Rasmussen survey is the first new independent poll on the governor’s race we’ve gotten in two weeks, but it won’t be the last before voters cast their ballots. WPRI will release another poll conducted by Fleming & Associates between now and Nov. 2.

The gubernatorial candidates will meet for our last televised debate of the campaign next Tuesday night at 7 p.m. – it will be held at PPAC, and you can order free tickets here if you’d like to attend in person. Or you can watch at home and enjoy my patented live-tweeting.

Update: No surprise, Robitaille spokesman Mike Napolitano was in a good mood when I called him to ask about the new Rasmussen survey.

“We think it’s great,” Napolitano said. “We’re three points behind Caprio and it’s 6% undecided. And with all the money they’ve spent – especially all the money Caprio’s spent – he’s actually gone down. So obviously John’s positive message is resonating with voters.”

“This is an extremely close race,” he added. No argument there from me.

Update #2: The Block campaign will be glad to see its candidate above the 5% threshold required for the Moderate Party to stay on the ballot going forward.

Barney Frank up by 12 points in new WPRI poll

October 21st, 2010 at 6:00 pm by under News and Politics

Republican Sean Bielat is giving 15-term U.S. Rep. Barney Frank his most competitive reelection race in years, according to our new WPRI 12 poll being released on air right now. The survey of 400 likely voters in Massachusetts’ 4th Congressional District was conducted Oct. 14 to 17 by Fleming & Associates. The margin of error is plus or minus 5%. Here are the key numbers:

  • Frank: 49%
  • Bielat: 37%
  • Not sure: 12%

There’s much more in my full story over on WPRI.com, including insight from Eyewitness News political analyst Joe Fleming and a look at which groups of voters are learning toward Frank and which ones are going for Bielat. You can also find out how voters feel about President Obama, Sens. Scott Brown and John Kerry, and the financial crisis.

And if you missed it earlier, check out my earlier posts about Frank’s new campaign spending numbers, why we did the poll, and whether this is really a race.

Chafee, Robitaille surge 9 points in Profughi poll

October 13th, 2010 at 10:22 am by under News and Politics

… though you’d never know it from the article on WJAR’s website.

Quest Research’s Victor Profughi is out with his first new survey for WJAR since the much-criticized poll he did last month showing Frank Caprio with a huge 12-point lead over Lincoln Chafee. Though conducted just three weeks apart, the results are strikingly different.

what a difference 3 weeks makes

Caprio’s big lead, unseen in any other poll, has vaporized into a statistical tie that puts him just four points ahead of Chafee, 37%-33%. John Robitaille’s support has grown from 13% to 22%. And the number of undecided voters has collapsed from 23% to just 6%. None of this is mentioned in WJAR’s write-up.

Snark aside, the new results belatedly put WJAR/Quest right in line with what we’ve seen in both Rasmussen’s polls and our own WPRI/Fleming one. This race is close, and it’s staying that way.

I also find it intriguing that even as other candidates saw huge shifts between the two Profughi polls, Caprio’s rating barely budged from 36% to 37% – meaning almost all the newly “decideds” went to Chafee and Robitaille. What does that tell us?

Profughi polled the 492 likely voters early last week, Oct. 4-6. Without seeing the crosstabs – which I presume will be released after the Cicilline-Loughlin results come out – it’s hard to say what changed Profughi’s findings so drastically in just three weeks.

In an e-mail to me last month, though, Profughi mentioned that he wished he’d pushed harder to see whether self-described undecided voters actually had a preference. And in an online chat last night, he said he used three screening questions to determine whether respondents were likely to vote next month.

Profughi also noted that doing a good poll is expensive, saying “the fact of the matter is that someone has to cover the costs. [WJAR partner Rhode Island College] contributes nothing to these polls, a lot of it is donated costs coming out of my hide, and the balance is being picked up by WJAR.” He also said he plans to conduct one more poll around Halloween – around the same time our final WPRI/Fleming poll will be released.

Update: Weird. The Projo released WJAR’s results for the Cicilline-Loughlin race this morning – even though the station still hasn’t done so, as far as I can tell. Profughi’s new poll has Cicilline with 47% to Loughlin’s 36%, with 13% still undecided, according to The Journal. [Scratch that; Profughi had said the Cicilline-Loughlin results wouldn't be out until today, but it turns out they were buried in the governor's race write-up last night.]

The paper didn’t say how many 1st Congressional District voters Profughi polled. Last month, our WPRI/Fleming poll of 250 likely voters showed Cicilline at 48%, Loughlin at 29% and 22% still undecided.

Update #2: The Cicilline-Loughlin results are already on Profughi’s site, too. He also lists the three screening questions he used to figure out who is a “likely voter”: are you registered to vote; do you vote in elections “always, almost always, or most of the time”; and will you “very likely” or “probably” vote in the Nov. 2 election. Since all the results are now out, I’ve e-mailed Profughi to request the crosstabs.

The geography of the governor’s race

October 11th, 2010 at 3:03 pm by under News and Politics

With polls continuing to show a tight race between Frank Caprio and Lincoln Chafee for governor, there is at least way one of slicing the electorate that gives each man a slight advantage: geography.

Caprio is ahead in the 1st Congressional District, with 34% of voters backing him, compared with 25% who support Chafee, our WPRI poll of likely voters showed late last month.

The 1st is seen as the more Democratic of the two districts, stretching from Woonsocket and Central Falls through Providence’s liberal East Side and down to Newport, Eyewitness News political analyst Joe Fleming told me. (Retiring U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy is the 1st’s congressman right now.)

Chafee is on top in the 2nd Congressional District, with 34% of voters there backing him. The 2nd includes – along with the bulk of Rhode Island’s actual land – the City of Warwick, where Chafee used to be mayor. (U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin represents it currently.)

That said, Caprio is running stronger in the 2nd – at 31% – than Chafee is in the 1st.

Republican John Robitaille is winning 20% in the 1st District and 17% in the 2nd, while Ken Block is at 4% in each. Slightly more voters are undecided in the 1st, at 16%, than in the 2nd, at 13%.

Looking through the poll’s crosstabs, there is little difference in voters’ opinions between the 1st and 2nd Districts. One exception, though, is how people feel about President Barack Obama’s health reform law, which is a bit more popular in the 1st.

Among 1st District voters, 32% said they would be more likely to support a candidate who backed health reform, compared with only 24% in the 2nd District who said so.

If anything, though, 2nd District voters just don’t care that much either way; 35% said support for health reform would have no impact on their choice of candidate, compared with 29% who said that in the 1st. In both places, just over a third of voters said it would make them less likely to support a candidate.

(image credit: NationalAtlas.gov)

New Rasmussen poll puts Chafee on top

October 6th, 2010 at 9:46 am by under News and Politics, Poll Results

Rasmussen is out with a new survey of 750 likely voters about the Rhode Island governor’s race, conducted on Monday. Margin of error is plus or minus 4 points. The results look a lot like those in Rasmussen’s last poll a little less than a month ago:

  • Lincoln Chafee: 33%
  • Frank Caprio: 30%
  • John Robitaille: 22%
  • Ken Block: 4%
  • undecided: 10%

This is the fifth poll done in the last five weeks. For an overview of how things look across the various surveys, check out this post I did yesterday.

(h/t: Ian Donnis)

How many voters are actually undecided?

October 5th, 2010 at 10:54 am by under News and Politics, Poll Results

To the obvious delight of Dave Scharfenberg and myself, over the last three weeks there have been four separate polls conducted on the Rhode Island governor’s race: Rasmussen, WJAR/Quest, WPRI/Fleming and now Brown University. Here’s an updated version of the chart I posted last week showing how the top three candidates fared, as well as the percentage of undecideds, in the surveys:

Except in Democrat Frank Caprio’s case – he consistently wins about a third of voters – these polls are all over the map, with a 10-point spread between the highest and lower results for both independent Lincoln Chafee and John Robitaille, the Republican.

And when it comes to undecided voters, the divergence is even starker – Brown found a whopping 30% of voters haven’t mind up their minds, whereas Rasmussen said just 9% haven’t.

Anything’s possible, but it’s hard to believe the share of undecided voters more than tripled in the week and a half between those two surveys. Digging in a little deeper, one factor I see is that in both Rasmussen’s and our own WPRI/Fleming poll, more effort was made to probe whether self-described undecideds actually had a preferred candidate.

Marion Orr

Marion Orr, who oversees the Brown poll, told me most of the calls for his poll were made by Brown students trained and paid for their work, although sometimes he supplements them with outsiders. Orr also said they are specifically dissuaded from probing voters further.

“They’re trained not to sway the respondents,” he told me. “If they say they’re undecided, that’s what we put them down for.”

Brown’s methodology often leads to a high undecided figure – the Taubman Center had 19% of Rhode Islanders undecided between Obama and McCain two months before the last presidential election [pdf].

The problem there is that winding up with such a large share of undecided voters can limit what the poll tells us. It’s fine if those voters are truly undecided – but as the other poll results showed, it’s possible that further questioning could find a large number of them leaning one way or another, which is what we really want to know. Indeed, Victor Profughi, who did the controversial WJAR/Quest poll, told me last week he regretted not doing more to see whether undecided voters were actually leaning one way or another.

Another question is, who are we polling?

Brown surveyed 565 registered voters, while the other three polls all talked with likely voters, defined different ways. Although Rhode Island has around 700,000 registered voters, only about half of them are expected to show up at the polls next month – and what we really want to know is which way the half that votes is leaning. That’s why Joe Fleming limits our WPRI polls to likely voters as we get close to an election.

For the record, Orr said he did screen his respondents to see which ones were likely to vote, but he wound up deciding to release the results for registered voters instead. “We wanted to include a broader sample,” he said.

“People are still making up their minds,” Orr added. “It’s still a close race, in the sense that there are so many people who are undecided.” About half of those undecided voters uncovered by the Brown poll described themselves as independents, he noted. “I suspect these last few weeks will be decisive.”

New Brown poll puts Caprio, Cicilline on top

October 5th, 2010 at 9:01 am by under News and Politics, Poll Results

Update #2: Here’s my analysis of why the four polls done over the last three weeks wound up with such divergent results.

Brown University’s Taubman Center just released a new poll of 565 registered voters in Rhode Island. Survey conducted Sept. 27-29; MoE plus or minus 4.1 percent. Here are some headlines:

  • Caprio: 30%
  • Chafee: 23%
  • Robitaille: 14%
  • Block: 2%
  • undecided: 30%

First impression – that’s an astonishingly high number of undecided voters, and this poll’s results are closer to the infamous Profughi survey than ours or Rasmussen’s. This shows Caprio pulling away from Chafee compared with Brown’s last poll in August, which had Caprio at 28% and Chafee at 27%, a statistical tie.

Update #1: I just got off the phone with Joe Fleming, our Eyewitness News political analyst. He’s too much of a gentleman to critique his fellow pollsters’ work, but overall he said his take on the state of the campaign has not changed since last week. “I still think the governor’s race is too close to call,” he said. Brown is “showing a 7-point margin, but they’re also showing 30% undecided, which makes it really difficult to say what’s happening.”

In the 1st Congressional District, Brown polled 289 respondents, giving this part of the survey a margin of error of plus or minus 6%. Results:

  • Cicilline: 39%
  • Loughlin: 21%
  • Raposa: 6%
  • undecided: 31%

Other races:

  • Lieutenant Governor: Roberts 36%, Healey 23%, Venturini 7%, undecided 34%
  • Secretary of State: Mollis 39%, Taylor 28%, undecided 33%
  • AG: Kilmartin 26%, Wallin 14%, McKenna 10%, Little 7%, Rainville 2%, undecided 41%
  • Treasurer: Raimondo 38%, King 20%, undecided 42%

In the 2nd Congressional District, Brown polled 276 voters, so there’s an MoE of plus or minus 6.1%. They have Langevin at 47%, Zaccaria at 13%, and undecideds at 34%.

Sen. Whitehouse’s popularity rising in RI

September 30th, 2010 at 10:00 pm by under News and Politics, Poll Results

Rhode Islanders are losing faith in President Barack Obama’s leadership after 18 months of double-digit unemployment, according to the new WPRI 12 poll being released on air right now.

The survey of 500 likely voters by Fleming & Associates was conducted Sept. 22-26. The margin of error is 4.38%. Here are some favorable/unfavorable numbers:

  • Barack Obama: 45%/54%
  • Sheldon Whitehouse: 41%/53%
  • Jack Reed: 56%/40%
  • James Langevin: 46%/41%

And that wraps up our poll results. Click here for all our poll coverage, and here for complete results with crosstabs.