Poll: Mass. residents approve of response to bombings, favor aggressive response to future crises

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Residents turned to local media for reliable coverage

In the days after the arrest of the surviving Marathon bombing suspect, Massachusetts residents expressed a strongly positive impression of law enforcement and give their stamp of approve to the overall response to the attack. Ninety-one percent of respondents approved of the decision to lock down parts of the Greater Boston area while the second bombing suspect was at large on Friday, April 19, and 86 percent have a favorable opinion of the Massachusetts State Police.

In the wake of the bombings, the public expressed more concern about public safety than the potential for restrictions on civil liberties. Nearly half (48 percent) said they are more concerned the government will not go far enough to investigate and prevent terrorism while 36 percent were more concerned civil liberties could be infringed. This is the opposite of a recent Washington Post poll, which showed more concern over civil liberties at the national level.

While more (51 percent) thought the government should not place restrictions on the media during a crisis in order to prevent misinformation, a considerable minority (42 percent) favored such restrictions.

“Many are willing to give the government more leeway in future crises, even if it means giving up some civil liberties or temporarily curtailing press freedoms,” said Steve Koczela, President of The MassINC Polling Group.

Television is most frequently used source

Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of respondents followed the Marathon bombings and their aftermath “very closely”, and another 24 percent somewhat closely. Television was the most common source of information, with 72 percent tuning in to local channels “frequently”, followed by national television at 69 percent (see attached tables). Fewer made frequent use of print media outlets, with 20 to 40 percent saying the frequently used the various print publications. On average, residents said they frequently used 4.2 of the 11 information sources listed in the poll.

“Gone are the days of waiting for the evening news, or even tuning into one source of twenty four hour news,” Koczela said. “Residents are flipping channels as events are unfolding, digging for information from various sources on their phones, tablets, and computers to build their understanding of what is occurring.”

Local media is most trusted

Even as residents mined far-flung sources of information, local media sources were seen as most reliable overall. The poll explored which information sources were trusted by those who used each one. Local media sources accounted for 5 of the 6 most trusted information sources, with live police scanner traffic rounding out the top six. The Boston Globe received the highest mark of any media organization, with 47 percent of Globe readers saying they found it “very reliable” during the period and another 39 percent saying “somewhat reliable” (see tables). Local radio (44 percent very reliable), local TV (42 percent), Boston.com (40 percent), and the Boston Herald (40 percent) all edged out the national news outlets included in the poll. While some differences were small, the grouping of the local outlets at the top of the list demonstrates the unique role local media played during this crisis.

Police scanners little used, trusted by those who tune in

Fourteen percent of residents said they frequently tuned into live streaming police scanner traffic, and another 16 percent did so infrequently. Among those who listened in, 49 percent said they found the information “very reliable”. Public and media reliance on the raw, unedited conversations that take place over police scanners has been the subject of some controversy since the bombings.

Other notes

  1. Half of registered voters answered correctly that the next election for U.S. Senate was happening “in the next few months”, as opposed to later this year or in another year.
  2. Overall, 54 percent of respondents think the Commonwealth is heading in the right direction, compared to 32 who think the state is off on the wrong track.
  3. Governor Deval Patrick (61 percent favorable / 23 percent unfavorable) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (50/29) both hold net favorable ratings.

About the Poll: The MassPulse Quarterly Poll is conducted quarterly among representative samples of approximately 500 Massachusetts residents age 18 and older.  The poll is conducted in English and Spanish among both cell phone and landline households.  This iteration of the survey was conducted from April 23-27 2013.  The margin of sampling error is ∓4.4 percent.

Please tell me if you used each of the following news sources frequently, infrequently, or not at all during the last week to follow news about the bombings and subsequent search for the suspects. First, READ FIRST ITEM. How about READ NEXT?

Order rotated. Sorted by % ‘frequently’ for display. Frequently Infrequently Not at all Don’t Know / Refused
Local television news outlets, either online or on the air 72% 18% 10% 0%
National television news outlets, either online or on the air 69% 20% 11% 1%
Local radio stations, either online or on the air 59% 17% 23% 0%
Other news websites 40% 22% 37% 2%
Other newspapers in Massachusetts, either online or in print 36% 24% 39% 1%
Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook 35% 17% 47% 1%
National newspapers, either online or in print 31% 23% 45% 1%
The Boston Globe, either online or in print 26% 18% 55% 1%
Boston.com 22% 17% 59% 2%
The Boston Herald, either online or in print 20% 17% 62% 1%
Live police scanner traffic 14% 16% 67% 2%

The next question was asked only to those who said they used a given media source at least infrequently.

And how reliable did you find the information you read or heard from READ FIRST ITEM about these events—very reliable, somewhat reliable, not too reliable, or not at all reliable? How about READ NEXT ITEM?

Table: Among those who used each source, how many found each reliable?

Items asked in same order as previous question. Sorted by % ‘very reliable’ for display Very reliable Somewhat reliable Not too reliable Not at all reliable Don’t Know / Refused
Live police scanner traffic 49% 28% 8% 7% 10%
The Boston Globe 47% 39% 6% 2% 6%
Local radio stations 44% 44% 6% 3% 4%
Local television news outlets 42% 50% 5% 2% 1%
Boston.com 40% 38% 3% 10% 10%
The Boston Herald 40% 36% 6% 8% 11%
National newspapers 38% 43% 8% 5% 6%
National television news outlets 38% 49% 6% 4% 3%
Other newspapers in Massachusetts 32% 47% 6% 4% 11%
Other news websites 24% 61% 7% 3% 4%
Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook 13% 43% 21% 17% 5%

Table: Among the entire population, how many used each source and found each source reliable?

Items asked in same order as previous question. Sorted by % ‘very reliable’ for display Very reliable Somewhat reliable Not too reliable Not at all reliable Don’t Know / Refused Total who used source Did not use this source
Local television news outlets 38% 45% 5% 2% 1% 90% 10%
National television news outlets 34% 44% 5% 3% 3% 89% 11%
Local radio stations 33% 34% 5% 2% 3% 77% 23%
National newspapers 20% 23% 4% 2% 3% 54% 46%
The Boston Globe 20% 17% 3% 1% 2% 44% 56%
Other newspapers in Massachusetts 19% 28% 4% 2% 7% 60% 40%
Boston.com 16% 15% 1% 4% 4% 39% 61%
The Boston Herald 15% 13% 2% 3% 4% 37% 63%
Other news websites 15% 38% 5% 2% 2% 62% 38%
Live police scanner traffic 15% 8% 2% 2% 3% 30% 70%
Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook 7% 23% 11% 9% 3% 53% 47%