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Gov. Carcieri '65 at new popularity low

Only 34 percent of Rhode Islanders approve of the job performance of Gov. Donald Carcieri '65, according to a recent Brown survey by the Taubman Center for Public Policy.

Carcieri's approval ratings - which peaked at 63 percent in 2004 - have declined five percent since the Taubman Center's last poll in September.

One reason for the decline could be the worsening economic situation in Rhode Island, said Marion Orr, professor of political science and director of the Taubman Center.

"My sense is that when people look at government performance, they actually think about their economic situation," Orr said. Rhode Island currently has a large budget deficit and one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation, he added.

Two-thirds of the survey's respondents said they knew a friend or family member who had recently lost a job.

A representative from the governor's office declined to comment.

The poll showed mixed support for some of Carcieri's specific proposals to close the state's at least $357-million budget deficit. While 78 percent of Rhode Islanders were in favor of possible consolidation of some public services to lower costs, 71.8 percent opposed cutting aid to local schools.

"People are really hurting," Orr said. "They are anxious and some of them may very well be angry. When people are feeling that way they tend to point an accusing finger at those who are in charge."

Accordingly, approval ratings were down for all state officials, Orr said.

However, Ray Sullivan, communications director of the Rhode Island Democratic Party, said comparing the approval ratings of more low-profile local politicians to those of the governor is not valid because the latter has a "bully pulpit and greater (media) exposure."

Carcieri's numbers have declined because "his priorities have been out of step with mainstream Rhode Islanders," Sullivan said, citing Carcieri's opposition to the national stimulus package as one example of this dissonance. The poll found that 74 percent of state residents support President Obama's stimulus package.

Sullivan also said Carcieri has failed to keep his pledge to help the Ocean State through the economic crisis.

"The governor promised to create twenty thousand new jobs. The governor is very good at making big political pronouncements and speeches, but the administration has fallen short in delivering," Sullivan said. "Rhode Islanders are very smart ... They pay attention to what these (elected officials) are saying."

But not everyone believes that Carcieri is to blame for his low approval ratings and the lack of economic recovery in Rhode Island.

"The state is basically run by Democrats," said Anish Mitra '10, member of the Brown Republicans and Herald opinions columnist. Though Carcieri has veto power, he is unable to accomplish his objectives without a cooperative legislative branch, Mitra said.

The governor's low approval numbers are more a reflection of Rhode Islanders' dissatisfaction with the mostly Democratic legislature's performance, Mitra said, since "Republicans have no clout in the state whatsoever."

Besides, Mitra added, 34 percent support is not that bad. "It's still higher than Congress' approval rating ... it's higher than Bush's (was)."


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