The Topline: Changing the gender balance on Beacon Hill

It’s been a busy couple weeks in #mapoli, and for MPG. We have you covered with a new WBUR article and not one but two new podcasts.

WBUR: How The Mass. Legislature Can Get Closer To Gender Balance

 Steve Koczela and Jake Rubinstein, writing for WBUR:

“State Sen. Harriette Chandler, a Democrat from Worcester, became the acting president of the Massachusetts Senate this week, the second woman of the last three leaders to hold the gavel. Four of the state’s six key constitutional officers are women, and one of our U.S. senators.

“In the state Legislature, however, Massachusetts is very far from gender balance, and making no progress. Women make up a slim majority of Massachusetts residents, but only a quarter of state legislators.

“The problem isn’t that women aren’t winning elections, but that they have too few opportunities to run. To move toward gender balance, women candidates will have to broaden the field. That means more women candidates challenging sitting lawmakers in party primaries and general elections, rather than waiting for open seats.” Read the rest at WBUR.

The Horse Race LIVE

We looked at this from another angle in a live edition of The Horse Race podcast last week. After a brief look at what’s to come in 2018 (including a primary challenge to Bill Galvin), Steve and Lauren were joined by Puja Mehta of Emerge Massachusetts and Jenn Nassour of Conservative Women for a Better Future to discuss why there aren’t more women in Massachusetts politics, and how to overcome that barrier.

The Horse Race Emergency Podcast

MPG President Steve Koczela and Lauren Dezenski of POLITICO did a snap pod to discuss the Rosenberg saga and resulting leadership shake-up in the State Senate, a Republican pickup in a State Senate special election, and the questions that successfully collected signatures to advance towards the 2018 ballot.

The Horse Race will be back in the new year with more insight, analysis, and trivia. Stay tuned!

The Crosstabs

FiveThirtyEight finds Trump’s approval rating at 37.8 percent, with 55.9 percent disapproving.


NBC News finds 31 percent of Republicans want someone other than Trump to be their party’s nominee in 2020.

Gallup finds 29 percent approve of the Republican tax plan, and 56 percent disapprove. Quinnipiac found a similar 29-53 split. HuffPost Pollster found 30 percent in favor, but only 39 percent opposed. One apparent reason for the difference is that Gallup did not offer and explicit “don’t know” option, while HuffPost did. CBS News finds 35 percent support.

A new YouGov/Economist poll finds that while leaders of the parties are in sync, Democrats are more likely than Republicans to believe sexual harassment is a serious problem.

Prior to his resignation announcement today, a Politico/Morning Consult poll found 49 percent of Democrats nationally said Senator Al Franken should go. In his home state, 22 percent thought he should remain, 33 percent thought he should resign, and 36 said they wanted to want on the results of the Senate ethics investigation.

A Quinnipiac Poll finds 64 percent of respondents think people are more likely to be held accountable for sexual harassment than they were before. The same poll finds 47 percent of women say they have been sexually assaulted.

CBS news finds that 71 percent of Alabama Republican likely voters believe the allegations against Roy Moore are false. The Real Clear Politics polling average has Moore with a slight lead over Democrat Doug Jones ahead of next Tuesday’s vote, but as a special election, it’s much too close to call.

Pew has a major report about gender in America, covering whether gender differences are driven by biology or society, Americans’ prioritizing masculinity over femininity, and gender and political partisanship.

The Harvard Institute of Politics is out with their latest Youth Poll of 18-29 year-olds, which finds young people pessimistic and fearful about the direction of the country and in favor of Democratic control of Congress after the 2018 midterms.

Meanwhile, NBC find a majority of millennials think there needs to be a third political party.

Researchers have found that letting kids dress up as a superhero improved their performance on a computer task. We’ve found this to be true.

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Star Wars Episode VIII is coming out next week, and Morning Consult is out with a timely batch of Star Wars polling. Respondents correctly assigned the original trilogy the highest marks and the prequels the lowest, with the new films in the middle. But the real controversy comes in the favorability ratings of various characters from the films. We’re not sure what to make of Jar Jar Binks beating out Mace Windu, except perhaps that the latter suffered from some lack of name recognition.


The Topline: Gomez still weighing Senate run

His entry would crowd the ‘moderate’ lane in GOP primary

This article originally appeared on CommonWealth.

The Republican primary field to take on US Sen. Elizabeth Warren next year now includes three candidates, but another contender is still eyeing the race. Businessman and former Navy SEAL Gabriel Gomez is meeting with potential advisors to chart a path forward and still closely considering his options, according to a source with direct knowledge of the discussions. He ran unsuccessfully for Senate in 2013 against Ed Markey after winning a three-way GOP primary.

A Gomez candidacy would further complicate the electoral math in an already crowded GOP field. If history is any guide, Gomez would most likely position himself as a centrist, looking for votes in a part of the electorate where Beth Lindstrom and John Kingston are already jockeying for advantage. Kingston has already dropped $3 million of his own money into his campaign, and Lindstrom holds deep connections within the GOP establishment.

Meanwhile, state Rep. Geoff Diehl (and 2016 Trump campaign state co-chair) occupies his own lane to the right now that entrepreneur Shiva Ayyadurai has announced he’s bolting from the party primary and will challenge Warren as an independent. The prospect of Gomez, Lindstrom and Kingston fighting over the same moderate votes may play to Diehl’s favor in the primary.

But Diehl’s association with Trump is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it may help him in the primary. Trump trounced the field by 30 points in the state’s presidential primary. And by a two-to-one margin, Massachusetts Republicans have a favorable view of Trump according to this week’s WBUR poll. But fast-forward to the general, and it’s a different story. Trump suffered one of his worst general elections losses in Massachusetts. This week’s WBUR poll finds just 27 percent of the state’s voters view Trump favorably.

If Gomez does jump in, his past political activity gives some hints as to what sort of campaign he might run. He endorsed Charlie Baker in the 2014 Republican primary, but also donated to independent candidate Jeff McCormick. He has since donated to both Republicans and Democrats, including both Tito Jackson and Marty Walsh in 2016.

Unlike his opponents, Gomez has run statewide before and may have a leg up in terms of campaign organization. But Massachusetts voters can have short memories. After Charlie Baker ran in 2010, voters all but forgot who he was until his 2014 campaign. There has been no public polling to date on Gomez’s prospects, so we don’t know for sure how well voters will remember him from his 2013 special election run.

There’s another challenge for all of the candidates as the field grows. To make it to the primary ballot, candidates have to earn 15 percent of delegates to the GOP convention in 2018. With four candidates on the ballot, it’s conceivable that not all of the candidates will make it through. It’s hard to say what delegates will be looking for from a candidate and whether there will be enough looking for moderates to advance three candidates.

With this and a number of obstacles to navigate, Gomez will have his work cut out for him, should he decide to run.


The Horse Race is going live! Join MPG President Steve Koczela and POLITICO’s Lauren Dezenski at Ned Devine’s for a special, live episode. They’ll preview the 2018 elections to watch and discuss a key issue for the year ahead: women (and the lack thereof) in Massachusetts elected office. Helping them break it all down are special guests Jenn Nassour of Conservative Women for a Better Future and Puja Mehta of Emerge Massachusetts. Buy your tickets here!

Catch up on past episodes on SoundCloud, iTunes and TuneIn, including our most recent Election Edition, breaking down the results of Election Day in Massachusetts.

Our latest WBUR poll finds Charlie Baker and Elizabeth Warren with wide leads over their respective challengers, all of whom are struggling with name recognition; Steve joined Morning Edition to break down the numbers.

The poll also showed strong support for three questions on the 2018 ballot: the so-called millionaires’ tax, reducing the state sales tax and paid family leave. Steve and Lauren joined All Things Considered to discuss the results.

The Crosstabs

The latest Gallup average has President Donald Trump’s approval rating at 37 percent; the FiveThirtyEight average shows 38.1 percent.

Graphic from FiveThirtyEight.

A focus group in North Carolina describes the first year of Trump’s presidency as “divisive,” “mayhem” and a “nightmare”. The group was made up of both Trump and Clinton voters, with Trump voters having some of the sharpest critiques.

Gallup finds just 28 percent are satisfied with the way the nation is being governed and that trust in government remains at a distressingly low point.

Quinnipiac and Marist both find Democrats with double-digit leads in the generic Congressional ballot, raising the question of whether they coud retake the House of Representatives.

Evaluations of the GOP’s tax plan are bleak, with Quinnipiac showing just 25 percent support the proposal. YouGov finds just 12 percent of Americans believe they themselves would get a tax break, while 51 percent believe President Trump would see his taxes lowered.

Alabama polls are, um, widely dispersed. And this RealClearPolitics chart does not include the National Republican Senatorial Committee poll which showed Roy Moore 12 points behind Democratic candidate Doug Jones.

A HuffPost/YouGov poll finds that a slim majority of Americans (and wide majority of Hillary Clinton voters) think the past allegations of sexual harassment and assault against former president Bill Clinton are credible.

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The polls were actually farther off last week’s Virginia Governor’s race than they were in the 2016 presidential race. But because they predicted the winner, there has been less outcry about them being “wrong.” The Washington Post has the exit polls.


The Topline: When bad things happen to good polls

Pollsters live in a constant state of anxiety that some external event will happen while their poll is in the field that will upset public opinion and render their data obsolete. The classic example from recent history is when Superstorm Sandy hit the Mid-Atlantic just before the 2012 election. That was a double whammy: The event and the government response could have changed public opinion on the race, and many voters in one of the most densely populated areas of the country were displaced or otherwise unable to be asked about it.

Those times seem quaint and far off now. The news cycle is now a news cyclone that spins 24 hours a day, seemingly every day. This week HuffPost polling editor and pun-dit extraordinaire Ariel Edwards-Levy put to Tweet what many pollsters are feeling this year:


News about the Russia probe, Trump tweets, hurricanes, healthcare, Charlottesville, terrorist attacks, and now taxes overlap and run over each other. This makes the prospect of a stable read of public opinion a pleasant and very distant memory for pollsters. Three or four banner headlines stories could hit while a single poll is in the field, each potentially shifting voter sentiment on key issues.

Sometimes the problem is simply that the questions the poll asked are obsolete by the time the poll is finished fielding. It was a challenge to poll on the Republican health care proposal earlier this year because the policy details changed constantly. Still, data about an older version of a policy may still be relevant, in so far as it gives a sense of how the public is viewing the topic generally.

But what can you do if an external event is so big that it actually changes who answers your poll while it’s in the field? Studies have shown that some shifts in election polling are due to differences in who is answering the survey (i.e. “non-response bias”) rather than anyone changing their mind. But it’s hard for the pollster to tell, in real time, which is which. One study found this effect after Barack Obama’s poor showing in his first debate against Mitt Romney in 2012. Dejected Democrats did not answer surveys for a few days afterwards, and Romney saw a bump in support, even though few minds were changed.

It’s an open question whether the news Monday of indictments and guilty pleas in the Russia probe would have a similar effect in, say, polling of the hotly contested governor’s race in Virginia. But for pollsters trying to get a steady read on public opinion in the midst of a maelstrom of news, it’s one more thing to worry about.


The Horse Race is hitting its stride! Last week WGBH’s Mike Deehan joined us to break down the Boston mayoral debate. This week, Kathryn Burton comes on to dissect the latest political ads in #mapoli. And next week, Horse Race Host/MPG President Steve Koczela will join WBUR for election night — don’t miss it!

Save the date! November 28th after work, The Horse Race will be live from Ned Devine’s at Faneuil Hall in Boston. Details to come, but trust us — if you read this far into a nerdy polling newsletter, this is an event for you.

MPG was in the audience for a pollster panel on the American Voter at the Harvard Kennedy School. Click here to watch the full event, which features Trump campaign pollster Tony Fabrizio and The Pollsters podcast host Margie Omero.


Donald Trump hit a new low job approval rating in the Gallup tracking poll early this week. But then he rebounded, even after the Monday news from the Mueller investigation. The lesson here is don’t read too much into the day to day gyrations of a single poll. And remember the margin of error.

The indictments and guilty plea in the Russia investigation have made waves in Washington, but just ripples elsewhere. HuffPost finds 60 percent of Americans say they’ve heard little or nothing in the news recently about the Trump/Russia relationship, and fewer than 3 in 10 say they’ve followed news of the indictments closely.

A CBS News poll finds most Americans support a tax cut for the middle class; majorities support increases for large corporations and wealthy individuals.

Pew’s new political typography report finds that divisions within political parties are just as important a factor in American politics as divisions between Democrats and Republicans.

The polls in the Virginia governor’s race have been all over the map. Politico’s poll watcher Steve Shepard think the difference may be whether polls are calling Virginia phone numbers at random or drawing from a list of registered voters.

The Cato Institute’s 2017 Free Speech and Tolerance Survey finds 71 percent of Americans say political correctness has silenced important discussions society needs to have. Two-thirds say colleges and universities are not doing enough to teach students the value of free speech, while three-quarters think protests against and cancellations of speakers indicate a pattern of how college students handle offensive ideals.

A Washington Post poll finds 36 percent of Americans are not proud of the current state of our democracy. This is not exclusively among Trump critics; 25 percent of Trump supporters hold a similar opinion.

Democrat Phil Murphy leads the race for New Jersey Governor 57/37 percent. Women support Murphy 65/29 percent, while men are divided between Murphy and Republican Kim Guadagno.

According to a new NBC News poll, 49 percent of men say the outpouring after the allegations about Harvey Weinstein have made them think about their own behavior around women.

A new Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll finds one in four Bostonians say they have experienced sexual harassment. This came a few days before Yvonne Abraham’s column in The Boston Globe on sexual harassment in the Massachusetts Statehouse.

A new Gallup poll finds majorities in all three political parties approve of marijuana use, making it one of the least polarized political issues.

Gallup also finds 61 percent of registered American voters say gun control is an important factor when choosing a candidate, up from 54 percent in 2015.

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Halloween is over. See which candy your kids like the best with this Very Important Poll from FiveThirtyEight. The moral of the story: Americans unite around chocolate and peanut butter. And stop giving out Chiclets and Good & Plenty, you savage monsters. If you stare long enough, the FiveThirtyEight logo kind of looks like a candy corn, so there’s that.

Least favorite…

Nerd Alert bonus: booo!


The Topline: Amazon, but for Amazon HQ

With its radically open bidding process for its second headquarters, Amazon is doing to economic development what it did to retail.

Amazon, the company that disrupted bookselling and then the selling of most everything else, has thrown economic development agencies for a loop with the bidding to host their second headquarters. From the start, Amazon’s process has been out in the open — so open, in fact, that Massachusetts Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash learned about the opportunity not from a meeting or administrative channels, but from a newspaper headline.

That’s a far cry from the last big corporate headquarters that Ash helped lure to Massachusetts. The deal to bring General Electric to Boston was conducted quietly behind closed doors. No one outside of a handful of city and state officials knew about GE, or even that GE was looking to move, until the deal was close to complete. “Typically what happens,” Ash told the North Shore Chamber of Commerce, “is that somebody in a suit and tie makes an appointment with me and makes me sign 12 forms before they tell me what they are up to.”

There have been critics of that deal, and Boston voters in a recent WBUR poll were split on the tax breaks the city and state gave to GE. But by working behind closed doors, at least Boston officials were able to hammer out a deal without tipping their hand to other potential hosts.

By announcing their intentions widely and loudly, Amazon turned the tables on economic development officials. The HQ2 process has played out more like the competition to host an Olympic Games than a corporate headquarters, with city’s making big announcements and headline-grabbing gestures. Tuscon, Arizona sent Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos a 21-foot cactus. The Empire State Building and other New York skyscrapers lit themselves Amazon orange in support of the bid.

Closer to home, Worcester, which has an annual city budget of $630 million, pledged $500 million in tax breaks. New Hampshire, meanwhile, trashed its southern neighbors in its bid, pitching itself as “having all the benefits of Boston without the headaches.”

Before the cacti and the cash and the trash talking, at least, Boston voters were on board with the city throwing its hat in. Two-thirds in the WBUR polls favored Boston bidding for HQ2; only 20 percent were opposed. A new WGBH poll also finds the prospect very popular. As on GE, they were split on whether the city should offer tax breaks, and by a 2-to-1 margin they wanted the bid made public. On that last point voters got their wish.

And so Boston finds itself in a no-holds-barred financial bidding war, with all its cards on the table. To beat out other cities, which Boston voters want, the city is under pressure to give Amazon more than other cities are willing to, which may amount to more than voters will stomach. And all this will unfold under the withering glare of a media spotlight, and countless tens of people on Twitter.

Public officials are walking a tightrope. They have to put their best foot forward while everyone is watching, knowing full well FOIA requests are coming and the public is waiting for a mistake. But they also need to come out fighting if they want a chance in the continent-wide hunger games Amazon has set off.

All this radical transparency may align with voters’ expressed desires, but the net effect is to tilt the process in favor of Amazon and against the bidders. There is no room for negotiation or nuance when every offer is being scrutinized in real-time.

Throwing things completely open may have already hurt Massachusetts. There are multiple cities and regions pursuing separate and overlapping bids, and the state’s own bid lists 26 different sites, from A to Z. That could be a smart way to hedge bets and give Amazon options. Or it could cause Amazon to pass over the tangle of Bay State bids entirely – but not until after cherry picking the best incentives to demand from its eventual host.

Amazon will likely have dozens of competing bids to sift through and compare. All that information gives it tremendous power to find the best deal. What Amazon has delivered to its customers shopping online it’s now figured out how to get for itself shopping for a new home.

— Hannah Chanatry and Rich Parr

MPG ICYMI: We have a podcast!

MPG’s new podcast, The Horse Race, is five episodes in, covering everything from the Boston mayor’s race, to the Third Massachusetts Congressional District, to special elections and Massachusetts trivia. In today’s episode, “One For the Money,” Democratic campaign fundraising guru and MassINC board member Sean Curran walks us through the newly released third-quarter FEC reports, and MPG president Steve Koczela plugs the plethora of polling in Massachusetts.

Subscribe and listen on iTunes, SoundCloud, and TuneIn every Friday morning.

With the State Senate debating criminal justice reform next week, it’s worth looking back at our polling on the issue, which found very low support for mandatory minimum sentences.

Our Boston mayoral poll for WBUR found a bit of a contradiction: Mayor Marty Walsh has a commanding lead, but voters are less than satisfied with many issues facing the city. The cost of housing topped voters’ list of issues, but crime and transportation were also seen as problems.

The Crosstabs

A new WGBH poll found that despite major concerns such as housing costs, likely voters enjoy living in Boston; 91 percent of voters would recommend their neighborhood to a friend, and 84 percent believe Boston to be a place “where hopes and dreams can be achieved for people like me.” The poll also echoes our mayoral race findings for WBUR.

Gallup’s three-day rolling average finds Trump’s disapproval at 59 percent, approval at 36 percent.

Gallup also finds Congress at its lowest approval level since July 2016. Independents in particular (10 percent approval) have soured on Congress over the course of this year.

A new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll finds 46 percent of voters think the media fabricates stories about the Trump administration.

In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein revelations, a new Washington Post/ABC poll finds 64 percent of Americans say sexual harassment is a major problem; that’s a jump of 17 points since 2011. The poll also finds 54 percent of women say they’ve received inappropriate advances inside and outside their workplace; 58 percent of women who have experienced workplace harassment say they did not notify a supervisor to the incident.

HuffPost Pollster also did a post-Weinstein poll, finding that three-quarters of Americans think workplace harassment is a serious problem.

An early October Quinnipiac poll finds support for gun control at an all time high: 60/36 percent. Voters also support a ban on modifications that make semi-automatic weapons fire at automatic rates; this includes 67/29 percent in households that have a gun.

An October report released by Pew Charitable Trusts finds that Massachusetts has the highest percentage of inmates in the country over the age of 55.

A new Washington Post/UMass Lowell poll puts data behind a phenomenon we’ve all observed: sports fans can get a little…intense. The poll finds 35 percent of respondents yell at the television when watching sporting events most or all of the time.

Also in sports: TheUpshot finds Donald Trump’s flap with the NFL has turned the league into a deeply divisive brand almost overnight.

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The Topline: We’ve got a podcast!

We’re pleased to announce the launch of “The Horse Race”, a new podcast hosted by MPG President Steve Koczela and Politico’s Lauren Dezenski. As the name suggests, we’ll be focusing on campaigns and elections, particularly here in Massachusetts. We’ll also look at how developments in Washington could impact politics in the Bay State.

We’re two episodes in, so click below to get up to speed:

Episode 1: We previewed the Boston mayoral preliminary election and discussed the early entrants to the Third Congressional District. We also looked at the Republican challengers to Elizabeth Warren in 2018 and Charlie Baker’s lobbying against the Republican health care plan.

Episode 2: Our inaugural guest Gin Dumcius, who literally wrote the book on the 2013 Boston Mayoral election, joins us to recap the Boston preliminary race. Then, Steve and Lauren discuss the mayoral elections in Framingham and Lawrence, a surprisingly close City Council race in Boston, and how Amazon and Puerto Rico could rile #mapoli. Finally, the first edition of Horse Race trivia!

New episodes will be released on Friday mornings and can be found on iTunes or SoundCloud.


In Steve’s first-ever piece as a CNN contributor, he looked at the “Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity”, aka, the voter fraud commission, on the eve of its meeting in New Hampshire.

In an associated piece for CommonWealth Magazine, we dive into the response of Massachusetts party officials who are baffled by the commission’s fraud claims.

The Crosstabs

Boston went to the polls this week, and the results surprised nobody. Mayor Marty Walsh finished far ahead of his three challengers, piling up a 24-point margin over the second place finisher, Boston City Councillor Tito Jackson. Walsh and Jackson advance to the final election November 7.

Click through for interactive version.

The Boston Globe takes a look at Governor Charlie Baker’s persistent popularity, drawing familiar conclusions.

The FiveThirtyEight tracker finds an average of 39 percent approve of President Trump’s job performance, 55 percent disapprove.

Republicans continue to search for palatable alternatives to replacing Obamacare, and voters continue to frown on them. Quinnipiac finds the latest proposal draws 19 percent support, and just 11 percent approve of way Republicans are handling the issue.

The national debate over healthcare is mostly focused on GOP plans, but the issue of single-payer is waiting in the wings. A new Politico/Morning consult poll finds that among Democrats more support the concept than oppose it.

A new HuffPost/YouGov poll finds most voters see NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem as a protect directed either at police violence (48 percent) or Trump himself (40 percent), far more than those who think they are protesting the flag itself (12 percent).

In the wake of hurricane devastation in Puerto Rico, a new Morning Consult/NYT poll finds that only 54 percent of Americans know that Puerto Ricans are American citizens. And knowledge of citizenship status was associated with approval of aid. Eight in 10 Americans who are aware of the citizen status support aid, compared to only 4 out of 10 of those who are unaware.

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As is his wont, MPG Research Director Rich Parr has made beautifully detailed maps of the Boston Mayor’s Race. Click through for the interactive versions to see how your neighborhood voted. Or, in the case of Allston, didn’t vote. We’re looking at you, BU students on the “Isthmus of Apathy” between the Charles River and Brookline, where a whopping 12 votes were cast, for barely 1 percent turnout.

Click through for interactive version.

The Topline: Massachusetts voters fear their own Harvey.

Houston hadn’t even begun to wring itself out from Hurricane Harvey when Irma, now the most powerful storm on record in the Atlantic, began churning towards the Caribbean. Before Irma finished laying waste to the islands, Hurricane Jose lined up behind on a similar track. While it is not expected to follow Irma to Florida, it appears likely to hit some of the same islands. It’s also now a Category 4 storm. Meanwhile, Category 2 Hurricane Katia churns in the gulf right off the coast of Mexico.

L-R: Katia, Irma, Jose. Credit: CIRA RAMMB

Once-in-a-century weather events are now happening with regularity, and scientists say warming seas are supercharging storms. It’s hard to say climate change is causing these storms, but it appears to be making them worse. As usual with climate change issues, voters are not on the same page and there is a sharp partisan divide. A HuffPost/YouGov poll post-Harvey found a plurality thought climate change played a role in the Texas flooding including 77 percent of Clinton voters. About a third thought it played a not very important role or no role at all, including 76 percent of Trump voters.

Closer to home, voters are eyeing the local impacts of climate change with increasing alarm. A WBUR poll from this summer found 82 percent of voters say they are concerned that Massachusetts will experience more severe storms in the next 10 years because of climate change. Almost as many expect sea level rise and coastal flooding over the same period.

The idea of a warming planet is now almost universally accepted among the state’s voters. And for the first time, over two thirds say we are already feeling the effects of global warming. Each of these figures has grown considerably since prior polls conducted over the last 6 years.

The WBUR poll was conducted before these hurricanes, so these figures may have changed further given the constant stream of alarming news stories. But even then, Massachusetts voters perceived the growing risk of climate change; 40 percent said global warming poses an even greater long term threat to the United States than terrorism. Future polls will tell us whether these storms make climate change seem like even more of a threat.

National polling shows a similar trajectory. A March Gallup poll shows concern over climate change in the U.S. is at a three-decade high. An April Quinnipiac poll finds 66 percent of Americans are very or somewhat concerned climate change will affect them or a family member personally. 56 percent say there has been more extreme or unusual weather in recent years.

So as Houston dries out and Floridians clear out, residents of Boston and other coastal cities are left wondering if they will be next.

The Crosstabs

FiveThirtyEight has Donald Trump’s approval rating 38.5 percent in their weighted average. Gallup has him at 36 percent, up a couple points after hitting a record low of 34 percent last week.

HuffPost’s Ariel Edwards-Levy writes about a new crack in Donald Trump’s base: Obama voters who voted for Trump are much more likely to now regret their votes.

In an unexpected twist, President Trump sided with the Democrats in a vote to raise the debt ceiling through December. FiveThirtyEight’s Congress Tracker has the vote breakdown, while a HuffPost/YouGov poll shows that a majority of Trump voters would side with Trump over the congressional GOP.

Despite the conflicting messages about DACA’s future, the program remains popular with voters. An NBC/SurveyMonkey poll released days before the Trump administration announced it would rescind the program found 64 percent of Americans support it. A Politico/Morning Consult poll found 58 percent think so-called “Dreamers” should be allowed to stay, and under certain qualifications become citizens. YouGov finds that 57 percent of Trump voters want the program ended.

Sixty-four percent of Americans think immigration strengthens the United States, but there is a large partisan split.

Football season has started; sorry Pats fans! A Washington Post/ UMass Lowell poll finds that among people whose interest in football has declined, the most common cause is protests during the national anthem.

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Say what you will about Twitter — harassment swamp, giant timesuck, potential spark for nuclear war — but it has provided political and social science researchers with a wealth of new information. A study out this week looked at over half a million tweets about gun control, same-sex marriage, and climate change, and found that tweets that contained “moral-emotional” language were more likely to spread through social networks, but only among like-minded folks, as shown in the graph below. As one Twitter wag observed, maybe retweets really do equal endorsements.


Virginia voters divided on blame for Charlottesville violence

The poll of Virginia registered voters was conducted August 15-19, 2017 by The MassINC Polling Group.  (Topline, Crosstabs)

About half see at least equal blame for violence at the Charlottesville white nationalist rally. Many Virginia voters (47 percent) believe the counter protesters in Charlottesville deserve at least equal blame for the violence at last week’s white nationalist rally. President Donald Trump’s comments on this question set off a wave of condemnation from political and business leaders. But when Trump said “I think there is blame on both sides,” nearly half of Virginia voters agree with him.

Just 40 percent of Virginia voters agree that the white nationalist rally-goers were mostly to blame, nearly identical to the 41 percent who pointed to both sides. Another 6 percent mostly blame the counter-protesters, bringing the total who assign at least equal blame to the counter-protesters up to 47 percent.

Many agree with Trump on blame, but still decry his handling of Charlottesville. Though more voters agree with Trump on assigning blame for violence at the rally, just 30 percent approve of his overall handling of the incident. This includes 66 percent of Republicans, 33 percent of independents, and 3 percent of Democrats. A new ABC national poll offers some insight into this disconnect, with voters saying Trump elevates neo-Nazis and white supremacists. The ABC poll finds that 42 percent believe Trump has been “equating neo-Nazis and white supremacists with those who oppose them,” and another 23 percent are unsure. Another poll found a growing number of Americans (now 38 percent) believe Trump supports white nationalism and another 20 percent are unsure. Probably needless to say, other polls have found these groups to be politically toxic, making any such ambiguity a potentially major political liability.

Most voters are fine with keeping Confederate monuments. Virginia voters are far more likely to see Confederate monuments as symbols of Southern heritage (52 percent) rather than racism (25 percent). In keeping with this view, just 28 percent say they should be removed from public property, while 51 percent believe the monuments should stay. This is nearly identical to a recent national poll from Reuters and another from The Economist. On this issue, Virginia voters hold very similar views to the nation as a whole.

As with nearly every issue these days, views are divided by party. Democratic voters would like the statues removed (52 percent to 20 percent).  But Republicans are far more unified in saying they should stay (81 percent), and a majority of independents (57 percent) agree with them. This highlights the political hazard for Democrats of going after monuments as part and parcel of condemning white supremacists–opinion on the two issues differs greatly.

About the Poll: These results are based on a survey of 508 registered voters in Virginia. Interviews were conducted August 15-19, 2017 by live telephone interviews via both landline and cell phone using conventional registration based sampling procedures. The margin of sampling error for the full sample is +/- 4.4 percent with a 95 percent level of confidence.


The Topline: As Tsongas bows out, does the GOP have a shot in the Third?

Massachusetts Congresswoman Niki Tsongas announced yesterday she will not run again for the seat she has held since 2007. Past election results show her seat in the Third Congressional District may be less safe for Democrats than it first appears. Though Tsongas cruised to reelection in her own recent matchups, Charlie Baker won the district by 9 points in his 2014 election, one of several Republicans to fare well there recently. With voters in Tsongas’ district showing they are open to voting Republican, her retirement adds another layer of potential intrigue to the 2018 elections here in Massachusetts.

Even apart from Baker’s success, results in other recent statewide elections suggest the open seat in the Third could be the most attractive target for the GOP in a field of longshots. Gabriel Gomez won the Third narrowly during the 2013 special election that sent Ed Markey to the Senate. Markey won it in 2014, but squeaked by with less than a 2 point margin, making it his third worst district. Even Elizabeth Warren lost it narrowly to Scott Brown in 2012, a year with presidential turnout. Both Baker and Warren will be on the ballot again next year, so their influence may shape the race in terms of turnout and the key issues of the campaign.

The Cook Political Report has declined to move the seat from its “safe D” column, underscoring the challenge facing a would-be Republican candidate. Tsongas won reelection in 2016 by 38 points, outperforming Hillary Clinton’s healthy 23-point margin there. Midterm elections tend to favor the party out of power, and Democrats have held strong leads in generic Congressional ballots going into 2018.

The Tsongas announcement has lit the political hot stove, or turned on the air conditioner, if that’s the more seasonally appropriate metaphor. Which state legislators would be willing to risk their current seats to run for a seat in a legislative body with a 16 percent approval rating? Who would trade the lack of friction in the private sector for gridlock in Washington? Nobody knows for sure, but the Beacon Hill rumor mill is churning out names faster than we can write them down.

With Tsongas leaving, there is a chance that Massachusetts’ female representation in Congress could dip even lower. Currently, it stands at an all-time high of three members (Tsongas, Warren, and Katherine Clark in the Fifth). Democrats may feel pressure to nominate a woman to carry on where Tsongas left off.

We agree with the Cook political report that early odds are the Third will remain in Democratic hands, continuing their streak of 110 Massachusetts Congressional elections since 1996 (Senate excluded). But recent elections suggest the right candidate, seizing on the right issues, could make it an interesting race.

The Crosstabs

A new poll out today is stirring controversy. Two researchers writing for the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog found that half of Republican voters would support President Trump postponing the 2020 election over concerns about voter fraud. A similar percentage think Trump won the popular vote. (He did not.)

Monkey Cage has a good reputation for wonky social science research, but critics have noted that preceding questions about voter fraud may have “primed” respondents to answer the way their did.

A CNN poll shows 62 percent of Americans consider North Korea a very serious threat, a jump of 16 points since March.

A CBS poll finds 61 percent are uneasy about Trump’s ability to handle the situation with North Korea’s nuclear program.

Overall, Trump’s approval numbers continue to sag. FiveThirtyEight’s poll tracker has his most recent rates at 37 percent approval, 57 percent disapproval.

FiveThirtyEight is now tracking the generic ballot for the 2018 Congressional elections, applying the same weights and adjustments they use in their Trump approval tracking.

A new Quinnipiac poll shows white voters without college degrees, a key demographic in Trump’s election, disapprove of the job he is doing, (50 percent to 43 percent approve). As his poll numbers have dipped, Trump tweets have slammed polls even harder than usual.

Survey Monkey took this a step further and asked why people answered the way they did, then broke the open-ended comments down by party and education level.

The American people support allowing transgender soldiers to serve (68 percent, versus 27 percent oppose), including 55 percent among military families.

A HuffPost/YouGov poll taken immediately after the resignation of Anthony Scaramucci finds 52 percent of Americans think the number of senior officials who have lost or left their jobs is unusually high.

Pew finds that Democrats and Republicans are split on the watchdog role of the media, a dramatic change from last year. In 2016, there was little partisan split, with three-quarters of Democrats and Republicans approving of the media playing such a role. Now, only 42 percent of Republicans approve, compared to 89 percent of Democrats.

Gallup has similar findings on a broader scale, noting that public opinion on a number of issues – not just the traditional hot buttons of immigration, gun control, and climate change – is becoming more and more polarized.

Pew finds Americans pretty evenly split as to whether life in America is better for people like them now compared to 50 years ago. But Republicans are feeling more optimistic since last year, and Democrats less so.

In a separate survey, Pew finds American Muslims proud to be Americans and believing in the American dream, but increasingly concerned about discrimination and the President’s view towards them.

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The opposite of a pollster is a carwasher, per a nifty and hilarious tool from TheUpshot. Apparently we pollsters don’t need “trunk strength.” Time to deadlift some crosstabs. Or curl them. Or whatever you do to increase “trunk strength.” OK, yeah, that’s why we’re pollsters and not car washers. On the other hand, doing face-to-face interviews is a great way to boost your step count.


The Topline: No magic pill on repeal and replace

Let’s just say it. There is no popular replacement for the Affordable Care Act. Republicans in Congress have railed against Obamacare since its passage in 2010, and held frequent votes to repeal it in the intervening years. But after 6 months of unified control of the House, Senate, and White House, one thing is crystal clear. To pass a replacement package, they will need to do a larger version of what Democrats did in 2010: ignore the polls.

On the day Obamacare was passed, polls showed an average of 42 percent support, with 50 percent opposed. Some polls dipped as low as 30 percent in favor. One could argue the bill cost cost the Democrats a Senate seat even before it passed, when Scott Brown shocked the world by beating Martha Coakley here in Massachusetts in January 2010. Post-election polls found Bay State voters rated health care as the most important issue in deciding their vote.

Source: Huffington Post Pollster

Republicans are facing a similar challenge, though arguably more severe as their replacement proposals have so far been even less popular. Even in the midst of the battle to pass Obamacare, the ACA never plumbed the murky depths of fetid public distaste where the GOP replacements are currently fermenting. Polls covering various iterations of the repeal and replace proposals have found support ranging in the teens and twenties. A new poll shows Americans are ready for Congress to drop repeal altogether and move on.

But the solution is the same, if Republicans believe their proposal is either good policy or destined to become more popular. Democrats put their shoulder to the plow, and passed a bill with weak public support. And in the intervening years, the public has grown to like the bill more, especially in terms of the specifics. People have become accustomed to the new realities the bill brought about. Strong majorities like the key provisions such as coverage for pre-existing conditions, the Medicaid expansion, and others, even if they didn’t understand them at first.

If Republicans believe in their proposals, they face a similar challenge of voting for a bill which will only pay off down the road. The alternative explanation is not flattering — that  they are looking for a replacement simply for a political win and to fulfill a campaign promise, though the underlying policy is bad.

Another possibility is Republicans pare back their ambitions to only repealing unpopular parts of the law with no replacement package. The so-called “skinny repeal” would do away with the mandates for individuals to buy insurance and for companies to provide insurance to their employees. (It would also repeal a tax on medical devices.) Removing these mandates may be popular in the short term, but doing so would undercut the other popular elements of the Affordable Care Act and appears likely to damage the insurance market.

Skinny repeal would deal with the tradeoff between good policy and popular policy by making policy that is both bad and likely to end up unpopular. While the individual mandate has always been the least popular part of the ACA, it is the glue that holds the rest together, as representatives of the insurance industry and a bipartisan group of governors have pointed out.

If Republicans are confident Americans will grow to love the Obamacare replacement, or that it is better for other reasons, they should take a stiff drink, put their grownup pants on, and prepare to vote for an unpopular bill. Or, if they think skinny repeal will remain popular as its effects are more broadly felt, they can vote for that too. There are plenty of instances where ignoring the polls is the right decision. Substituting elected leaders’ judgment for voters’ whims is fundamental to a representative democracy.

Voters will have their say later in 2018 and 2020, just as they did in 2010 after the ACA passed. The Democrats found themselves on the wrong side of a 63 seat swing in the House of Representatives. There were other major factors, for sure, but it’s clear reactions to health care reform played a starring role in the electoral wipeout. Democrats who voted for the ACA in 2010 lost between 5 and 15 points of support, depending on the estimate.

We don’t know if a final bill will ever take shape or what it might include. As of press time, it appears skinny repeal in the Senate may be a starting point for negotiations with the House rather than the final policy target, though even that is not clear. Whatever the final proposal, if replacing the Affordable Care Act is the chosen course, it will take backbone. There is no magic solution waiting to be discovered.


Non-white voters in Massachusetts and across the country are much more concerned about climate change. Steve Koczela digs in for WBUR.

The Crosstabs

Gallup shows President Donald Trump with 39 percent approval, while 56 percent disapprove of the job he is doing, for a -17 net approval rating.

FiveThirtyEight has a nifty tool that tracks how Trump’s average approval rating compares with past presidents. Here is what they are seeing.

Source: FiveThirtyEight

Huffpollster’s Ariel Edwards-Levy points out that, in a rarely seen pollster eclipse, right leaning Rasmussen Reports shows Trump a whisker more negative than Gallup, with a -18 net approval rating.

Donald Trump announced via Twitter this week that transgendered people would no longer be able to serve in the military. There is very little polling on this specific issue, but this is likely to change soon. Specific rights for transgendered people is an issue much less settled than same sex marriage and one where fewer people have direct experience. In a 2016 CNN poll, just 14 percent reported having a family member or personal friend who is transgendered, compared to 58 percent who said the same of gay or lesbian people.

The Pew Research Center released their 2017 survey of American Muslims. Definitely read it. “U.S. Muslims Concerned About Their Place in Society, but Continue to Believe in the American Dream.”

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Tip of the hat to The Pollsters podcast for flagging Gallup’s annual poll on Americans’ favorite alcoholic beverages. But whereas Margie and Kristen focused on the demographic gaps between wine and beer drinkers, our eyes were drawn to the sharp uptick in the preference for hard liquor. This year, 26 percent of Americans said they turn straight to the hard stuff, up from 20 percent in 2016. We can’t help but wonder: have some outside events driven the shift? Alas, Gallup doesn’t have breakdowns by political party, so there’s not an easy way to test our theory. Perhaps if someone from there is reading this, they can share the crosstabs. We’ll buy the next round.


The Topline: The Independence of Independents

Party leaders, consultants look for ways to win on new landscape.

The ranks of political independents continue to swell in Massachusetts, while the number of Democrats and Republicans remains roughly steady. Younger voters are choosing to remain “unenrolled” when they register to vote, rather than choosing a political party. The result is an increasing tilt toward the “unenrolled,” as they are called here, who now make up 55 percent of the state’s voter rolls. We looked at the numbers in “It’s not my party, but I’ll vote if I want to,” appearing in the new summer issue of CommonWealth.

Key people within the two major parties reacted with mostly ambivalence about the direction of the trend, largely focusing on the practical realities of winning in a state with fewer registered partisans. Both parties were quick to point out that campaigns have plenty of data other than party registration, allowing them to identify likely supporters.

“The MassGOP has invested heavily in data tools that allow Republican candidates to target voters and build winning coalitions using information that extends well beyond partisan identification,” said Terry MacCormack, a spokesman for the state Republican Party.

Robert Cohen, vice president of the Young Democrats of Massachusetts, also minimized the importance of a decline in party registration. “I don’t see it as an extreme problem,” he said. “I’ve seen people come out and support a candidate or work for a campaign, but be unenrolled. Whatever might in the past have pushed them towards a party now pushed them towards a set candidate.”

And when campaigns get underway, wishing for different numbers won’t change anything. “It’s the state of the world in which we live, and we will continue to make do with the facts in the world as they are,” said Jay Cincotti, a Democratic consultant who recently served a stint as executive director of the Massachusetts Democratic Party. “My job as a campaign operative is to win a race in that moment. Gnashing my teeth about the decline in partisanship doesn’t help me win that race.”

Benjamin Rajadurai, chairman of the Massachusetts Alliance of College Republicans, sees the rise of unenrolled voters as an opportunity for his party. “It helps us in Massachusetts,” he said. “Voters don’t need to identify with a party, but with a specific candidate. Even if they’re not enrolled, we can identify them. It’s not just about party ID. It’s about values and issues.”

A rise in truly non-partisan voters would likely be helpful to the Massachusetts GOP, given the Democrats’ advantage in party registration and self-identification. But the rise in unenrolled voters only means fewer are formally aligned with a party. Even unenrolled voters and who call themselves independents in a poll will reveal a partisan leaning when pressed, a point Cohen underscores. “We all know the trend has been ongoing, but people who are independent but lean generally vote the same way as people who are strictly partisan,” he said.

The exceptions to partisan voting habits are important, and have given the Republican Party a firm grip on the governorship since 1991, interrupted only by Deval Patrick. Other than in the corner office, the increase in unenrolled voters has brought little change to the party composition of the state’s elected officials.

Even so, Rajadurai remains hopeful that personality can overcome party leanings with younger voters moving forward. “Go into any classroom, you’ll see people on either side of the aisle, and they’re unenrolled,” he said. “I think if we’ve seen anything in the past few years, voters are fed up with the status quo, they think the system is broken. I think the party that can see this and capitalize on this will win, and continue to win.”

Massachusetts will be treated to a field experiment in the independence of independents in 2018, as the popular leaders of both parties seek reelection. Both will run up huge majorities in their own party, and will look to unenrolled voters to help carry them to victory. Sen. Elizabeth Warren can rely more on Democrats’ 3-to-1 advantage in voter registration, and just needs to keep the margin among independents from getting too wide. Gov. Charlie Baker has said he is targeting 60 percent of independents, as well as a healthy share of Democrats.

The upshot? If both Baker and Warren win reelection, it will be because some sizeable share of independents split their tickets, voting for the Democrat for Senate and the Republican for governor. You can chalk some of that up to the power of incumbency, but it will also show that a consequential slice of independents are not partisans in disguise but really are, as Cohen and Rajadurai assert, voting for the candidate and not the party.

— Steve Koczela and Hannah Chanatry

This article was also published on CommonWealth Magazine.


WBUR poll: Massachusetts voters concerns about climate change have increased sharply over the last few years.

WBUR poll: Governor Charlie Baker and Senator Elizabeth Warren both start strong, heading into their reelection campaigns.

MPG President Steve Koczela looks at the impact of both an income tax hike and a sales tax rollback both potentially making the 2018 ballot.


The Gallup daily tracker shows Trump at 40 percent job approval, with 55 percent disapproving, edging up slightly after coming close to all time lows. FiveThirtyEight (39-55) and Huffpollster (41-56) show similar figures.

Trump is doing less well globally. Just 22 percent of respondents to Pew’s 2017 Global Attitudes Survey have at least some confidence in Trump, up slightly from before he took office. In every country surveyed except Israel and Russia, views of Trump were more negative than President Obama at the end of his term.

Recent revelations about Russia haven’t changed many people’s minds about Trump, per polling from the Huffington Post. But these aren’t the most recent revelations, a perennial challenge facing pollsters in this era of the hourly news cycle.

Back in the states, Pew’s Center for People and the Press found sharp partisan splits in views of major institutions, including the media and higher education.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has a 15 percent approval rating, in a poll conducted after “Beachgate”. That’s almost a record low for a sitting governor.

Come for the job approval, stay for the word cloud about Christie’s July 4th beach outing.

The Senate health care plan, is just as unpopular as the bill that passed the House. Huffpollster rounded up the polling.

Finally, SSRS surveyed Americans on their favorite ice cream habits: flavors, toppings, cup versus cone. A majority (55 percent) of you like ice cream in a bowl. Seriously. We at MPG are in the cone minority. Don’t @ us.

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Steve found a conference even nerdier than AAPOR, and is headed to Marrakesh for the World Statistics Congress. He’ll be presenting “A systems thinking approach to addressing survey data fabrication,” a new angle on an issue he has written about in the past. Don’t hide your FOMO, we know.