New UMass Amherst / WCVB Poll Finds Healey, Diehl Running Away with Party Nominations for Massachusetts Governorship
Topline results and crosstabs for the poll can be found at www.umass.edu/poll
On the day that Democratic candidate Sonia Chang-Díaz ended her campaign for Massachusetts governor, clearing the path to the general election for state Attorney General Maura Healey, a new University of Massachusetts Amherst / WCVB Poll released today found Healey with a more than 30-point lead over Chang-Díaz for the Democratic nomination, 49-17 (53-20 with leaners), while Geoff Diehl holds an even larger lead over Chris Doughty for the Republican nod.
“The race to be the Democratic nominee for governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is over, and Maura Healey will be the Democratic Party’s standard bearer this September,” says Tatishe Nteta, associate professor of political science at UMass Amherst and director of the poll. “Democratic primary voters prefer Healey over Sonia Chang-Díaz by almost a 2-to-1 margin, and Healey is the preferred candidate across all demographic and political groups in the state. Chang-Díaz needed a Herculean effort to move the state’s Democratic primary voters away from Healey, and that effort failed as she decided to bow out of the race today paving the way for Healey’s likely victory in the September primary.”
“Healey led Chang-Díaz across all types of voters,” says Raymond La Raja, professor of political science at UMass Amherst and associate director of the poll. “But perhaps most challenging for the Chang-Díaz campaign – in a race that would likely decide the first woman elected Massachusetts governor – was that 3 in 4 women who had made up their mind preferred Healey.”
“Healey is looking to make history on two other fronts, as well,” Nteta notes, “as the commonwealth’s first openly gay or lesbian governor and as the first attorney general to ascend to the corner office on Beacon Hill.”
In the GOP primary for governor, Diehl leads Doughty 52-16 (55-18 with leaners).
“Geoff Diehl is running away with the Republican primary race, despite his close ties with former President Donald Trump,” Jesse Rhodes, professor of political science at UMass Amherst and associate director of the poll, says of the former state representative. “Diehl’s popularity with Republican primary voters shows that the Trumpification of the GOP is happening even in an arch-liberal state like Massachusetts. Should Diehl win the Republican nomination, though, it’s doubtful such a conservative candidate could win the general election against a strong Democratic candidate.”
“The state’s Republican Party has experienced a massive shift in the past year,” Nteta explains. “Beginning with the surprising announcement that both Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito would not be seeking re-election, the moderate wing of the party has slowly and steadily ceded power to supporters of former President Donald Trump. Diehl, endorsed by Trump, has emerged as the voice of the state’s new Republican Party, and now holds a commanding lead over Doughty, the businessman from Wrentham. Time will tell whether Diehl’s conservative message will resonate with a statewide general electorate, but what is clear is that Diehl looks to have a stranglehold over the state’s Republican primary voters.”
The new poll also surveyed Democratic primary voters about their preferences for lieutenant governor, attorney general and secretary of state.
In the race for the commonwealth’s No. 2 executive position, the poll found a legitimate three-way race among the Democratic field, with Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll leading with just 13% (17% with leaners), state Sen. Eric Lesser running second at 10% (12% with leaners) and state Rep. Tami Gouveia in third at 8% (10% with leaners). A full 70% of respondents indicated that they don’t yet know who they would support in the race, however.
“In the race for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor, one of the most competitive races in this year’s primary election season, the leader in the clubhouse are voters who have yet to make up their minds,” Nteta says. “The large number of undecided voters offers an opportunity to the three Democratic candidates vying for this nomination to make a case to the state’s Democratic electorate that they are the best suited to serve as the state’s next lieutenant governor.”
The attorney general race has a similarly undecided electorate, with 65% saying they don’t know who they will support in the Democratic primary. Former Boston City Councilor Andrea Campbell leads the three-candidate field at 17% support (21% with leaners). Trailing Campbell, attorneys Shannon Liss-Riordan and Quentin Palfrey are neck-and-neck, at 9% (11% with leaners) and 8% (9% with leaners), respectively.
“Down ballot races are very hard for voters to decide,” La Raja says. “They just don’t have as much information about these candidates. We find that roughly 3 in 5 voters in the Democratic primary don’t know who they will pick for lieutenant governor or attorney general. This is where endorsements from well-known politicians in the weeks leading up to the election could make a big difference.”
In the primary race for secretary of the commonwealth, incumbent William Galvin currently leads Tanisha Sullivan, president of the Boston branch of the NAACP, 35-21 (38-25 with leaners) in his effort to secure an eighth term and potentially hold the position for 30 straight years.
“Will history repeat itself?” Nteta asks. “In 2018, longtime Secretary of State William Galvin lost the vote at the state’s Democratic Convention, but was able to defeat his opponent in the Democratic primary. Last month, Galvin once again lost the vote at the state’s Democratic convention, but he holds a comfortable lead over Tanisha Sullivan in the race for secretary of state. However, over a third of voters remain undecided in the race. If Sullivan hopes to upset the longtime incumbent, she will need to mobilize these voters and convince them that not only is a change in how the state’s elections are run necessary, but that she is the best person for the job.”
“It may seem strange that so many Democratic primary voters appear to have made up their minds about the secretary of state candidates,” La Raja says, “but the nationwide focus on voting rights and procedures has put a spotlight on this office, and voters are paying more attention to who runs elections.”
The poll asked respondents their views on a pair of ballot questions likely to appear in November’s election.
A clear majority (54%) of those surveyed said they would vote “yes” for the so-called “Fair Share Amendment,” which would amend the state constitution to increase the state income tax from 5% to 9% for income above $1 million and dedicate the additional tax revenue to education and transportation purposes. Only 32% said they would vote “no,” while 14% were unsure.
“For years, supporters of the “millionaire’s tax” or Fair Share Amendment have been fighting to increase the state income tax on those making more than $1 million in the commonwealth and have been thwarted by the courts and prominent business interests,” Nteta says. “With the news that the Supreme Judicial Court will allow the question on the ballot this fall, the fight to increase taxes on the state’s most wealthy residents now turns to the court of public opinion, with a majority of voters now expressing support for this change.”
“After years of relatively tight state budgets and resistance to increased taxation under Charlie Baker, Massachusetts residents seem ready to increase state spending – funded by increased taxes on wealthy residents,” Rhodes adds. “This could be a harbinger of a leftward shift in Massachusetts politics, though one focused on increased investments on traditional government programs such as education and transportation.”
More uncertain is the future of the ballot initiative that would increase the statewide limits on the combined number of licenses any one retailer could own or control for the sale of alcoholic beverages for off-premises consumption.
“The ballot question about licenses to sell alcoholic beverages is confusing for voters because it lifts the cap on some types of beverages but lowers it in other ways,” La Raja says. “Voters generally like more choices, so it is not surprising that our survey, which focused on increasing licenses, has 38% of voters supporting it versus 24% opposed. But 38% also don’t know which way they will vote. That leaves a lot of room for expensive political ads to push people in one direction or the other.”
This University of Massachusetts Amherst / WCVB Poll of 1,000 Massachusetts respondents was conducted by YouGov June 15-21. YouGov interviewed 1,131 total respondents who were then matched down to a sample of 1,000 to produce the final dataset. The respondents were matched to a sampling frame on gender, age, race and education. The frame was constructed by stratified sampling from the full 2019 American Community Survey (ACS) one-year sample with selection within strata by weighted sampling with replacement, using the person weights on the public use file.
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 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 and 2020 Presidential vote choice, own/rent, gender, age, race and education to produce the final weight.
The margin of error within this poll is 3.5%.