New UMass Amherst / WCVB Poll Finds Democrats in Dominant Position Heading into State Elections
Topline results and crosstabs for the poll can be found at www.umass.edu/poll
AMHERST, Mass. – Democrats are poised for a potential sweep of statewide offices on Nov. 8, according to the results of a new UMass Amherst / WCVB Poll released today.
The poll of 700 registered Bay State voters found commanding leads for every Democrat over their Republican rival: Attorney General Maura Healey tops Geoff Diehl, 61-33, in the governor’s race; Andrea Campbell holds a 58-33 lead over James McMahon III in the race for attorney general; incumbent Secretary of State William Galvin leads Rayla Campbell, 58-30, for his re-election to an eighth term; and Deborah Goldberg and Diana Dizoglio lead by double-digit margins in their races for state treasurer and auditor, respectively.
“With Election Day less than two weeks away, Maura Healey has a commanding – and some would characterize as an insurmountable – lead over her Republican challenger Geoff Diehl in the race to become the next governor of the commonwealth of Massachusetts,” says Tatishe Nteta, professor of political science at UMass Amherst and director of the poll. “Diehl, since winning the GOP’s nomination for governor, has consistently attempted to portray Healey as a progressive who alongside her Democratic colleagues in the Legislature will raise taxes, increase governmental spending, and will do little to address the issues of undocumented immigration or crime. These attacks on Healey have seemingly fallen on deaf ears as Healey in a head-to-head matchup with her opponent is trusted to handle issues such as the economy, crime and taxes. Healey is also seen as the preferred candidate to represent the interests of prominent groups in the state – from women to parents to small business owners. In order to turn around his fortunes and emerge as victorious on Election Day, Diehl will likely need to change his strategy of attack. If not, he may be on the losing side of landslide.”
“It seems surprising that there are no tailwinds for statewide Republicans after one of its own has been among the most popular governors in recent memory,” says Raymond La Raja, professor of political science at UMass Amherst and associate director of the poll. “This says something about the direction of the GOP in Massachusetts. Gov. Charlie Baker went one way, and the party went another.”
“In this era of deep polarization,” La Raja continues, “it would be pretty hard for voters to say that the Democratic gubernatorial candidate most resembles the outgoing Republican governor. But that’s what voters are saying. Between the two major party candidates, voters say Maura Healey most resembles Baker on policy priorities (59-34), ideology (58-35) and leadership style (62-33).”
“Given Baker’s popularity in the state, the fact that Healey is viewed as closely resembling him is a huge boon for her campaign,” says Jesse Rhodes, professor of political science at UMass Amherst and associate director of the poll, who will join La Raja to present “The UMass Poll: Insights Into the Midterm Elections” a talk for community members at the UMass Amherst Mount Ida Campus, Wednesday, Nov. 2, at 7 p.m. “This also reflects the reality that the Massachusetts GOP, led by Diehl, has moved far to the right under the influence of former President Donald Trump and his associates. This is very bad news for Diehl and Republicans – while right-wing Republican politics may be a winner in some states, it’s unlikely to enjoy success in what is arguably the most liberal state in the nation.”
There is broad support for Ballot Questions 1 and 2 – 59% support the “Fair Share Amendment” and 68% support the dental insurance regulation reform question. A bare majority of the poll’s respondents (51%) support Ballot Question 4, which would keep in place the Work and Family Mobility act, which allows for undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses and learner’s permits. The respondents were evenly divided – 39-38, with 23% unsure – on Question 3, which would increase the statewide limit on the combined number of licenses for the sale of alcoholic beverages for off-premises consumption that any one retailer could own or control.
“Going into the final days of the 2022 elections, it looks like Ballot Question 1, which would increase taxes on incomes over $1 million, will pass,” says Rhodes. “Predictably, though, there are stark differences partisan and ideological divides on this issue, with Democrats and liberals strongly supporting the increase and Republicans and conservatives strongly opposing. These differences illustrate just how much attitudes toward taxation are shaped by abstract identities and views about the role of government rather than about self-interest. After all, the new tax, if implemented, would affect less than 1% of Massachusetts residents. So, attitudes toward the policy – whether in favor or in support – are heavily influenced by party cues and general beliefs about what is just.”
“With voters bombarded by television ads, radio spots and mailers championing ‘no’ or ‘yes’ on the four questions on the ballot, as we get closer to Election Day it looks as if ‘the ayes have it’ with strong leads for ‘yes’ on Questions 1, 2 and 4,” Nteta says. “On Question 3, the lack of a concerted effort by proponents and opponents of changes to the state’s liquor laws has resulted in a statistical dead heat between ‘no’ and ‘yes’ with close to a quarter of voters remaining undecided on this question. These results indicate that a last second push by either side may be influential in determining the future number of liquor licenses granted by the state.”
“The vote on Ballot 3 has tightened due to an increase in advertising from the opposition,” La Raja adds. “And one in four voters remain undecided – the most of any of the ballot questions. I think many voters are confused because both sides appear to be making some of the same claims.”
Voters’ Views on Issues Facing the Commonwealth
Nearly all of the registered voters polled – 96% – indicated that they intend to vote in the election, and three in 10 had already cast their ballots by the time they responded to the poll. The excitement for the election is reflected in the respondents’ views on its importance, as well, with 84% saying the election results are important for the future of the nation, and 71% saying they are important for the future of the Bay State.
“During every national election, we hear the similar refrain from elected officials and candidates on the campaign trail that the upcoming election is ‘the most important of our lifetimes’ and that the results of the election will chart the future direction and prosperity of the nation,” Nteta says. “With control of the U.S. Congress on the line, large numbers of voters in the commonwealth have heard this message loud and clear, as eight in ten voters believe that the results of the midterm are important for the future of the nation, with only 1% of all voters indicating that the election results are ‘not at all important.’”
“But are ‘all politics still local?’” Nteta asks. “Even though each of the commonwealth’s executive positions, the state’s nine congressional districts, seats in the Massachusetts state Legislature and a wealth of local positions are all up for grabs this year, voters in Massachusetts are less likely to view the results of the 2022 midterm elections as important to the future of the state when compared to their assessment of the results of the midterm for the future of the nation. The relatively lower perceived importance of the election for the state’s future may reflect not only the nationalization of politics and elections, but the perceived lack of competition for these offices in a reliably ‘blue’ state.”
The economy and the health of our democracy are top-of-mind among the poll’s respondents when asked their views on the issues guiding their decision at the polls in November.
“Massachusetts voters agree strongly that the midterm elections are critical for the nation and for the commonwealth, but they disagree as to the most important issue in the campaign,” Rhodes says. “A strong majority of Republicans (62%) and plurality of Independents (45%) are focused on economic issues; while a plurality of Democrats (45%) believe that the health of our democracy is the most important concern. As the nation faces severe inflation and the prospect of a recession, economic concerns are likely to dominate more abstract issues in determining how people vote.”
“In recent weeks,” Nteta says, “in an effort to divert attention from the economic challenges facing the nation and the state and in part to capitalize on the growing concern over the perceived radicalization of certain factions of the Republican Party, Democrats at both the national and state level have opined that ‘democracy’ is on the ballot on November 8th. Stump speeches delivered by President Joe Biden, former President Barack Obama, and other prominent Democratic leaders and candidates, have argued that the Republican Party and certain Republican candidates pose a threat to the nation’s democratic ideals, values, and norms and that the health of the nation’s democracy would be adversely affected by the election of Republicans to federal, state, and local offices. This message has resonated with Democratic voters in the state as close to half of all Democrats identify ‘the health of the democracy’ as the central issue that will influence their vote on Election Day.”
“Massachusetts voters – in a state some might say is the cradle of democracy – are very concerned about the state of our democracy,” La Raja says. “They are almost as likely to rank ‘the health of our Democracy’ as the top issue in making their decision (29%) compared to the economy (33%). That’s very different from the rest of the country, where just 16% of the nation say that ‘democracy’ will be a top concern when voting.”
“Governors typically have little influence on limiting inflation,” La Raja adds, turning toward the economic concerns of the poll’s respondents. “But that doesn’t stop voters from ranking this issue first when they are asked which issue they want the next governor to focus on in the first 100 days of their administration – more than one-quarter (26%) of voters pick this first, and 42% of Republicans put it at the top. The next issue, not surprising for Massachusetts, is addressing the housing shortage and affordability, which 16% of voters ranked at the top.”
“With record levels of inflation and looming spikes in energy costs as the state inches toward winter, it is not surprising that the one issue that voters in the state want the next governor to tackle in the first 100 days is inflation,” Nteta says. “Who the governor will be and whether the new governor will be able to stem the tide of rising prices is yet to be seen, but voters, especially Republican and Independent voters strongly desire new strategies to tackle this growing problem.”
Rhodes notes that “While handling inflation might be difficult for state leaders to deal with, given its complex national – and even international – causes, there’s a lot that the new governor and state Legislature can do, in concert with local governments, to help make housing more affordable. It will be interesting to see what priorities state leaders take up in the new legislative session.”
This University of Massachusetts Amherst / WCVB Poll of 700 registered voters in Massachusetts was conducted by YouGov Oct, 20-26. YouGov interviewed 752 respondents who were then matched down to a sample of 700 to produce the final dataset. The respondents were matched to a sampling frame on gender, age, race and education. The sampling frame is a politically representative "modeled frame" of Massachusetts registered voters, based upon the American Community Survey (ACS) public use microdata file, public voter file records, the 2020 Current Population Survey (CPS) Voting and Registration supplements, the 2020 National Election Pool (NEP) exit poll and the 2020 CES surveys, including demographics and 2020 presidential vote.
The matched cases were weighted to the sampling frame using propensity scores. The matched 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, years of education and 2020 presidential vote choice. The propensity scores were grouped into deciles of the estimated propensity score in the frame and post-stratified according to these deciles.
Weights for likely voters were separately post-stratified on a 2-way stratification of gender and age (4-category), using benchmarks estimated from 2018 midterm voters in the voter file and 2022 primary election vote counts. Likely voters and non-likely voters were combined again, and the weights were trimmed at 7 and centered to have a mean of 1.
The margin of error within this poll is 4.32%.
Topline results and crosstabs for the poll can be found at www.umass.edu/poll