Four-in-Five Massachusetts Voters Fear a Second Wave of COVID-19 Pandemic, According to a UMass Amherst / WCVB Poll

Survey of issues facing Commonwealth voters finds increasing support of Black Lives Matter movement and overall satisfaction with schooling during the pandemic
Tatishe Nteta
Tatishe Nteta,

Topline results and crosstabs for the poll can be found at

AMHERST, Mass. – As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to weigh on minds heading into the election, new University of Massachusetts Amherst / WCVB Poll results released today find 79% of Massachusetts voters worry about a second wave of the coronavirus arriving later this year and 62% continue to worry that they will contract the virus.

Despite some attempts to downplay the virus’ threat to young people, 69% of 18-to 29- year-olds surveyed said they worry about contracting the virus, and 88% worry about a second wave of infections. Driving these numbers may be the fact that 29% of those younger voters report suffering a recent job loss – and 25% fear losing their job – due to the outbreak.

Republican voters were the only respondents who reported an overall lack of concern about the virus, with only 34% expressing a worry about contracting the virus, while 76% of Democrats and 56% of independents worry about it. Only 52% of Republicans fear a second wave of infections, compared to 69% of independents and 96% of Democrats.

Leadership During the Pandemic

The poll found that while voters have a dismal view of the federal government’s response to the pandemic, they are overwhelmingly pleased by the leadership shown at the state and local levels. Sixty-four percent of Bay State voters said President Trump has not handled the outbreak well, and 73% hold a negative view of the response to the outbreak by the U.S. Congress. Meanwhile, Gov. Charlie Baker holds a 79% approval rating on his pandemic response, and 75% believe the Massachusetts Legislature has handled the outbreak well. Voters hold the most confidence in their local governments, however, with 83% responding their local governments have responded well to the outbreak.

Republicans are again the outliers in these views, however, with 92% of GOP voters approving of the president’s response. Only 55% of Republicans approve of Baker’s COVID leadership, 44% approve of the state Legislature’s response and 62% approve of the reaction by their local governments.

“While Baker is surprisingly popular among the state’s liberal and Democratic voters, shockingly, Republicans and conservatives give him low marks with only 46% of Republicans and 38% of conservatives approving of the job that Baker is doing,” says Tatishe Nteta, associate professor of political science at UMass Amherst and director of the poll. “His popularity in the state with the left may reflect the perception that his leadership style is not in line with the contemporary Republican Party and President Trump. In fact, in describing Baker, one of the most frequent words used was ‘RINO,’ the acronym for ‘Republican in Name Only.’”

“We see that Massachusetts voters remain very concerned about the effects of COVID-19 and generally unhappy with the Trump Administration's leadership in the face of the pandemic,” says Alex Theodoridis, associate professor of political science at UMass Amherst and associate director of the poll. “At the same time, like almost everything else, concerns and opinions regarding the pandemic are highly polarized along party lines.”

Schooling During the Pandemic

With the new school year now underway, the poll found that only 10% of Massachusetts parents’ children are attending school in-person full time, while more than half (53%) report their children are attending school remotely.

“In the midst of a school year like no other before, parents in the state give the state’s schools high marks and express strong levels of satisfaction with the education their children are receiving during the pandemic,” Nteta says. Seventy-seven percent of parents whose children are attending school in-person express satisfaction, as did 79% of hybrid-schooling parents, while parents of children attending their school remotely full-time report a 65% satisfaction rate with their child’s schooling.

Eviction & Foreclosure Protections

In April 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the state of Massachusetts passed an emergency law to stop evictions and foreclosures. The temporary ban expired Oct. 18, although some federal protections still exist for those who meet specific requirements. A vast majority (72%) of the poll’s respondents support extending the state law, with 47% strongly supporting it, while only 9% opposing its extension.

Racial Justice & Black Lives Matter

“Months after the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and even in the midst of the steady decline in the number of Black Lives Matter protests across the state, the Black Lives Matter Movement remains popular in the state,” Nteta says.

Support for the BLM movement increased by 4% since the last UMass Amherst / WCVB Poll in August, with 58% of respondents now expressing positive views of the racial justice movement. The four-point increase corresponds with an identical decrease in respondents saying that they are neutral on the movement. While overall disapproval of the BLM movement remained static since August at 31%, the view among those voters appears to be crystalizing as a three-point increase in those expressing “very negative” views mirrors a three-point decrease in those holding a “somewhat negative” view.

The racial justice movement appears to be making a difference in general, as well, as the percentage of respondents saying White people in the U.S. enjoy certain advantages due to their skin color has increased from 61% in August to 67%. Those disagreeing with that sentiment decreased from 24% to 23%, and those neither agreeing nor disagreeing decreased from 15% to 10% in the last two months.

Possible Special Senate Election

Asked about their preference in a potential Democratic primary for a special Senate election, should a possible President Biden appoint U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren to a cabinet position, U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley holds a four-point advantage over Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, 23-19. Registered Democrats surveyed gave Pressley the edge, 29-25. Among non-white voters, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey places second to Pressley, 25-18, with Kennedy placing third at 16%.

“In two short years, Pressley has established a broad coalition of support in the Democratic electorate as she is the preferred candidate across educational, generational, gender, racial, and income categories,” Nteta says. “If the election were held today, Pressley would be the candidate to beat.”


This University of Massachusetts Amherst / WCVB Poll of 713 registered voters in Massachusetts was conducted Oct. 14-21 by YouGov. YouGov interviewed 725 registered voter respondents who were weighted to the sampling frame from the 2018 Current Population Survey (CPS) of Massachusetts registered voters using propensity scores. The 725 cases and the frame were combined and a logistic regression was estimated for inclusion in the frame. The propensity score function included age, gender, race/ethnicity, and years of education. The propensity scores were grouped into deciles of the estimated propensity score in the frame and post-stratified according to these deciles.

The weights were then post-stratified on 2016 Presidential vote choice, and a four-way stratification of gender, age (4-categories), race (4-categories), and education (4-categories). Finally, the sample was restricted to only those who are likely voters to produce a final dataset of 713 likely voter respondents and weights were re-centered among these 713 respondents to produce the final weight.

The margin of error within this poll is 4.5%.

Topline results and crosstabs for the poll can be found at