R.I. Congressional Race a Statistical Dead Heat in Latest RWU-WPRI Poll

McKee leads race for R.I. Governor, more Rhode Islanders want to see Biden re-elected than Trump

Jill Rodrigues '05
RWU and WPRI logos

PROVIDENCE – With the Rhode Island election only four weeks away, Republican Allan Fung is statistically tied for voter support with Democrat Seth Magaziner for the 2nd Congressional District seat, according to a new Roger Williams University/WPRI 12 poll released on Thursday, October 6.

Fung is leading with 46 percent of the vote to Magaziner’s 40 percent; however, the margin of error in the poll is 6.2 percent, technically putting Fung’s lead within the survey’s margin of error, according to veteran pollster Joe Fleming. Moderate candidate William Gilbert received four percent of voter support, while nine percent said they weren’t sure who they would vote for, and one percent did not give an answer.

The Fleming & Associates polling firm conducted the survey of 254 likely Rhode Island voters residing within the 2nd Congressional District – and 402 likely voters statewide – from Sept. 29 to Oct. 2. The survey for the Congressional race has an overall margin of sampling error of plus or minus approximately 6.2 percentage points, while the statewide survey has an overall margin of sampling error of plus or minus approximately 4.9 percentage points.

This means the race for Rhode Island’s open U.S. Congressional seat could go in either direction, according to Fleming. “Fung is receiving 24 percent of Democratic votes, which is high (for a Republican). If he can hold that, it will help him a lot. At the same time, Magaziner will try to get those Democrats to come back to him. A lot of times, party voters tend to come home to (vote) their parties. It doesn’t mean it will happen here, but we have seen that,” Fleming said.

McKee Ahead in Governor's Race

Gov. Dan McKee is leading his Republican opponent by 13 points for Rhode Island’s governor. McKee, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate up for re-election, received 45 percent of voters’ support, while Republican Ashley Kalus got 32 percent, Independent Paul Rianna got three percent, Libertarian Elijah Gizzarelli got two percent, and Independent Zachary Hurwitz got two percent. Fifteen percent of those polled had not yet decided on a candidate.

A Democrat leading the polls doesn’t surprise Fleming. “Rhode Island is a Democratic state, and that greatly helps Democratic candidates – 41 percent of voters statewide are Democrats and McKee is receiving 72 percent of the Democratic vote,” he said.

But Kalus has a strong position with 32 percent of voter support and pulls ahead of McKee by 13 points with Independents, a key voting population, Fleming added. “To win, Kalus will have to increase her lead with Independents and close the gap with male voters, a group that Republicans tend to do well with,” he said.

When asked about whether they viewed the two leading gubernatorial candidates – McKee and Kalus – favorably or unfavorably, the voters gave McKee a 45 percent favorable rating and 36 percent unfavorable, with 19 percent saying they did not know; Kalus received 33 percent favorable to 32 percent unfavorable, while 35 percent did not have an opinion.

Past governors have been re-elected with worst favorability ratings, said Fleming – for example, “Gina Raimondo had fairly high unfavorable ratings and she still got elected and re-elected. McKee does well with favorability with females and with Democrats overall, and 45 percent favorable for a governor who has had a lot of negative ads thrown at him – as has Kalus – that isn’t a bad rating at this time.”

Kalus’ favorability ratings, divided nearly equally in thirds as positive, negative and unsure, reflect that she’s made headway with getting known with voters, but that she also has some work to become known, according to Fleming.

Among the statewide voters polled, the majority believe the State of Rhode Island is moving in the wrong direction. Forty-five percent felt this way, while 34 percent believe the state is moving in the right direction, nine percent believed it has remained the same, and 12 percent couldn’t say either way.

The most important issue to those polled was cost of living, which came in at 42 percent. Abortion was the second most important issue at 14 percent, followed by education at 11 percent, health care at 10 percent, taxes at nine percent, and public safety at seven percent.

The challenging economy and rising cost of living seem to be the biggest factors causing Rhode Island voters to view the state as moving in the wrong direction, Fleming said. And that opinion could affect voters’ decision for governor, arguably the elected official who has the most say about the direction of the state.

How much it will impact voters’ choices will “depend on how the gubernatorial candidates approach this topic over the next four weeks,” Fleming said.

While Governor McKee, the incumbent Democratic candidate, will play up his work in the State House over the last year, Republican candidate Ashley Kalus will talk about what she would do “to turn the state around,” according to Fleming, “but either way, I think we’ll see a lot of negative ads getting traded.”

More Support for Biden Than Trump

On a question of who they would rather have as president, more Rhode Island voters would want to see President Joe Biden re-elected than former President Donald Trump. The poll found that 49 percent supported Biden for re-election and 32 percent supported Trump, while 15 percent said they weren’t sure, and five percent didn’t answer who they would support.

That didn’t surprise Fleming, who noted that Rhode Islanders tend to vote for Democratic presidents.

“In 2021, Biden won Rhode Island by 21 points,” Fleming said, “so these latest numbers are good for Biden, at this point, in the State of Rhode Island.”