PROVIDENCE — Gabe Amo’s campaign released an internal polling memo and results Thursday that show him in second place behind J. Aaron Regunberg in Rhode Island’s First Congressional District race.
The internal poll of 451 likely Democratic primary voters, conducted between Aug. 15-17 by Global Strategy Group, showed Regunburg with 27.9 percent of the vote, Amo with 19.1 percent, Sabina Matos with 10.8 percent, Sandra C. Cano with 10.5 percent, and Don Carlson with 8.1 percent. Another 8.8 percent favored another of the 12 Democratic candidates who were not mentioned in the poll, and 14.8 percent of voters are undecided.
No independent polling has been done thus far in the race to replace Democrat David N. Cicilline, who stepped down to lead the Rhode Island Foundation. The primary is set for Sept. 5.
And Providence College political science Professor Adam S. Myers said the results of Amo’s internal poll “need to be taken with a grain of salt.” He said the documents released by the campaign provide no margin of error or methodology statement, and it appears the poll involved a mix of text messages and automated phone calls.
He noted that 80.4 percent of respondents said they will definitely vote in the primary, which seems “very high.” And he noted the poll results include those who said they were undecided but would vote for a candidate if they had to decide today.
Also, Myers noted that the poll mentions only five of the 12 Democrats in the race, saying that can affect the results because respondents were not given all of the ballot options. Some voters might know about candidates such as Ana Quezada, Walter Berbrick, or John Goncalves, for example, but they might not think of them unless they were listed among the potential choices, he said.
“It’s a poll that clearly has certain validity issues,” Myers said. “So the fact that we are spending all this time picking it apart shows just how hungry all of us are in this race for independent polling based on a sound polling methodology.”
But, Myers said, “To the extent the polling results are valid and indicate something real, it’s pretty clear the signature scandal has had an effect on Matos’ candidacy. Her unfavorables went up substantially, and she appears to have plummeted from being the front-runner in this race to potentially third or fourth place, and I don’t know how else to explain that except the signature scandal.”
The Global Strategy Group polling memo said Amo’s share of the vote has risen from from 4 percent in June to 19 percent now, and 43 percent of voters have a very favorable or favorable impression of him, compared to 10 percent with a very unfavorable or unfavorable impression.
The polling memo said that “despite heavy outside spending,” Matos’ favorability rating has plunged since June, going from 41 percent very favorable/favorable and 24 percent very unfavorable/unfavorable in June to 29 percent very favorable/favorable and 44 percent very unfavorable/unfavorable now. During that time, Matos has faced scrutiny over potentially fraudulent signatures on her nomination papers, including the names of dead people.
The polling memo said Amo “is in a strong position to peel off other candidates’ voters” because he is the second-choice candidate for current Matos (29 percent), Cano (39 percent), and Regunberg (22 percent) voters.
“It is worth noting that the sample size is small, and the data on second choice preferences should be read as directional for Matos, Cano, and Carlson,” the memo said. “Still, it is clear that Gabe is the only chance at beating Regunberg, and he is well positioned to do so.”
On July 19, Democrat Nick Autiello dropped out of the congressional race while saying his internal poll of 300 voters showed Matos leading with 20 percent of the vote, followed by Regunberg with 12 percent, Cano with 7 percent, Amo with 6 percent, and Autiello with 5 percent. But that poll was taken just before the Matos nomination signature scandal began.
On June 12, Matos’ campaign released an internal poll showing her leading by double digits in what was then a field of 15 Democratic candidates. That poll of 400 likely Democratic primary voters showed Matos with 22 percent, leading Regunburg with 9 percent, Cano with 6 percent, Providence City Council member John Goncalves with 5 percent, Amo with 3 percent each, and Carlson, Representative Stephen Casey, and Senator Ana B. Quezada with 2 percent each.
Cano’s campaign manager, Erich Haslehurst, issued a statement, saying, “An internal campaign poll released at this point in the election should be viewed with bias and not taken seriously. The sample of voters could very well have been created by the campaign using their voter targeting. Additionally, this poll is extremely flawed as the favorability ratings only tested three of the twelve candidates on the ballot before asking who they would vote for.”
Haslehurst said the election will be decided by who can turn out their voters on Election Day. “Our team is focused on the field and continues to build momentum across the district with more than sixty-five local leaders and three major labor unions endorsing Sandra Cano all working to get out the vote,” he said.
Regunberg’s campaign issued a statement noting that the Amo poll has him leading with nearly 28 percent of the vote.
“A clear plurality of CD-1 voters now say they’re with Aaron Regunberg,” campaign manager Matt DaSilva said. “The momentum comes as voters connect with Aaron’s bold vision for a more just and equal future. By electing Aaron on September 5th, voters will be making a clear declaration that they demand bold climate action and a crackdown on greedy corporations who are taking advantage of our families.”
Matos campaign spokesperson Evan England said, “We are highly skeptical of the claims in this ‘poll.’ It is impossible for two respondents to be in three different age categories, or for two respondents to have six different answers to the same question, yet that is what this poll claims in multiple instances. This is also counter to the positive feedback that Sabina is getting from people throughout the district who know that abortion rights are on the line in this election and believe that it’s time for Rhode Island to send a Democratic woman to Congress.”
-- Updated with comments from Matos campaign spokesperson Evan England, Regunberg campaign manager Matt DaSilva, Cano campaign manager Erich Haslehurst, and Providence College political science Professor Adam S. Myers.