April 26, 2006

Chafee Looks Solid in RIC Poll

Marc Comtois

A new Rhode Island College poll indicates that Senator Chafee holds a comfortable lead in both the GOP primary and the general election:

Chafee would beat challenger and Cranston Mayor Stephen P. Laffey 56 percent to 28 percent in the Republican primary. For that question, the poll sampled 107 people who said they would vote in the Republican primary. Because the sample is smaller, the margin of error rises to 9 percentage points.

The results of the Democratic primary were not as clear cut, though former Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse leads a three-way field with 37 percent. He is followed by Secretary of State Matthew Brown, with 21 percent, and Carl Sheeler, 8 percent. The margin of error for the Democratic primary is also 9 percentage points, with 117 people who said they would vote in the Democratic primary sampled.

But the poll indicated the outcome of the Democratic primary may be academic: Chafee would beat Whitehouse 51 percent to 32 percent and would beat Brown 53 percent to 28 percent. That is based on the full sample, with the 5-percentage-point margin of error.

Similarly, Laffey would lose, regardless of his Democratic opponent. Brown would win 48 percent to 29 percent and Whitehouse would win 50 percent to 27 percent.

This is the first public poll that attempted to sample for the GOP primary and--in that light--it's interesting to note that the percentage of support for Senator Chafee and Mayor Laffey are consistent for both the GOP primary and the general election. This is good news and bad news for Mayor Laffey. Mayor Laffey has a solid 28-30% core both within the GOP and statewide, which means he is appealing to some independents out there. Nonetheless, the bad news far outweighs the good for Mayor Laffey. He still has some work to do to appeal to the GOP primary voters, whether they are Republican or not.

UPDATE: Here is a link to the actual poll document from the RIC Bureau of Government Research and Services (PDF).

Here are some of the interesting internals:

45% of the respondents were male
55% of the respondents were female

(For below, Dem=Democrat Primary Voter, Rep-Republican Primary Voter)

East Bay - 10% of total, 9% Dem, 10% Rep
Western RI - 5% of total, 2% Dem, 4% Rep
Blackstone Valley - 16% of total, 19% Dem, 16% Rep
Providence Metro - 34% of total, 32% Dem, 33% Rep
Providence - 11% of total, 22% Dem, 4% Rep
Washington County - 13% of total, 10% Dem, 19% Rep
Newport County - 10% of total, 6% Dem, 14% Rep

I report......

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

Letís talk meaningless. I did a poll just this morning, and of the six people I spoke to they all said the RIC poll was bogus.

So much for bad polling method and irrelevant data. I guess the real story is whether RIC or Brown can come up with the most imaginative polling data and analysis.

Maybe RISD should do a poll of their students so we can find out how privileged, artistic kids with green hair will vote. (I love those kids.)

September 12th is only 139 days away, and thatís the only poll that counts. Iím dying to see how hard the Chafee camp rides this little pony.


Posted by: Sol Venturi at April 26, 2006 9:51 AM

So they polled 364 registered voters and 107 said they would vote in the republican primary.

That's a 29% participation rate.

There are roughly 660,000 registered voters in RI.

Are we to believe that 191,000 people are going to vote in the republican primary?

To put it into context, that is nearly 150,000 more than the record for a republican primary.

To frame it even more, that is 20,000 more than the record for a democratic primary.

Even with the huge margin of error, the results are way off the mark.

Only the Chafee camp would believe such erroneous data. I can't wait for the press release....

Posted by: oz at April 26, 2006 10:07 AM

I will grant you that this poll has a small sample size , but it has to concern Steve Laffey that he consistently polls in the high 20's to low 30's regardless of who takes the polls (Brown, Rasmussen, RIC, etc.).

It's easy to dismiss the GOP primary results because of the potentially small turnout in a GOP primary. I don't necessarily believe this (if you ask Carcieri's people they say their pollster was highly successful at polling in '02, so apparently someone figured out how to do it right). But the dimissal of the GOP primary numbers as speculative is at least a plausible response from the Laffey campaign.

However, the general election numbers among all the polls are remarkably similar. There have been varying sample sizes done by different independent pollsters and the results are all the same: Laffey can't win a statewide general election. Not only can't he win, he loses by large, double-digit margins.

Denying the repeated survey results reminds me of Saddam Hussein's spokesman during the invasion of Iraq saying, "We are pushing back the Americans on all fronts" while on TV we're watching the images of US tanks rolling into Baghdad at the same time.

You can dismiss the results but they make sense. The mid 30's is where most conservative Rhode Island Republican candidates end up when election day is over.

I was having dinner with a Club for Growth supporter last night and he made a comment saying, "I don't care if a Democrat wins, I just want to see Chafee knocked off to send a message to everyone else." My response was, "Fine. You might be able to send a message." But when the Bush tax cuts are repealed and the next Supreme Court justice is a left-wing activist, I don't want to hear you complain."

There is a long time until election day and Laffey has done a good job ensuring that he will have the funds to communicate his message as election day gets nearer, but you would think his grassroots efforts of working the streets would begin to be reflected in the polls. They haven't yet.

One of Laffey's key competitive advantages is that he can work the state while Chafee is tied up with Senate business in DC. He's been doing it, but not getting much traction from it. Eventually, you have to believe that such efforts will be good for at least 5%.

For Chafee, the poll shows that immigration may be a good wedge issue. 44% say illegal immigrants should be given temporary worker status (Chafee's view) and 31% say that illegal immigrants should be deported. Personally, I was very surpised that nearly a third of Rhode Islanders think illegal immigrants should be immediately deported. Not very compassionate for a liberal blue state, but it identifies an issue for Chafee to use.

As for the Carcieri numbers it's good to see the Governor above 50%, but that's still well within the danger zone. His fundraising numbers have been soft for an incumbent, his political staff is viewed as being weak and he's not running against Myrth York. While the race is Carcieri's to lose, the gubernatorial race may require alot more effort than it seems everyone wants to admit.

Fortunately for Carcieri, he is personally a very likeable guy and there is no shortage of corruption and scandals for him to take on. Rhode Islanders respond to him much like the nation responded to Reagan. He makes you want to put a white beard and red suit on him and tell your grandkids to go sit on his lap. It will be tough for Charlie Fogarty to beat that, but if the Carcieri campaign isn't careful it could happen.

Posted by: Anthony at April 26, 2006 10:55 AM

Perhaps Laffey should donate a couple
hundred school buses to Mexico so he
can get a few thousand illegal
immigrants up here to vote for him.

Posted by: D.R. Tingman at April 26, 2006 11:02 AM

On a totally different note, I'd like to congratulate both the Projo and the bloggers on Anchor Rising.

The American Labor letter and the Stephanie Chafee e-mail are both examples of targeted communications that were never intended to reach the general voting population. By publishing them, the Projo and Anchor Rising were able to help inform voters beyond the campaign-targeted constituencies.

This helps keep everyone honest and it makes it difficult for a candidate to say one thing to a certain constituency and something else to another.

Furthermore, choosing one communication from the Chafee camp and another from the Laffey camp helps keep things, well to quote Bill O'Reilly, fair and balanced.

I'm one of the first to point out when I think the Projo or this blog is being biased, so I figured that I should at least offer positive feedback when I see real objectivity. Good job.

Posted by: Anthony at April 26, 2006 11:16 AM

A so-called poll of only 107 people?? An outrageously small sample size. An outrageously high margin of error, which is probably understated anyway. If these results were even close to reality, then why is Chafee so worried about signing up democrats?

The results become even more discredited by the finding that Whitehouse and Brown would have roughly identical outcomes versus Laffey and Chafee. After all his controversy, one would think Brown's results versus anyone would be far behind Whitehouse's.

And 34% undecideds in the democratic primary and a lesser 16% in the GOP? One would think it would be the other way around.

Another highly-irresponsible attempt at proper polling.

Posted by: bountyhunter at April 26, 2006 11:23 AM

It's hard to take a poll with a 9 percent margin of error seriously. I don't perceive Chafee winning that big, and it's hard to believe Brown remains competitive in the face of his campaign's recent hara-kiri.
Re the Don: While I thought Carcieri overplayed his hand in the Beacon affair by booting Boeninger and Nee off the board (particularly since he won by getting Solomon ousted) while he could've let their terms quietly expire soon, his anti-union rhetoric is playing well enough to keep the opposition cowed. If I were Fogarty's strategist, I'd question the propriety of booting somebody off a board of directors just because the governor didn't like their vote - Carcieri would be vulnerable to attack on that angle. He's setting a bad precedent that a Democratic governor could use in the future.

Posted by: Rhody at April 26, 2006 11:30 AM

bountyhunter, Matt Brown's numbers aren't too surprising.

After his media push, Brown was leading Whitehouse in the polls and this polls now shows Brown losing to Whitehouse. Thus, the recent foibles of the Brown campaign are reflected in this poll.

My guess is that if you were to do a tracking poll, the trend will continue to show Whitehouse rising and Brown falling as Brown doesn't have the fundraising capacity to keep pace.

The decline will be even more obvious once Whitehouse goes on the air and Brown is stuck on cable access. Don't forget Brown has already been on the air and Whitehouse hasn't, yet Whitehouse has overtaken Brown.

The number of undecideds also isn't too surprising. The Chafee/Laffey race is getting far more public attention than the Whitehouse/Brown race from the statewide media outlets, so you would expect there to be more undecideds in the Democrat race.

As for the Chafee general election head-to-head numbers, they will remain fairly constant regardless of whether the candidate is Whitehouse or Brown. Chafee attracts the vast majority of independents leaving both Whitehouse and Brown with a group of hardcore, left-wing supporters.

That's how John and Linc Chafee have been winning Senate elections since 1976. Since these numbers have been similar for the past 30 years, I'm not sure why they surprise anyone.

As for Chafee enlisting the support of Democrats, this isn't surprising either. The effort reflects the following thinking:

#1. Most Republican voters have already made up their minds as to who they are supporting.

Reasoning: Chafee will get the votes of Republicans who are concerned about keeping the GOP Senate majority, moderate Republicans and those Republicans who Laffey has personally alienated.

Laffey will get the votes of conservative Republicans who want to send a message to the national party, those who respond to his "take no prisoners" style and those who are just plain tired of Linc Chafee.

#2. Any Democrat that votes in the GOP primary will vote for Chafee.

Reasoning: Chafee's voting record appeals to Democrats. Conservative criticism of Chafee as being a RINO further enhances his image with moderate Democrat voters. Chafee is able to change the negative into a positive if he can use conservative Republican criticism to get Democrat voters into the GOP primary and leverage their support.

While some Republicans may find the approach distasteful, from a strategic perspective, Chafee is probably right. And after all, the goal of any election is to win.

Having said that, I do agree that a conducting a poll with 107 likely Republican voters and a margin of error of +/- 9 can provide only a ballpark estimate of where things stand in the primary.

Rhody, the Beacon issue will continue to play out in Carcieri's favor. No Rhode Islander is going to support an insider board member getting paid $25,000 per year when they company they're supposed to oversee is under criminal investigation and the board members refuse to cooperate with the investigation. It helps that the highly-paid board members are the same people who are supposed to be looking out for the working guy.

There's a big difference between removing someone for the way they vote and removing someone for refusing to make changes when their company is under investigation for criminal wrong-doing.

It's a great issue for Carcieri as it shows him as a reformer willing to take on insiders and tough issues. That's what got him elected in 2002. Remember the greyhound owners?

This could very well be Carcieri's signature issue as Fogarty can't afford to attack Beacon (he'd lose insider and union support) and he can't afford to defend Beacon (he lose mainstream voter support).

Posted by: Anthony at April 26, 2006 12:41 PM

Wow! Hey breaking news--Pigrim high school has called 34 people on west shore road and chafee is ahead by ten points. ! Let's just call up some people on the phone ask if their registered and write down the numbers!
Isn't that what real pollsters do!?

Posted by: slimjim at April 26, 2006 1:21 PM

This is a joke, right? This is worse than meaningless. Has anyone ever heard of a poll with a 107 person sampling size with a margin of error of plus or minus 9%? That's a swing of 18%! Not to mention that no one in this state, not even the Chafee campaign would peg him at 51% to 32% over Whitehouse at this point. Given the "statistical" margin for error here, that could put the "real" number as close as 42% to 41%! This isn't a real poll. Nice try. If they want to believe this garbage, let them. It will make it all the more sweeter when we whip them.

Posted by: Will at April 26, 2006 1:30 PM

Past Election Results:

'00: strong opponent
Chafee: 57%
Weygand: 41%

'94: weak opponent
Chafee: 64%
Kushner: 36%

'88: strong opponent
Chafee: 55%
Licht: 45%

The Chafees have relied on being able to poll in the mid 50's to low 60's, regardless of the name of the Democrat opponent, which is why it shouldn't be a surprise that the Chafee head-to-head numbers against Brown aren't so different than the Chafee head-to-head number against Whitehouse.

As a RI Republican, Chafee will never be able to pull off the large wins that liberal Democrat senators like Jack Reed and Claiborne Pell were/are able to pull off.

This poll puts Chafee in the traditional Chafee-esque mid-50's range and assumes that the vast majority of undecideds will break towards Whitehouse/Brown.

The Chafees have polled in same range against credible candidates ever since John Chafee eked out his '82 win over Michaelson, so the RIC numbers are perhaps most notable for being unsurprising.

Posted by: Anthony at April 26, 2006 1:35 PM

The Beacon issue: Another reason the Democratic good old boys enable Carcieri to maintain power (hey, a lot of them voted for Don in '02 - the GOB HATED York).
Fogarty may be a little too tied to the GOB to effectively attack Carcieri on the issue, even though failure to vote Don's way seems insufficient cause to boot two people off the board (if he can show me evidence Boeninger and Nee enjoyed the same kind of perk-filled lifestyle Solomon did, I'm willing to change my mind). I doubt the powers that be in the R.I. Democratic party would support a candidate with the cojones and creativity to attack the gov on the abuse-of-power angle instead of the protecting-our-buddies angle.
Think about it: If GOP senators in Washington gained the nuclear option Bill Frist demanded, there exists a possibility the Dems might possess that option next January if the current trends accelerate. Putting aside the whole Beacon-union who's right? angle for a moment, Carcieri needs to think about the precedent he's setting - you know a future Dem gov who wants to reshape a board in his favor will bring it up.

Posted by: Rhody at April 26, 2006 2:00 PM

Rhody, it doesn't change anything if a Democrat were governor. The General Assembly has already tried to restrict the governor's appointments to Beacon's board to one person which would basically mean there would only be one token Republican appointment on the board anyway. Not much to lose, unless you're John Holmes.

Once again, we're talking about a company under grand jury investigation that plays a crucial role in Rhode Island's financial lifeblood, not a token board or commission appointment.

Carcieri is replacing board members for cause, not because they voted the wrong way. They board failed in the role of overseeing Beacon Mutual while it was engaging in potentially illegal activity. Carcieri would have been fully justified if he replaced the board members at that point, but he gave them another chance to correct the situation by terminating Solomon without rewarding him.

The two board members who Carcieri wants to replace are the two board members who, despite the wrong-doing, wanted to give Solomon a seven-figure payout as he walked out the door.

They apparently didn't recognize that you don't reward years of criminal misconduct with millions of taxpayer subsidized dollars. It's like Enron only this time it's at taxpayer expense. That's not the proper conduct of a board. Carcieri is setting a good precedent, not a bad one.

Posted by: Anthony at April 26, 2006 2:45 PM

Anthony -

Laffey cannot win in state-wide election...keep saying it and maybe you will believe it. I guess that really shows how incompetent those voters in Cranston must be! 80% Democrat and Laffey gets 75% of the vote. Why is this fact continually ignored in favor of 107 potential voter polls with a swing of 18%? Please address why you believe Cranston is an anomaly and not reflective of the state. Reilly certainly is no Linc Chafee but then again, who is Linc Chafee? Republican? Democrat? Independent? All of the above depending upon the convenience of the situation? Look at history and the facts, not your bloated biased propaganda!!!

DR -
Real nice - no bigotry or ignorance displayed in your commentary! I am surprised it is still posted.


Posted by: Tim2 at April 26, 2006 5:40 PM

Tim2, Cranston was an anomaly. When Laffey first ran for mayor, Cranston was in bad shape and its citizens were angry. Laffey's personality and approach appealed to that emotion. Cranstonians wanted a drastic change and Laffey was it.

Unfortunately for Laffey, the other 38 Rhode Island cities and towns are better run than Cranston was in those days. Today, Rhode Island voters are not as angry as Cranston voters were and while they may want reform, they don't welcome Laffey's divisive approach and confrontational tactics.

I liken it to the Revolutionary period. Samuel Adams was a great revolutionary and played the role of an instigator who fanned the independence movement. However, after America achieved its independence, there was a greater need for statemen to draft the Constituion than for revolutionaries to provide inflammatory rhetoric.

As good as Samuel Adams was at attacking the British, he was a poor statesman and played little role in building the country. That's not what was needed at the time.

Cranston in 2002 had far less in common with the rest of Rhode Island than it had in common (low bond rating, pension fund in shambles, etc.).

Having been raised in Cranston, Laffey was also able to play the "local kid done good" angle by dressing down and using his upbringing to appeal to Cranston voters.

Cranston is not the rest of the state and I think that's what the polls numbers may be saying.

Posted by: Anthony at April 26, 2006 7:49 PM

Tim2, one other quick point. We're not talking about the 107 voters polled for the Republican primary.

When we talk about winning statewide, we are talking about the GENERAL ELECTION numbers with a much smaller margin of error whose results are consistent with all other general election polls taken to date.

I believe that Laffey could win a statewide GOP primary. I think he could continue to beat Democrats in Cranston. I just don't think he could win a statewide general election against a Democrat.

Posted by: Anthony at April 26, 2006 7:54 PM

Anthony -

Thanks for the history less on our Revolutionary times. Unfortunately, your characterization of Laffey as a rabble rouser and "local boy done good" is a gross underestimate of his capacity. The way you mock Laffey (divisive, confrontational, etc.) and trivialize his successes says more about you than about Laffey. One reading your commentary can get lulled into thinking everything is fine in government and that was just a small hiccup in Cranston not reflective of the institution today. Maybe we should just settle back with the same old corrupt structure and let the same old mediocre leaders spend our money and ruin our schools. Very similar to the way Clinton treated the threat from Osama - let's just throw a few casual missiles over there when things get a little hairy and then settle back into our genteel world.

This elitist, head in the sand attitude will only ensure future crises. People must rally to change the way we do things or history will repeat itself: bankrupted municipalities, huge state and federal deficits, continued declining education, inflated taxes, gross union giveaways, bridges to nowhere, and "statesmen" like Linc.

Now's not the time to get lethargic and tolerate the status quo that put us in dire straits.


Posted by: Tim2 at April 27, 2006 9:14 AM

I don't think I trivialized Laffey's successes. I've always said that I think Laffey is a bright, hard-working guy who overall did a good job in Cranston. However, I also think he is bombastic, confrontational and divisive. Such qualities are not mutually exclusive.

Remember, I'm not arguing the ideal, I'm arguing the reality. The economy is going fairly well. When things are going fairly well, most people don't want to behead the king. Laffey needs to identify issues that make people as angry as you are, Tim2.

Maybe it's gas prices, maybe it's Beacon Mutual, maybe it's something else. It can't be immigration, because he'll lose votes and Iraq is sticky for any Republican.

Until Laffey can find an issue to work the masses into a frenzy, he'll have trouble gaining ground.

Posted by: Anthony at April 27, 2006 6:05 PM

Anthony, et al:

I don't think you are facing this situation with both eyes open.

You are grossly underestimating Mr. Laffey. Again, may I repeat, grossly underestimating.

This is typical of many blind opponents of real change. You look at this young guy and imagine he is just loud and brash, pushing people around, not really doing anything of substance.

You judge his accomplishments as so many lucky breaks and slight of hand politics. In effect you think he is like you and the people you support. An ego looking for fame.

You'll probably still believe your own PR even after Mr. Laffey is down in DC kicking insider butt and fixing the broken machine Mr. Chafee is a part of.

In reality Laffey is an uncompromising fighter for the taxpayer. Waste is the enemy of the people who pay the bills. Special interests should not run the country, steal from the people they serve, and use the system for personal gain. Corporate welfare is a regressive tax on the common man. Small, efficient government is good government. I could go on and on. This is why Laffey won in Cranston. The people who elected him Mayor twice are not stupid, and neither are the people of RI.

I know the details of this race are slightly different, but the outcome will be the same. RI wins if Laffey wins. EOS.

J Mahn

Posted by: Joe Mahn at April 30, 2006 10:39 PM