October 2, 2012

Playing with the WPRI Poll: Doherty/Cicilline

Marc Comtois

The latest WPRI poll (story here) offers some interesting and somewhat confusing numbers regarding the Cicilline/Doherty race. First, we know that the majority of RI voters are either Democrats or Democrat-leaning unaffiliated (ie; independent) voters. Hence, we shouldn't be surprised that David Cicilline leads Brendan Doherty 44% to 37.6% with 10% undecided and 6.4% for independent David Vogel. (Incidentally, Cicilline's lead is just outside the polls margin of error of 6.2%).

But then there's apparently some sort of cognitive dissonance going on when we look at the approval ratings for each. It's reported that Cicilline's job approval is "rated excellent or good by 38% of 1st District voters...while 55% rate his performance fair or poor." So we're to believe that there is a 6 point (negative) difference between Cicilline's approval rating and those who say they intend to vote for him?

Well, I believe it.

Essentially, Cicilline's 6 point lead over Doherty is attributable to voters who rate his job approval "fair or poor", but in actuality, 21.2% of those surveyed gave Cicilline a "only fair" rating. And in this blue-blue state, "only fair" isn't enough of a disincentive for many Democrats ( or those "independent" unaffiliated's) to divorce themselves from the Donkey. So, if I were framing these poll results, I'd say at least half of those rating Cicilline fair will still vote for him. That puts him around 48% (heck, it could even really be 58%).

Comparing Cicilline's "job approval" to Doherty's "favorability" and trying to compare to the poll results for the actual horse race is difficult because the poll choices for them are different. For Doherty, 23% view him very positively, 25.7% somewhat positively, 12.2% somewhat negative, 8% very negative and 31% don't know. These questions create clearer lines of demarcation to my mind. Basically, 48.7% view Doherty positively, 20.2% negatively and 31.1% don't know. I wonder why voters aren't aren't asked "favorability" questions about incumbents, as well as challengers, in this manner? Regardless, one could argue based on the above twisting of the numbers that the race is still neck and neck with each candidate getting about a 48% favorability rating! How's that for spin?

In actuality, the race is probably about where the poll says it is. Doherty has a 10 point deficit with those 60 years old and up and around 13 points among women. But he still has a shot with 10% undecided. 1 month to go.

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" Cicilline's lead is just outside the polls margin of error of 6.2%"

Yes. And it's a slightly higher margin of error than usual.

Posted by: Monique at October 2, 2012 9:01 AM

Those seniors, mostly women, are a scary group. Nothing could make sweet David look bad in their eyes. He's such a nice man......ugh.

Posted by: John at October 2, 2012 9:09 AM

What value, really, is there in a poll with a margin of error over 6%?

Posted by: brassband at October 2, 2012 12:46 PM

Just reading Projo, and they have a tidbit on senior citizens showing up at Doherty's office with prescription bottles, and Doherty coming back at them with "Cicilline left Providence in a financial mess"

Doherty can keep playing that drum, but it doesn't matter to any senior, most who live outside of Providence. He is basically handing the election over to Cicilline. Sad, it was a winnable election. He needs to put some distance between him and the failing national campaign and put himself on an independent trail.

Posted by: Jim Jebow at October 2, 2012 1:21 PM


Doherty reiterated his stand that he would NOT vote for a repeal unless there was another plan in place. I'm not sure what you were reading. It's hard to compete with the Cicilline-Obama-Whitehouse scare tactics. Every political ad is the same crap.

Posted by: Max D at October 2, 2012 1:34 PM

Does anybody know who Joe Fleming is? Seriously, I'm not trying to be a wise guy but the guy apparently works out of his house in Cumberland. At least that's the address of his company. Maybe I'm just a novice to all this but I was expecting a little more than a guy whose office is in his house. Am I way off base here?

Posted by: Max D at October 2, 2012 1:49 PM

I had him as a public school math teacher years ago, although I don't know if that's still his job. He is a pollster on the side.

Posted by: Dan at October 2, 2012 2:19 PM

"I had him as a public school math teacher years ago, although I don't know if that's still his job. He is a pollster on the side."

He could be on target. I thought it was a little strange in this day and age that he has no website or facility. I guess I was expecting more. Are all these pollsters out of the same mold?

Posted by: Max D at October 2, 2012 4:59 PM

Fleming has been around a long time, and he's always seemed very objective to me.

Posted by: brassband at October 2, 2012 7:34 PM
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