Skip to Main Content

Fomented by Inflation, Failing Trust & Ongoing Pandemic, Partisan Disputes Reign Supreme

Latest UMass Lowell poll finds big lead for Healey, majority support for abortion access and gig workers’ rights

Black hand placing piece of paper in box in front of Mass. State seal

06/22/2022

Contacts for media: Emily Gowdey-Backus, Emily-GowdeyBackus@uml.edu and Nancy Cicco, Nancy_Cicco@uml.edu

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

UMass Lowell representatives are available for interviews about today’s poll. 

As summer 2022 gears up, the latest poll from UMass Lowell’s Center for Public Opinion shows the uncertainty, fear and negative outlook felt by the public is multifaceted. 

Concluded earlier this week, the CPO poll found inflation, trust in the federal government and the handling of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic all top-of-mind concerns.

Regionally, the Massachusetts gubernatorial race was also a focal point of the poll. CPO findings show Democratic front-runner, Attorney General Maura Healey, with a near-30-point lead over the closest Republican opponent. 

“This election isn’t over, but Democrats have the high ground,” said Associate Professor John Cluverius, associate director of the Center for Public Opinion. “If they’re going to try it, Republicans seeking the corner office on Beacon Hill need to tie themselves to [retiring] Gov. Charlie Baker, who remains popular among voters across the Commonwealth.”

According to the poll, Healey leads Republican favorite, Geoff Diehl, 61% to 30%, with 1% saying they will vote for another candidate and 8% undecided. Republican Chris Doughty fairs only slightly better against Healey – 58% to 30% with 2% saying they will vote for another candidate and 10% undecided. 

In an April UMass Lowell CPO survey of Democratic primary likely voters, Healey led her Democratic primary opponent Sonia Chang-Diaz by 45 points (62% to 17%). Should Chang-Diaz’s campaign close the gap, and should she become the nominee, Chang-Diaz would still be a prohibitive favorite over both Diehl or Doughty.

INFLATION: The highest rates of inflation seen in more than four decades – north of 8% – are driving reactions of economic fear, said Professor Joshua Dyck, director of the Center for Public Opinion.

In the latest poll, he said, there is evidence of “real economic distress.” Nearly one in three respondents (29%) reported difficulty paying for a basic expense in May. Yet, the impact of inflation is wreaking the most havoc on those in lower income brackets. More than half (58%) of those who make $50,000 or less annually, and a fraction of those who bring home double that amount (15%), reported experiencing financial difficulties over the past month.

And where does the blame lie? Most respondents said it is the fault of politicians (53%), but this is far more concentrated among Republicans (85%) than Democrats (35%).   

FUTURE OF DEMOCRACY: Partisan political acrimony in the United States has sowed a great deal of distrust, said Professor Dyck, and Massachusetts voters do not trust the federal government to do what’s right.

Currently, 17% of respondents trust the federal government to do what’s right all the time or most of the time, while 83% trust the government will act in their best interest only some of the time or hardly ever.

This is evidenced in the outcomes of the two most recent U.S. presidential elections and the public’s partisan interpretation of the validity of the democratic process. Asked to name the legitimate winners of the 2016 and 2020 elections, nearly:

  • Half of Democrats (47%) named Hilary Clinton as the true winner of the 2016 election
  • Three quarters of Republicans (71%) pointed to Donald Trump as the true winner of the 2020 election

“Trust,” said Professor Dyck, “is a fundamental building block for democracy and, as it erodes, support for democratic processes, norms and functions also can erode with it.”

PANDEMIC YEAR THREE: Dyck and Cluverius note an increasingly polarized atmosphere surrounding COVID-19 in the Commonwealth. It is one where a majority of Democrats still see the benefits of masking (70%), especially in schools, and view the spread of COVID-19 as dangerous (87%). Conversely, Bay State Republicans no longer see a value in masking (83%) and a majority (58%) do not see COVID-19 as ostensibly different from the seasonal flu.

A year after waves of people became eligible and queued up to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, respondents have chilled to the federal government’s handling of the pandemic and day-to-day interactions worried the public as winter gave way to spring and case spikes continued to top headlines.

When asked if they’d be willing to attend an indoor event with 50-plus strangers, 49% of respondents considered such an event very or somewhat safe given COVID-19 rates. Again split along party lines, more than three quarters (76%) of respondent Republicans were willing to attend versus a minority (34%) of Democrats.

“If you’re planning an indoor wedding this summer with a lot of Democrats on the guest list, expect some no-shows,” joked Cluverius. 

ADDITIONAL NOTABLE FINDINGS:

  • ABORTION: With national discussions centering on abortion after a U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion was leaked in May suggesting the court would overturn Roe v. Wade, Massachusetts voters shared their opinions:
    • More than half (62%) of respondents said there definitely should be a right to an abortion, 18% said there probably should be one, 8% said there probably should not be one, and 12% said there definitely should not be one. 
    • Access to over-the-counter medications which can induce an abortion without a prescription was favored by 31%, 28% believe these medications should require a prescription and a telehealth appointment with a medical provider, 29% believe they should require a prescription and an in-person appointment with a medical provider, and 13% believe that no medical abortions should be allowed. 
    • Among all respondents, 56% report they have either had an abortion or someone they know closely has had an abortion.
  • GIG WORKERS: Earlier this month, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court threw out a ballot measure asking voters to approve a law classifying gig workers as contractors rather than employees who could receive benefits. The law was sponsored by Uber, Lyft and DoorDash among other rideshare and food app companies. CPO’s field period, however, took place almost entirely before the measure was struck down and queried Massachusetts voters about the idea. 
    • More than half (59%) said they intended to vote down the measure, in support of rideshare and food delivery gig workers, while 30% of likely voters said they intended to vote yes, in line with the sponsoring corporations, and 11% were undecided.  
  • TOM BRADY: In a hypothetical Super Bowl matchup between the New England Patriots and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, led by quarterback Tom Brady, 59% of likely Massachusetts voters would cheer for the Patriots, 7% for the Buccaneers and 34% would not cheer for either team. 

To read the full questionnaire, topline results and access the detailed methodology disclosure, please uml.edu/polls. There were roughly 1,000 respondents to this poll and the margin of error is 4 percentage points. Poll survey design and analysis is executed by Joshua J. Dyck and John Cluverius, director and associate director, respectively, of the Center for Public Opinion at UMass Lowell.

UMass Lowell is a national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, 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