The Topline: Diving into the Boston Olympics Polling

Welcome to the inaugural issue of The Topline, a biweekly round-up of polling, politics and data from The MassINC Polling Group. Every edition we’ll go in depth on one or two issues and then provide some links to the best of the web. 10-Meter Springboard: Diving into the Boston Olympics Polling

In the weeks since the U.S. Olympic Committee named Boston as its bid city for the 2024 Summer Games, there's been much said about the level of public support for Boston hosting the games. Boosters of Boston 2024 say the bid enjoys "strong majority support", but the polls, including public polls like ours for WBUR, indicate the public is not quite there yet. Most polls show more favor the idea than oppose it, but that overall support is tepid when compared to other host cities, and the public remains nervous about some of the specifics.

 Since the WBUR poll, another public poll has been released showing the public split over Boston hosting the games. Emerson College Polling Society's survey is the first to show more opposition than support to hosting the games. Forty-eight percent of residents statewide oppose the bid, 42 percent are supportive, and 10 percent are on the fence. This is the lowest level of support for the Games found so far; the others show support levels between 47 percent and 55 percent.


All of this could change, too, with the problems facing the MBTA following the historic snowfall of the past week. All of the polls shown here were done before the storm, although The Boston Globe reports questionsas to whether the T's woes will affect support levels. The impact of big events on public opinion often fades over time, although the (hopefully) one-time nature of this event makes it difficult to gauge its lasting impact, if any.

 The level of public support is important given recent comments by International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach. "What is important is a solid majority behind the bid, but you can never expect to have everyone on your side," he said. The IOC is planning its own polling, but not until next year.

 Support weakest closest in: Taken as a whole, these polls suggest that support for the games is somewhat lower in Boston itself than outside the city. The regional split is important, given the prospect of a potential ballot challenge either at the local or state level. Boston City Councillor Josh Zakim filed four non-binding questions about the Olympics to appear, potentially, on the November municipal ballot. United Independent Party Evan Falchuk has said he will collect signatures to put a question on the statewide ballot in 2016.

 A Boston Globe poll, from June of last year, found 59 percent support in Western Massachusetts and 71 percent on the Cape and Islands, but only 38 percent in Metro Boston. The Emerson poll found a similar split.

 Young people excited: One demographic in Boston 2024's favor are young people. Our WBUR poll found 69 percent of 18-29 year old voters are excited about hosting the games, far higher than the overall figure of 50 percent. Excitement declines with age; only 31 percent of voters aged 60 or older say they are excited. Boston 2024's pollster noted a similar dynamic in terms of support for hosting. The Sage poll also found the 18-34 cohort most supportive of hosting the games.

 This age split is not what political leaders would hope for. Given younger people's tendency not to vote, particularly in years with lower turnout, doing things only younger people support may be a shaky re-election strategy. This age split could also prove critical if a Boston-only vote is held this year. Younger people are much less likely to show up at the polls in an off-year like 2015 than 2016, a Presidential year. Thus, a local ballot question this year is potentially more likely than a statewide ballot question to go against supporters of the Olympics.

 Who you gonna call? Landline users. The Emerson poll, along with the two Sage Systems polls, were done by interactive voice response (IVR). By law, such polls can only be administered via landline, and thus cannot reach the estimated 40 percent of households that rely exclusively on cell phones. This group grows every year, making exclusive reliance on landline users an increasingly dicey proposition. Some companies that use IVR now supplement it with online interviews to reach cell-only respondents. (The Emerson and Sage polls did not do so, according to their methods reports.)



 Obama Approval

 President Obama's approval rating in the Gallup Daily Tracking poll hits 50 percent for the first time since 2013. Other polls confirmed the uptick, which some speculate is linked to the falling price of gasoline.

 At The UpShot, Nate Cohn analyzes what a more popular incumbent might means for the field of candidates looking to replace him.


2016 Presidential Primary

 Before Mitt Romney announced he would not run for president a third time, The Boston Globe noted he had alead in most national polls of GOP primary voters, for what it is worth at this early stage.

 Post-Romney, The Globe calls New Hampshire anyone's to win. Bloomberg and the Des Moines Registerfind the race in Iowa similarly wide open. Others read the same poll and come up with their own absurd conclusions.



 Evan Horowitz writes about our recent survey, for Stand for Children, asking Massachusetts principals about the Common Core, the PARCC assessment, and new teacher evaluations for The Boston Globe.


Income Inequality

 Fellow Massachusetts pollster Suffolk University, for USA Today, found Americans think economic gainshave benefited the rich more than the poor and the middle class. Meanwhile, The Huffington Post found 60 percent think the nation's tax system favors the wealthy over the poor and middle class.

 We asked about income inequality during the Massachusetts governor's race, and a plurality of voters told usthey would sacrifice some growth for a more equitable distribution of economic gains.



 Pew finds a gulf between scientists and the general public on a range of issues, including vaccines, GMOs, nuclear power and climate change. Speaking of climate change, The New York Times and Stanford University find that a large majority, including half of Republicans, want action on climate change.

 Pew's numbers, and separate research from YouGov, suggest millenials are much less inclined towards mandatory vaccinations.


Super Bowl / Deflategate / Ballghazi     

 During the height of Deflategate, Emerson College Polling Society found nearly half of Americans thought the now-Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots were cheaters. Public Policy Polling also found a plurality thought the Pats cheated, and that more Americans were rooting for the Seahawks in the big game. But fear not: the Dallas Cowboys are the most hated team in the NFL.

 This ESPN SportsNation map shows New England stood alone in defense of its team. Similarly, everywhere apart from New England thinks Seattle lost the Super Bowl more than the Patriots won it.


Nate Silver looks at whether the Patriots are now the greatest NFL dynasty of all time. (Spoiler: it depends on what you mean by "dynasty," but yeah, they're pretty good.)

 Ahead of the Super Bowl, YouGov and The Economist found halftime headliner Katy Perry more popular than either the Patriots or the Seahawks. Speaking of halftime, here's your obligatory dancing shark vine.


---------#NerdAlert Tearline---------


 Register for "New Frontiers in Preventing, Detecting, and Remediating Fabrication in Survey Research", hosted by New England Chapter of the American Association of Public Opinion Research (NEAAPOR) at Harvard University on Friday morning, February 13. Can't make it? You can watch a live stream on the NEAAPOR website.


Survey Methods

 Survey professionals recently debated whether margin or error -- often misinterpreted by poll readers -- should be reported with polls at all, especially now that many polls cannot be said to be truly representative samples of the entire population. Webinar organizer Anne Petit has a recap. HuffPollster's Mark Blumenthal offers ahelpful explainer on the issue.