Opinions on Ballot Questions, Kavanaugh, Gas Disaster Also Surveyed

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Contact: Christine Gillette, 978-934-2209 or Christine_Gillette@uml.edu or Nancy Cicco, 978-934-4944 or Nancy_Cicco@uml.edu

Detailed poll results are available at www.uml.edu/polls.

UMass Lowell politics experts are available for interviews about today’s poll results. 

LOWELL, Mass. – Gov. Charlie Baker and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren have big leads over their opponents among likely voters, according to a new UMass Lowell-Boston Globe poll released today. 

The statewide poll also looked at voters’ opinions on key ballot questions, the recent Supreme Court confirmation process and the Merrimack Valley gas disaster. 

Question 1 on nurse-patient limits, the subject of aggressive ad campaigns by both sides, has more opposition (51 percent) among likely voters than support (43 percent). The strongest opposition is among Republicans, 68 percent, although a majority of Democratic and independent likely voters are also opposed.

On the response of Columbia Gas to the explosions last month, 60 percent of registered voters statewide said they are dissatisfied and among those polled in Essex County, where the disaster occurred, 78 percent said they are dissatisfied (50 percent very dissatisfied and 28 percent somewhat dissatisfied), compared with just 16 percent who are satisfied (2 percent very satisfied and 14 percent somewhat satisfied). Baker received higher marks for his response with all registered voters (26 percent are very satisfied and 42 percent somewhat satisfied compared to 17 percent who are dissatisfied) and in Essex County (27 percent very satisfied and 50 percent somewhat satisfied, compared to 8 percent very dissatisfied and 6 percent somewhat dissatisfied). 

“Columbia Gas is quickly becoming the Exxon or Deepwater Horizon of the Merrimack Valley. Voters are blaming corporate, not political, leadership for this disaster,” said Assistant Prof. John Cluverius, associate director of the Center for Public Opinion

In the top statewide races, both Baker and Warren have double-digit leads over their challengers with less than a month to go before Election Day. Republican incumbent Baker is leading Democrat Jay Gonzalez by 39 points (66 percent for Baker to 27 percent for Gonzalez, with 8 percent undecided) among likely voters, according to the poll, conducted by the independent, nonpartisan UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion in partnership with The Boston Globe.

Among Democrats, Gonzalez leads Baker by only 3 points (49 percent for Gonzalez to 46 percent for Baker) and Baker is far ahead among both independents (77 percent for Baker to 17 percent for Gonzalez) and Republicans (84 percent for Baker to 4 for Gonzalez). 

Thirty-three percent of likely voters said they have a favorable view of Gonzalez, compared to 12 percent who have an unfavorable view, 31 percent who have no opinion and 23 percent who said they have never heard of him. Baker, by contrast, has a 76 percent favorability rating, with 13 percent viewing him unfavorably, 9 percent who are undecided and just 1 percent who have never heard of him. 

In her run for re-election, Democrat Warren is ahead among likely voters, with 56 percent of support compared to 31 percent who favor her Republican challenger Geoff Diehl, 8 percent for independent Shiva Ayyadurai and 5 percent who are undecided. 

The poll found that 55 percent of likely voters view Warren favorably, compared to 40 percent unfavorably; only 4 percent said they have no opinion of her and 1 percent had never heard of her. Twenty-nine percent of likely voters view Diehl favorably, compared to 20 percent unfavorably, but 21 percent said they have no opinion of him and 29 percent had never heard of him. Ayyadurai’s favorability rating among likely voters is neutral (13 percent each for favorable and unfavorable), but 23 percent of voters said they have no opinion and 51 percent said they have never heard of him. While 93 percent of Democratic likely voters support Warren and 80 percent of Republican likely voters support Diehl, Ayyadurai’s support is pulling from Diehl’s potential base, with 10 percent of Republicans and 12 percent of independents, compared with only 2 percent of Democrats. 

Likely voters were also asked about President Donald Trump: 67 percent said they view him unfavorably compared to 30 percent who view him favorably, for a net favorability rating of -37 percent.

“Of all places, Massachusetts seems immune to some of the partisan and ideological purity tests sweeping the country. It seems highly likely that voters in this deep blue Democratic state will re-elect a Republican governor and Democratic U.S. senator while holding highly unfavorable views of the sitting Republican president,” said Cluverius. “Baker and Warren are both incumbents in good economic times and they have both been public in their criticism of the president’s policies that Massachusetts voters dislike.” 

The poll also covered Question 3, which asks voters whether they support repealing a 2016 law that added gender identity to the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination in public accommodation, resort or amusement. The findings reveal that while 74 percent of likely voters said they are against repealing the law, only 56 percent believe policies should allow transgender individuals to use the restroom that they feel corresponds to their gender identities. 

“Given the wording of Question 3, we felt that voters might be confused by references to gender identity and public accommodations,” said Associate Prof. Joshua Dyck, co-director of the Center for Public Opinion. “Nearly a quarter of respondents gave inconsistent answers on their views when asked about the ballot question and whether transgender individuals should be required to use restrooms corresponding with their birth gender or should be allowed to use those associated with their gender identity. When it comes to Question 3, there is still a lot of confusion among voters as to what it means and what it will do.”  

Asked how they would have voted on Kavanaugh’s confirmation had they been given the chance, nearly twice as many registered voters said they would have opposed it as would have supported it, 61 percent to 33 percent. Sixty percent said they believed Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony about Kavanaugh, compared to 30 percent who said they believed Kavanaugh’s response. Wide gender and age gaps were found among those who said they believed Ford: 70 percent of women compared to 49 percent of men and 71 percent of 18- to 39-year-olds compared to 45 percent of those older than 65. 

“Voters, especially young women, haven’t forgotten about this story and are energized by it,” said Cluverius.

Results of the poll are based on live interviews conducted Oct. 1 through Oct. 7 via cellphones and landlines (50-50 split) with 791 registered voters in Massachusetts, 485 of whom were determined to be likely voters. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.4 percent for registered voters and plus or minus 5.6 percent for likely voters. Detailed analysis of the results, along with polling data and methodology, are available at www.uml.edu/polls. UMass Lowell’s Center for Public Opinion is a member of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) Transparency Initiative. 

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