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New Poll: Nurse Staffing Ballot Initiative Trails 51% to 43%; Baker, Warren Hold Big Leads

October 10, 2018

BOSTON -- Opponents outnumber supporters of Question 1 in newly released UMass-Lowell poll results that also show Gov. Charlie Baker and Sen. Elizabeth Warren maintaining large leads over their opponents as they seek re-election on Nov. 6.

The poll of 791 registered voters, taken the first week of October, showed 51 percent of likely voters opposed nurse staffing requirements outlined in Question 1 while 43 percent support the measure. Among Republicans, 68 percent opposed Question 1.

Supporters say the ballot question will improve health care and safety for patients and opponents claim the proposal will send costs soaring higher while removing the discretion of hospital managers. The question has been the focus of heavy spending by both sides, with opponents saying the Massachusetts Nurses Association is trying to force its union agenda on the state while supporters say hospital executives are bankrolling an anti-Question 1 campaign steeped in scare tactics and frivolous claims that they can’t afford to hire more nurses.

In the new poll, conducted in partnership with The Boston Globe, Baker led Democrat Jay Gonzalez 66 percent to 27 percent among likely voters, with 8 percent undecided. Gonzalez led Baker by only 3 percentage points among Democrats, and trailed the governor 77 percent to 17 percent among independents, the largest single group of registered voters. Gonzalez supports Question 1; Baker has so far declined to take a stance on the proposal.

With 56 percent support, Sen. Warren led Republican Geoff Diehl (31 percent) and independent Shiva Ayyadurai (5 percent) in the poll. Forty percent of the poll’s respondents viewed Warren unfavorably, but 55 percent had a favorabe view of the senator, who is eyeing a possible run for president in 2020.

Warren has been a frequent critic of President Donald Trump and Gonzalez has jabbed at Baker for endorsing Diehl, a Trump supporter in the 2016 election.

Sixty-seven percent of poll respondents said they view Trump unfavorably compared to 30 percent who view him favorably.

“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 John Cluverius, associate director of the UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion, in a statement. “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.”

Trump this weekend celebrated the confirmation and swearing-in of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, his second nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court. Sixty-one percent of poll respondents said they would have voted against Kavanaugh’s confirmation, while 33 percent said they would have supported him. Sixty percent said they believed Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in 1982; just 30 percent said they believed Kavanaugh’s response.

Seventy-four percent of likely voters said they are against repealing a 2016 law protecting transgender individuals in public accommodations, but only 56 percent believe policies should allow transgender individuals to use the restroom that they feel corresponds with their gender identities. A “yes” vote on Question 3 would preserve the 2016 law, which was signed by Gov. Baker, while a “no” vote would repeal the law.

Sixty percent of respondents said they are dissatisfied with the response by Columbia Gas to the fires and natural gas explosions that rocked Andover, Lawrence and North Andover on Sept. 13. In Essex County, where the gas fires occurred and which is still trying to recover, 78 percent said they were very or somewhat dissatisfied with the company’s response.

“Columbia Gas is quickly becoming the Exxon or Deepwater Horizon of the Merrimack Valley,” Cluverius said. “Voters are blaming corporate, not political, leadership for this disaster.”

The poll’s margin of error was plus or minus 4.4 percent plus for registered voters and 5.6 percent for likely voters - 485 of the 791 registered voters polled were determined to be likely voters.

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