Providence Mayor Angel Taveras leads the pack of 2014 gubernatorial candidates in job performance rating and perceived ability to improve the state’s economy, according to a WPRI poll of 506 registered state voters released Tuesday.
When asked to choose among the five probable candidates, almost 26 percent said Taveras, a Democrat, would do the best job of improving the state’s economy as governor. About 20 percent of voters said they believed Cranston Mayor Allan Fung would be most effective at generating growth throughout the state, while 16 percent opted for likely Democratic candidate General Treasurer Gina Raimondo.
The candidates’ perceived abilities to improve the state’s economy are poised to significantly influence the election, as 57 percent voters said the economy and job creation should be the state’s primary concern.
Voters also expressed satisfaction with Taveras’ performance as mayor. About 50 percent of voters said Providence has improved since Taveras became mayor, 31 percent said it has remained the same, 8 percent said it has declined and 11 percent were unsure.
The poll asked voters about their opinions on the five likely gubernatorial candidates — Taveras, Raimondo and Fung, as well as Democrat Clay Pell, a former U.S. Department of Education deputy secretary and grandson of the late U.S. Sen. Claiborne Pell, and Ken Block, a Republican who ran for governor in 2010 as the leader of the Moderate Party.
When asked about the job performance of the candidates who currently hold office, voters gave Taveras, Raimondo and Fung generally favorable performance reviews.
Taveras garnered the highest approval rating, with 57 percent of respondents indicating his performance has been good or excellent, 19 percent calling his performance fair, 6 percent calling it poor and 18 percent saying they did not know enough to answer.
Raimondo, who has not formally announced a run for governor despite popular expectations, also received good reviews. Fifty-one percent of voters said her performance as General Treasurer has been good or excellent, while 20 percent said it was fair, 13 percent said it was poor and 17 percent said they did not know enough to answer.
Raimondo consistently received a 51 percent approval rating across Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike, though more Independents rated her performance excellent.
Taveras found more solid support in the party, with 67 percent of Democrats rating his performance as good or excellent, an advantage which may help him when he faces off with Raimondo in the Democratic primary.
Of the three elected officials, Fung showed the least name recognition. Thirty-five percent of respondents said they did not know enough to rate his job performance, while 47 percent rated his performance good or excellent, 12 rated it fair and only 5 percent rated it poor.
Pell has not officially filed a bid for governor but formed an exploratory committee Monday, a strong indication he will run.
Despite his prominent lineage and the celebrity status of his wife, Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan, 60 percent of voters said they did not know enough about Pell to rate the prospective candidate. Thirty-three percent said they had positive feelings about Pell, while 7 percent reported negative feelings.
More than 68 percent of voters said they did not know enough to form an opinion on Block, who has never held an elected post. Twenty-three percent said they had a favorable opinion, while 9 percent said their opinion was negative. Block’s name recognition was higher among Republicans, with 47 percent saying they have a favorable opinion of Block and 47 percent saying they did not know enough about him.
On the whole, most Rhode Island voters said they believe the state is on the wrong track.
A quarter of respondents said “things in Rhode Island are moving in the right direction,” while about 57 percent said the state is moving in the wrong direction. In a state where Democrats hold most government positions, 44 percent of Democrats said they disagree with the state’s direction, compared to 85 percent of Republicans.
Only 30 percent of voters approved of Lincoln Chafee’s ’75 P’14 P’17 job performance as governor. About 38 percent of voters called his job performance poor and 27 percent called it fair.
About half of voters think the state’s gun laws do not go far enough, while 12 percent think the laws go too far. Respondants split on their approval of Obamacare, with 41 percent expressing favorable opinions and 42 percent expressing unfavorable opinions.
WPRI and the Providence Journal hired Fleming and Associates to conduct telephone interviews to ask a random sample of 506 registered Rhode Island voters about the 2014 election and related topics.