Fung or Magaziner? What we learned about RI's 2nd Congressional race from a new poll

Republican Allan Fung leads Democrat Seth Magaziner in their nationally-watched race for Congress, according to a new WPRI-TV and Roger Williams University poll released Thursday.

But the contest is tight — within the poll's margin of error — with four and a half weeks before voters head to the polls.

If the 2nd Congressional District election were held today, 46% of poll respondents said they would cast a ballot for Fung, 40% for Magaziner and 4% for Moderate candidate William Gilbert. Nine percent of those polled said they are undecided, according to the results.

The survey of 254 registered 2nd District voters was conducted for WPRI and Roger Williams by Fleming & Associates between Sept. 29 and Oct. 2.

In their bid to retake the U.S. House of Representatives, the national Republican Party has targeted Rhode Island's 2nd District since incumbent Rep. Jim Langevin announced in January he would not seek reelection.

The poll shows the GOP, which has poured money into Rhode Island to help Fung, has a good shot to flip a Congressional seat held by Democrats in a Democratic state.

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What does the latest Congressional District 2 poll say?

The poll's 6.2% margin of error is slightly larger than Fung's 6-point margin, which to pollster Joseph Fleming means "this race can be even closer than it shows right now.

"But keep in mind, there is still a month to the general election. A lot can happen in a month. We saw that in the Democratic primary, in the last 10 days when there was a lot of movement," Fleming recalled Thursday.

Allan Fung
Allan Fung

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The poll showed a large gender gap reflective of a national trend where women increasingly identify with Democrats and men with Republicans.

Women favor Magaziner 47.2% to 40.7% in the WPRI poll, while men favor Fung 51.1% to 33.6% in a campaign year when the U.S. Supreme Court's reversal of Roe V. Wade and the threat by Congressional Republicans of a national abortion ban is weighing on many voters' minds.

Independents, and some Democrats, leaning toward Fung

Fleming was also struck by the number of Democrats leaning toward the well-known Fung, the former Cranston mayor who ran unsuccessfully for governor twice and, in Fleming's words, "comes across as a nice guy."

While heavily favored by Republicans, Fung also has a 10-percentage point lead among independents — who make up Rhode Island's largest voting bloc — and a 24% chunk of the potential Democratic vote, which Fleming calls "high for a Republican."

Historically, "Democrats tend to come home towards the end, so that number might go down, but if Allan Fung can hold on to that 24% of the Democratic vote, that puts him in a nice position," Fleming said.

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Fung's campaign has blamed Democrats for rising prices and the poll shows that issue is high on voters minds.

An overwhelming 42% of poll respondents said cost of living is their top issue, compared with 14% who said it is abortion, 11% education, 10% health care, 9% taxes and 7% public safety.

“Allan isn’t focused on snapshot polls,” Fung Campaign Spokesman Steven Paiva wrote in a statement about the poll. “Allan is focused on providing relief from the Biden-Pelosi Agenda fully supported by Seth Magaziner that is making powering and heating your homes more expensive this winter.”

Magaziner spokeswoman Patricia Socarras noted that Joe Biden won the 2nd Congressional District by 15 points over Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election.

“The WPRI poll shows a clear path for Magaziner to win this race by reminding voters how out of step Allan Fung is from their values. As Rhode Islanders learn that Allan Fung’s opposed the Affordable Care Act, opposed abortion protections in Rhode Island, and has committed to making Trump-loyalist Kevin McCarthy as Speaker of the House, voters will realize that we cannot afford to send Fung to Congress,” Socarras wrote. “The poll shows that by consolidating support from Democrats, Seth will win this race."

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General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, running for the 2nd Congressional District seat being vacated by Rep. James Langevin, joined security guards demanding collective-bargaining rights from contractor USENTRA at a Thursday rally.
General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, running for the 2nd Congressional District seat being vacated by Rep. James Langevin, joined security guards demanding collective-bargaining rights from contractor USENTRA at a Thursday rally.

More voters — 45% — said Rhode Island is headed in the wrong direction than the 34% who said it is heading in the right direction and 9% who said it is remaining the same.

In a hypothetical presidential election matchup between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, 49% of poll respondents said they would vote for Biden, 32% for Trump and 15% were not sure.

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This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Seth Magaziner or Allan Fung? Poll of RI voters ahead of Election 2022