NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

March 18, 2013

Poll shows Mass. voters distrustful, checked out

By Michael P. Norton
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

---- — BOSTON — Recent poll results show a frustrated Massachusetts electorate that’s largely distrustful of its government, three Republican U.S. Senate candidates badly trailing two Democratic rivals, and residents about evenly divided over Gov. Deval Patrick’s blockbuster tax-and-spending proposal.

Results from the UMass Lowell-Boston Herald poll released earlier this month also showed some big names in state politics with some significant name recognition issues. Nearly 80 percent said they’ve never heard of or had no opinion of state Treasurer Steven Grossman, a potential Democratic candidate for governor in 2014, with 58 percent feeling the same way about 2006 Republican gubernatorial nominee Kerry Healey and 67 percent about 2010 Republican nominee for governor Charles Baker.

Fifty-nine percent of those polled said they would be very or somewhat likely to support former Sen. Scott Brown if he ran for governor next year, and Brown’s favorable/unfavorable split of 60/24 was better than during his days in the U.S. Senate. Among Democrats sampled, Gov. Deval Patrick and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, at 51 percent, registered the highest favorability ratings, although Warren’s 34 percent unfavorable rating was the highest among the 11 elected officials or political candidates sampled.

The poll of 589 registered voters was conducted March 2 to 5 and carries a 4 percent margin of error.

With primaries scheduled next month in the Senate race, the poll showed most voters are unfamiliar with the candidates: Democratic Reps. Edward Markey of Malden and Stephen Lynch of South Boston and Republicans Gabriel Gomez of Cohasset, former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan of Abington and state Rep. Dan Winslow of Norfolk.

For example, Markey leads all candidates by significant margins, but almost half of those polled had no opinion of him or had never heard of him. Former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan trailed Markey by 17 points, the closest margin among the three GOP candidates, and nearly 80 percent of those polled said they had no opinion of Sullivan or had never heard of the former state rep and federal prosecutor.

The poll showed Markey with a 29-point lead over Lynch, and did not take measure of the GOP primary.

Pollsters said the survey reflected a tendency of voters to “drift away” after an election due in part to the “general distaste” for politics resulting from an onslaught of ads promoting and attacking candidates.

Voters also gave their government a low score on the most fundamental issue: trust. Only 12 percent of those surveyed said they trust the federal government to do what’s right just about always or most of the time. State government fared better, but only 28 percent reported having trust in Beacon Hill all or most of the time with pollsters calling trust in government in Massachusetts at an “extraordinarily low” level.

The poll found voters largely split when asked about Patrick’s proposal to invest in transportation and education by raising the income tax, lowering the sales tax and eliminating some tax-deduction loopholes. On that question, 48 percent somewhat or strongly supported the proposal while 45.6 percent somewhat or strongly opposed it.

Seventy percent of those polled said they were very or somewhat satisfied with the state’s ballot initiative process, which allows voters to make laws apart from the Legislature and led to the passage last year of a medical marijuana legalization law as well as a law governing access to auto repair information.