Taubman poll shows declining support for mayor

Staff Writer
Thursday, October 6, 2011

Mayor Angel Taveras’ approval rating has fallen slightly in recent months, according to a public opinion survey released last week by the Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions. Registered voters in Providence are now nearly evenly split in their opinion of the mayor.

Almost 48 percent of those surveyed felt that Taveras was doing an excellent or good job, down from 52 percent of respondents in a similar poll taken in March. Forty-four percent of those surveyed in the recent poll felt that Taveras was doing a fair or poor job as mayor.

Respondents were also split on their opinion of Providence public schools, with roughly 38 percent expressing satisfaction and 41 percent dissatisfied. Fifty-six percent opposed the mayor’s decision to close four public schools.

The survey also addressed development plans for a Knowledge District downtown and voters’ attitudes about Providence’s economy. In keeping with other poll results showing ongoing economic malaise, 86 percent of respondents hold a negative view of the city’s economy.

Wendy Schiller, associate professor of political science and public policy, said the drop in Taveras’s ratings indicates “people in Providence are just as worried about the economy and about pensions as everyone else in the country.”

“On a local level, Taveras is doing just fine,” Schiller said. “The problem is people are worried about the future, and lately he has not been as transparent in explaining his decisions as he was when he first came into office.”

Schiller said she does not see the divergence between Providence voters’ satisfaction with Taveras and their satisfaction with local services as inconsistent. “Part of that is just fear and worry that things are not under control,” Schiller said. “You’re happy with your services now, but you’re worried that in the future those services might go away.”

Hilary Silver, associate professor of sociology, said the dip in Taveras’ approval might have been caused by his efforts to rein in Providence’s budget shortfall, which was $180 million after he took office.

“He’s found it necessary to close schools. He’s obviously bargaining hard with the unions and he’s certainly not hiring a lot of people,” Silver said. “Maintenance will be deferred and other things will happen that will be tough on citizens.”

Silver also pointed to property tax hikes imposed in August as a possible source of dissatisfaction with the mayor. “It reflects people’s self-interest in the economy and the extent to which they have to respond to the fiscal stress that they are laboring under,” Silver said.

Defying national trends, President Barack Obama’s approval rating among Providence voters has increased by more than 10 percent since March. His approval rating now stands at 56 percent, up from 44 percent in March.

“I think that public opinion in this state reflects the fact that President Obama finally proposed a jobs program,” Silver said. “It’s a Democratic state where there is high unemployment, and Obama stood up and said we had to do something about it.”

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