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Poll finds ambivalence on stimulus

Leaves aren't the only things falling in Providence.

According to a poll released Thursday by Brown's Taubman Center for Public Policy, Providence residents have become increasingly frustrated with both their city's poor economy and with Mayor David Cicilline's '83 job performance. More than half the 480 registered voters polled also reported their families were worse off financially than they were a year ago.

The poll — conducted Sept. 16 through 19 — showed that 87 percent of respondents said they thought the city's economy was "not so good" or "poor." Only 23 percent of respondents thought the city's future would bring "continuous good times," down from 64 percent in 2006, the last time a similar poll was conducted.

More than 53 percent of respondents thought the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which the survey referred to as "the economic stimulus program," has not made a difference for Providence, and nearly 70 percent thought the stimulus funds have not helped their personal financial situation.

Forty percent of respondents rated Cicilline's job performance "excellent" or "good," while 45 percent rated it as "only fair" or "poor." And despite Cicilline's 2002 campaign promise to "have a City Hall free of cronyism and corruption," 43 percent of respondents said they thought he had not lived up to his pledge.

But the poll also was marked by a significant number of "don't know" and "no answer" responses across the board — 14 percent of respondents chose not to rate Cicilline's job performance and nearly 27 percent did not know or had no answer regarding the results of Cicilline's promise to clean up City Hall.

Marion Orr, professor of political science and director of the Taubman Center, said he attributed the declining approval ratings to the "major challenges the city is facing," such as the "huge number of foreclosed properties" that he said indicate that the national housing crisis has hit the city particularly hard.

But Orr added he was surprised by the high percentage of respondents who were dissatisfied with the city's economy.

Cicilline could not be reached for comment, but wrote in an e-mail to the Providence Journal for an Oct. 2 article that "these poll results reflect the very serious economic challenges we're facing in Providence, as well as some important improvements made in city services."

Last time the Taubman Center administered a similar poll, 67 percent of respondents approved of Cicilline's job performance, Orr said, adding that the decline could be a product of citywide pessimism caused by the recession.

"Generally speaking, it's just really the uncertainty of the state's economy," he said of the poll's unfavorable responses.

Attention in the local media has focused mostly on state and national policy issues, such as health care, which Orr said could be the reason there were so many "don't know" and "no response" answers in the poll.

"The coverage of the mayor and the city are not as extensive as it used to be," he said.


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