Four key takeaways from the new Brown University poll

Feb 28, 2013

Brown University's new poll is full of findings that, on the surface, are familiar and not particularly surprising. Yet they do point to some larger messages:

-- Rhode Islanders are desperate for political leadership. Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and state Treasurer Gina Raimondo continue to show the best approval ratings in the state. Taveras is at 63.7 percent, down slightly from 65.6 percent in last October. Raimondo has a 56 percent approval rating, down from 58.7 percent. The polling difference between the two pragmatic progressives remains modest. What counts is they esteem voters hold them in because of their keen focus on top fiscal problems.

-- Rhode Island Republicans keep squandering opportunities to lead. Considering Rhode Island's serial economic struggles, it's wholly unsurprising that just 16.7 percent of respondents have a good or great amount of confidence in state leaders to make good decisions for the state's future. What is noteworthy is how there's more confidence in Democrats (23.1 percent) than Republicans (13.7). Bottom line: the GOP has failed for years to take advantage of a fertile political environment for growing its ranks.

-- Low approval ratings don't tell the whole story. Democratic Congressman David Cicilline enjoyed a larger-than-expected victory last November when he vanquished Republican challenger Brendan Doherty. Yet Cicilline's approval rating -- 27 percent -- remains at a level that would strike many outside observers as precarious. That it's not speaks to how the national GOP remains toxic in RI, and how a smart campaign can overcome overzealous predictions of doom. Meanwhile, two of the most powerful people in the state, House Speaker Gordon Fox and Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, cruise along, unimpeded by their characteristically low (sub-25 percent) approval ratings.

-- Time is on the side of same-sex marriage. No surprise here: the highest level of support for same-sex marriage came from voters ages 30 to 39 (88.9 percent) and 18 to 29 (77.1 percent). Among voters 70 and over, 34.6 percent said they back same-sex marriage. So the question remains, does the Senate come down on the side of growing public support or impede it?