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New Poll: Sales Tax, Cicilline, Labor

A new, wide-ranging Brown University poll is out. Among the highlights: mixed views on Governor Chafee's sales tax proposal (lowering the rate from 7 to 6 percent, adding a 1 percent tax on some items, expanding the number of items to be taxed), poor approval ratings for Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Representative David Cicilline, and solid support for organized labor (Wisconsin, ye seem so far away).

  • 58 percent support lowering the tax rate from 7 percent to 6 percent, while 35 percent are opposed 
  • views on individual items that would be taxed vary widely: 59 percent support taxing dry cleaning, for instance, but 77 percent oppose taxing textbooks (unclear what happens if you try to dryclean your textbooks)
  • 54 percent oppose taking away some public sector union bargaining rights, while 40 percent favor
  • more respondents blame the City Council for Providence's budget woes than former mayor, now Congressman David Cicilline - 80 percent to 77 percent; still plenty of blame for Cicilline, though
  • 76 percent agree with Providence Mayor Angel Taveras' plan to shutter schools

The most significant finding, at first blush: there doesn't appear to be outraged opposition to Chafee's sales tax proposal, which surely owes something to the politically clever push to lower the top sales tax rate, even as the number of items to be taxed expands. That should help the governor make his case for some form of sales tax expansion on Smith Hill.

Here are the approval numbers for various pols in the poll, as explained in the Brown press release:

Rhode Island voters were divided in their opinion of the way President Barack Obama is handling the economy: 43.3 percent approved and 48.5 percent disapproved. Obama’s overall approval rating was 43.7 percent. Fifty-one percent of respondents rated the performance of Sen. Jack Reed “excellent” or “good," while 38 percent approved of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s job performance. Seventeen percent felt Rep. David Cicilline is doing an “excellent” or “good” job and 48 percent gave Rep. Jim Langevin the same rating. Orr noted a large (34 percent) proportion of "Don’t Know/No Answer” responses to the Cicilline question.

On the state and local level, Chafee’s approval rating is 32 percent, while Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts has a 33 percent approval rating. Thirty-one percent think Attorney General Peter Kilmartin is going an “excellent” or “good” job, 32 percent feel Secretary of State Ralph Mollis is doing an “excellent” or “good” job, and 39 percent approve of Treasurer Gina Raimondo’s performance. Fifty percent of respondents think Commissioner of Education Deborah Gist is doing an “excellent” or “good” job.

Taveras received a 52 percent approval rating from respondents. Twenty-three percent believe House Speaker Gordon Fox is doing an “excellent” or “good” job and 23 percent feel Senate President Teresa Paiva-Weed is doing an “excellent” or “good” job.

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