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Poll Measures Voter Attitudes on Infrastructure, Energy Mix

September 27, 2018

BOSTON - Seventy percent of Massachusetts voters think the state is not spending enough money on public infrastructure projects and roughly a third of voters rate the state’s local roads, highways, bridges and MBTA as “poor,” a recent poll found.

The results of a WBUR/MassINC poll conducted last week also revealed a lack of confidence in natural gas infrastructure and a drop in the public’s view of gas in the state’s energy mix in the fresh wake of gas explosions and fires in the Merrimack Valley.

In live landline and cellphone interviews, pollsters asked 506 likely general election voters to rate various aspects of Massachusetts infrastructure on a scale of excellent, good, fair and poor. On “roads in your neighborhood,” voters were split into rough thirds between good (31 percent), fair (34 percent) and poor (30 percent). To “highways and bridges,” 41 percent of voters gave a fair rating, with another 32 percent rating them as poor. Twenty-three percent of respondents said the state’s highways and bridges are in good condition.

One-third of respondents said the MBTA is in poor condition and another third said the capital region’s public transit system is in fair condition. One percent of voters said the T is in excellent condition, 19 percent rated it as good and another 16 percent had no opinion.

When it comes to natural gas infrastructure, which was in the news constantly during the survey period because of the fatal gas explosions and fires in the Merrimack Valley, 41 percent of respondents said the pipes carrying the state’s main fuel source are poor. Just 19 percent said natural gas pipes are excellent or good. When asked about the amount of money Massachusetts government spends on infrastructure projects, 70 percent of voters said the state is not spending enough. Four percent said the state spends too much on infrastructure projects and 17 percent said the state is spending the right amount.

The state’s electrical grid and water system fared the best among polled voters. Fifty percent of voters said the electric grid is good or excellent and 56 percent said the water system is good or excellent.

The poll also asked voters how they feel about various sources of energy and whether Massachusetts should rely more or less on them. Solar was the power source people said they most want the state to rely upon more, with 84 percent of respondents saying there should be more solar in Massachusetts. Eighty percent of voters said the state should rely more on wind power, which the state and utilities are attempting to bring online from offshore wind farms.

Natural gas saw the greatest shift in voter attitudes from 2015, when WBUR also asked voters about energy sources. Forty-two percent of respondents said Massachusetts should rely on gas more and 41 percent said the state should rely on it less. Three years ago, 50 percent of respondents said the state should rely more on gas and 31 percent said it should rely less on gas.

Right now, Massachu-setts’ electricity generation is 63.25 percent from natural gas, 20.07 percent from nuclear power, 13.5 percent from nonhydropower renewables and 3.12 percent from hydropower, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

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