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Voters give thumbs down to alums

Brown's political alums are facing flagging support among Rhode Island voters, according to a new poll released by the Taubman Center for Public Policy.

Less than a third of voters approve of the way Gov. Lincoln Chafee '75 P'14 and U.S. Rep. David Cicilline '83 are doing their jobs, according to the poll, which found Chafee's approval rating at 32 percent and Cicilline's at 17 percent. Mayor Angel Taveras received a 52 percent approval rating.

The survey of 425 registered Rhode Island voters, which was released March 24, also measured public opinion on the firing of Providence teachers and support for collective bargaining rights.

It showed voters split on Chafee's proposed sales tax changes, which include lowering the tax from 7 to 6 percent and imposing a 1 percent sales tax on currently tax-exempt items like taxi fares, dry cleaning and heating fuel.

The poll also found 54 percent of the state's registered voters oppose reducing the collective bargaining rights of public sector unions. The narrowing opinion on union bargaining rights among Rhode Island voters "reflects the more general trend across the country of declining support for unions," wrote Wendy Schiller, associate professor of political science and public policy, in an email to The Herald.

"Public figures have generally been getting dismal ratings all across the country," said Victor Profughi, Rhode Island College professor emeritus of political science and director of the polling firm Quest Research. Profughi has been conducting polls in Rhode Island for approximately 35 years.

He pointed out that the poll is not as useful for measuring Cicilline's electoral prospects because it measures his popularity statewide and not just in the district that will decide whether to re-elect him in 2012. In recent weeks, Cicilline has fended off accusations that he failed to fully disclose the state of the city's finances while he was mayor.

Both Cicilline and Chafee have no immediate reason to panic, Schiller wrote. But because Cicilline faces an earlier re-election contest, "he should work to focus any federal aid he can to the city of Providence to help dispel some of the residual unhappiness about his record as mayor," she wrote.

Voters were most closely divided on the tax increases and the Providence teacher firings. Fifty-one percent of surveyed voters supported Taveras' decision to fire all Providence teachers, while 45 percent opposed it. The difference in opinion on the issue was nearly within the poll's margin of error.

Those surveyed also gave President Barack Obama a 44 percent approval rating in the Taubman survey, slightly below the 48 percent rating he received in the latest Rasmussen Reports poll.



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