As the 2012 election campaign enters its final week, a new poll shows the 1st District congressional campaign virtually deadlocked, with incumbent Democrat David Cicilline holding on to a slender one-point lead over Republican challenger Brendan Doherty.
The poll, taken for WPRI Channel 12 by Fleming & Associates, shows Cicilline with 42.6 percent of the vote to Dohertyâ€™s 41.6, with Independent David Vogel picking up 6.3 percent and 8.3 percent undecided.
On the stationâ€™s 6 p.m. newscast, pollster Joseph Fleming of Cumberland told Channel 12 that it is those 8.3 percent of undecided voters who now hold the outcome of the contest in their hands.
The polling in this race has gone back and forth. Doherty started out with a significant lead in an early Fleming poll, but Cicilline pulled out ahead by six points in another survey taken last month, after Cicilline had dispatched his Democratic challenger, Anthony Gemma, in the primary. A Brown University poll in October also showed Cicilline about six points ahead.
Now Doherty is just one point behind Cicilline in a poll with a margin of error of plus or minus 5.66 percent.
A big part of the incumbentâ€™s problem, the new survey shows, is an abysmally poor job approval rating: 36 percent favorable and 59 percent unfavorable. Doherty, on the other hand, is viewed favorably by 51 percent of those polled and negatively by just 24 percent, although at this late date, approximately 24 percent of the electorate do not know him well enough to form an opinion.
Fleming said Vogel is hurting Doherty by capturing a portion of the anti-Cicilline vote that would otherwise go to the Republican.
Cicilline is holding the support of Democrats, scooping up 73.8 percent of those polled to Dohertyâ€™s 11.1 percent with 4.8 percent for Vogel. Among Republicans, Doherty sweeps 88.9 percent of the vote with Cicilline taking 4.4 percent and Vogel 2.2 percent.
Independent voters polled lean toward Doherty by 54.1 percent with just 27.9 favoring Cicilline, but Vogel sops up 9 percent of the Independents, a key to the incumbentâ€™s slim lead.
Older voters have been a key battleground in a race where Cicilline has touted his support for Social Security and Medicare and has painted Doherty as a Republican who will lend support to his partyâ€™s efforts to pare Social Security benefits and turn Medicare into a voucher program, something Doherty has spent nearly the entire campaign denying vehemently.
The poll shows voters 60 years and older favoring Cicilline 46.2 percent to 39.3 percent, with Vogel at 5.1 percent.
The telephone poll of 301 likely 1st District voters was conducted October 24-27. It comes as the two top candidates are preparing to spend about a half-million dollars in a blitz of last-minute advertising, virtually all of it negative. The National Republican Campaign Committee has shoveled $280,000 to Doherty in the past week and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee funneling $315,000 Cicillineâ€™s way.