Massachusetts Voters See Bay State, Nation Moving in Opposite Directions According to New UMass Amherst Poll

Views on economy, immigration issues and the state’s transit services also surveyed
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AMHERST, Mass. – A new poll of issues facing Massachusetts voters conducted by the University of Massachusetts Amherst finds that an inverse proportion of voters believe that Massachusetts and the nation are on the “right track.”

Sixty-eight percent of voters believe that “things in Massachusetts are generally going in the right direction,” with 32 percent feeling that the Commonwealth is on the “wrong track.” Meanwhile, the exact opposite holds true for their belief of the nation as a whole – only 32 percent feel America is on the right track, while 68 percent say they think the nation has “gotten pretty seriously off on the wrong track.”

“With the unemployment rate at historically low levels, the high quality of the state’s public schools and health care, and the state’s increasing reputation as a hub for biotechnology and technology firms, it is no wonder that a large majority of the state’s residents believe that the state is heading in the right direction,” says Tatishe Nteta, associate professor of political science and director of the UMass Poll.

While the sentiment regarding the direction of the Bay State is generally quite positive among most of the 750 registered voters polled, two groups in particular don’t necessarily share the rosy view – Republicans and Hispanics. A majority of Republicans in Massachusetts – 53 percent – believe the state is on the wrong track, while 61 percent of Hispanic voters polled believe Massachusetts is moving in the wrong direction.

“It is shocking,” Nteta says. “A popular Republican governor, a booming economy and the nation’s best public schools are not enough to convince a majority of the state’s Republican voters to believe that the state is heading in the right direction.”

Meanwhile, the only poll respondents who see the U.S. moving in the right direction were Republicans, ideological conservatives and Trump voters. At least 58 percent of most demographic and political groups respond that the country is on the wrong track, while 78 percent of Republicans, 76 percent of conservatives and 83 percent of Trump voters believe the country is on the right track.

“The stark gap on the state versus the nation is especially true of Democrats,” says Raymond La Raja, professor of political science and associate director of the UMass Poll. “Seventy-seven percent think the Bay State is going in right direction while just 8 percent say the same about Trump-led Washington.”

Other issues surveyed by the UMass Poll included the state of the nation’s economy, the views voters have on public transit in the state and immigration policies currently being proposed by lawmakers both locally and in Washington.

Sixty-eight percent of the poll’s respondents feel the nation’s economy is either “good” or “excellent,” with only 5 percent saying the economy is in “poor” condition.

“Let the good times roll,” La Raja says. “Majorities of Massachusetts voters across every category we poll – age, race, ideology, income, gender – believe the economy is doing well. However, those making middle or higher incomes are more likely to say the economy is excellent.”

When polled on immigration proposals, respondents were essentially evenly divided on the issue of “sanctuary cities,” with 39 percent in favor of a bill preventing state and local police from participating in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigations or raids, and 38 percent opposed to such a bill. Regarding “birthright citizenship,” however, respondents were overwhelmingly opposed to a hypothetical bill that would prevent children born in the U.S. to non-citizen or unauthorized immigrant parents being automatically granted U.S. citizenship. Forty-five percent of those surveyed strongly opposed the idea of ending birthright citizenship – with an additional 9 percent somewhat opposing – while only 34 percent of respondents either strongly or somewhat supported the idea.

“On the issue of immigration, there is a clear generational divide as the oldest residents of the Commonwealth emerge among the most ardent supporters of anti-immigration policies, while the youngest generation overwhelmingly supports pro-immigration policies,” Nteta says. “Bay State Republicans and conservatives are clearly in step with President Trump’s positions on illegal immigration as large majorities of these groups express support for an end to birthright citizenship and oppose the creation of sanctuary cities.”

“There’s also a gender gap on immigration, with women taking a less punitive approach,” La Raja adds. “Women are more likely to be uncomfortable with the local or state police cooperating in searches and raids with ICE, and they overwhelmingly oppose ending birthright citizenship.”

Asked about the quality of public transportation in Massachusetts, 47 percent of voters said that Amtrak has excellent or good service, followed by the commuter rail and buses at 37 and 36 percent, respectively. Only 15 percent viewed Amtrak service as poor or very poor, while 24 percent and 21 percent held negative views of commuter rail and bus service, respectively. The “T,” however, had overall negative views among those surveyed – 35 percent believed the MBTA’s trolley and subway service in metro Boston is poor or very poor, while 25 percent said it is good and only 3 percent said the service is excellent.

“The MBTA’s long history of delays, breakdowns and fiscal mismanagement is reflected in the high levels of dissatisfaction with the service as 35 percent of voters rate the quality of MBTA service as poor, by far the most negative rating of public transportation options that we uncover,” Nteta says. “While most of the state’s residents are less than enthusiastic about their public transportation options, African Americans are the one group that consistently views the state’s public transportation in a positive light.”

Those surveyed were also asked to name the most important issues facing Massachusetts. “Massachusetts voters don’t want the culture wars,” La Raja says. “When we ask them to name the most important issues facing the state, they talk about bread-and-butter issues that touch their everyday lives: housing, healthcare, taxes, infrastructure and education.”

“The recent success of the state’s economy has led to a corresponding housing crisis,” Nteta adds. “It is becoming more and more difficult to find affordable housing in the state, and the Commonwealth’s voters view this as a problem that demands a solution.”

The UMass Poll, conducted online by YouGov Nov. 7-14, has a margin of error of 4.1 percent among registered voters. It included 796 respondents, of which 750 registered Massachusetts voters were assembled into the final dataset. Founded in 2010, UMass Poll has provided political polling for Massachusetts, New Hampshire and national races.

Additional results will be released this week looking at early views of Massachusetts voters have toward 2020 potential presidential candidates.

Topline results for the poll are available for download HERE.

Crosstabs for the poll are available for download HERE.