Pubdate: Tue, 12 Jul 2005
Source: Call, The (RI)
Copyright: 2005 The Call.
Author: Jim Baron, Journal Register News Service
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


PROVIDENCE -- Rhode Islanders sympathize with seriously ill people 
who want to use marijuana to ease their symptoms, but not child-care 
providers who are seeking to unionize.

Those are some of the results of a recent poll by Brown University 
Professor Darrell West, who also found a tight early race for U.S. 
Senate between incumbent Republican Lincoln Chafee and Democratic 
challenger Sheldon Whitehouse with Republican Gov. Donald Carcieri 
maintaining a comfortable lead in his re-election bid over Democratic 
Lt. Gov. Charles Fogarty.

The survey of 470 registered voters in Rhode Islanders was conducted 
in the last week of June and has a margin of error of plus or minus 
4.5 percent.

Sixty-seven percent of those polled said they favor legislation to 
legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes, 22 percent said 
they were opposed and only 9 percent said they did not know or gave no answer.

Both chambers of the General Assembly have approved legislation that 
would permit people with certain serious diseases or ailments, but it 
was vetoed by Carcieri, who said the rules crafted are too loose and 
will allow children greater access to the illegal drug.

The Senate has voted to override the governor's veto and the House is 
expected to do the same within the next several weeks.

The governor is faring much better in the court of public opinion, 
according to West's findings. Not only is Carcieri holding a 48-39 
percent lead over Fogarty, his only announced opponent, but he has a 
55-34 percent lead among independent voters.

His job approval rating is also holding steady at 57 percent saying 
Carcieri is doing an excellent (21 percent) or good (36) job with 40 
percent saying he is doing and only fair (25) or poor (15) job. That 
57 percent approval, West said, "is very good for someone in the 
third year of his term." If there is a concern for Carcieri it is in 
the 43 percent of Rhode Islanders who think the state is on the right 
track as opposed to the 44 percent who say it is going in the wrong direction.

Those numbers, West explained, mean that Ocean Staters believe that 
"the economy is still soft and people are a little worried, but they 
haven't tied that issue to the governor."

The governor is winning on some issues he has claimed as his own, 
however. When asked whether the state should have to negotiate pay 
and working conditions with home-based providers who provide 
state-subsidized child care for low-income families, however, only 36 
percent said yes, and 51 percent said no. Ten percent gave no answer.

The state legislature also passed a bill to allow the child care 
providers to unionize and Carcieri has vetoed that as well. But 
prospects for an override are less clear on the child care bill, 
which passed with fewer than the three-fifths vote required to 
override the governor's objection.

"The newspaper headlines were not positive for the child care 
workers," West said when asked about the numbers in his poll. "It's 
been continuing and public opinion tilted against them. People don't 
favor unionization." He noted that Carcieri played a lead role in 
mobilizing public opinion by making the child care unionization one 
of his principal issues.

Carcieri also got a 55 percent ratification from those polled on his 
pension reform effort, specifically for setting a minimum retirement 
age for new state workers and public school teachers. Thirty-two 
percent said they are opposed and 11 percent had no answer. Another 
52 percent said cost-of-living increases in public pensions should be 
tied to the inflation rate, another aspect of the governor's pension 
reform plan adopted by the General Assembly in the 2006 budget. That 
was opposed by 33 percent with 12 percent declining to answer.

The pension changes approved by Carcieri and the legislature did not 
include judges, prison guards and state troopers - 71 percent of 
those answering West's poll said it should, only 10 percent say it 
shouldn't, fewer than the 14 percent who gave no answer.

Rhode Islanders also take a strong stand on the controversial issue 
of embryonic stem cell research. Of those responding to the poll, 66 
percent said the federal government should provide funding for such 
research, with 22 percent opposed and 10 percent giving no response. 
In the closely-watched early race for the U.S. Senate, West's poll 
finds Whitehouse within five percentage points of Chafee, 41 to 36 
percent. Chafee does better against Democratic Secretary of State 
Matt Brown, scoring 44 percent to Brown's 29 percent. Poll results at 
this point in a race - the Senate election won't be held until 
November, 2006 - can be important to a candidate's flow of money, 
West said. "A survey provides a snapshot of a point in time that 
fundraisers take seriously," West told reporters. "If someone is 
doing well, he or she will find it easier to raise money, if not, 
they will have a tougher sales job." West said this poll signals a 
competitive race.
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MAP posted-by: Beth