Poll: Two-Thirds Say Nation is 'Seriously Off Track'

Democratic Senate Candidates to Debate Issues Tomorrow at UMass Lowell

10/03/2011


LOWELL, Mass. – The nation is “seriously off on the wrong track,” according to nearly two-thirds of the Massachusetts registered voters surveyed for a new UMass Lowell-Boston Herald poll.

Sixty-two percent of those surveyed in the independent, nonpartisan poll said the country is going in the wrong direction. Forty-eight percent said the nation’s economy is getting worse; 40 percent said it is about the same and 11 percent said it is improving. Thirty-five percent of respondents said someone in their household has been laid off from their job since 2007. More than 1,000 Massachusetts residents were surveyed for the poll, which looked at local and national issues as well as the race for the state’s U.S. Senate seat.

Among voters who said the economy is deteriorating, 49 percent said they are likely to vote for incumbent U.S. Sen. Scott Brown and 28 percent would vote for Democrat Elizabeth Warren. Warren is one of six Democrats vying for the right to challenge Republican Brown in the 2012 general election.

All six Democratic Senate candidates – Warren, state Rep. Tom Conroy, immigration attorney Marisa DeFranco, City Year co-founder Alan Khazei, Global Reporting Initiative co-founder Bob Massie and engineer and activist Herb Robinson – have said they will participate in a debate on Tuesday, Oct. 4 at 7 p.m. at UMass Lowell.

Both the debate and the poll are the results of a new partnership between the Boston Herald and UMass Lowell’s Center for Public Opinion. Co-hosted with the UMass Lowell Political Science Club, the debate will feature questions from a four-person panel of students, a university focus group and Twitter followers using #UMLDebate. The debate, which is free and open to the public, will also be streamed live at www.uml.edu and www.bostonherald.com.

The poll asked voters about the issues they most want to hear the candidates discuss at the debate. Unemployment and jobs received the largest response at 27 percent, followed by the economy (20 percent), health care and insurance (8 percent), taxes (6 percent), government debt and spending (5 percent) and education (4 percent). Garnering 2 percent or less were Social Security, Medicare, the war on terror and crime.

Other findings from the poll include:
• Fifty-two percent of those who participated in the poll said that the government should do more to solve problems, while 40 percent said the government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals. 
• Fifty-five percent of those surveyed said it is more important to keep Social Security and Medicare benefits as they are, compared with 29 percent who said it is more important to reduce the federal deficit. Thirteen percent said both are equally important. 
• Forty-five percent said the Massachusetts health-care reform law enacted in 2006 under then-Gov. Mitt Romney was “about right;” 28 percent said it “went too far” and 18 percent said it “didn’t go far enough.” By comparison, 27 percent said the 2010 national health-care reform signed by President Barack Obama was about right; 32 percent said it went too far and 31 percent said it didn’t go far enough.
• Poll respondents are almost equally divided – 46 in favor, 48 percent opposed – on whether an illegal immigrant who graduated from high school in Massachusetts should qualify for in-state college tuition.

“It is clear from our poll’s results that the economy and jobs are far and away the top two issues in voters’ minds. How the Democratic candidates at the debate propose to attack these national issues may well help voters begin to sort through the field,” said Prof. Frank Talty, director of the UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion. “This important first debate also will give UMass Lowell students an opportunity to engage and question the candidates about issues that matter most to them.”

The independent, nonpartisan poll was conducted for the UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion and Boston Herald under the direction of independent survey researcher Mike Mokrzycki – former head of polling for the Associated Press whose other clients include NBC News, where he manages the network’s exit poll operation, and the Pew Research Center.

The UMass Lowell-Boston Herald poll was conducted Sept. 22 through Sept. 28 among 1,005 Massachusetts registered voters reached randomly by landline and cell phone. Princeton Survey Research Associates International conducted the survey, with interviews by Braun Research Inc. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 3.8 percentage points for the full sample, larger for subgroups.

UMass Lowell is a comprehensive, national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its 15,000 students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in engineering, education, fine arts, health and environment, humanities, liberal arts, management, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs, vigorous hands-on learning and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be ready for work, for life and for all the world offers. www.uml.edu

 
Christine Gillette, (w) 978-934-2209, (c) 978-758-4664, Christine_Gillette@uml.edu