The Topline: Mass. residents "looking for leadership" on global warming

That's the title of our new report, out this morning and done in conjunction with our parent think tank MassINC. The poll is a follow-up on a 2011 report we did on the topic. Both were funded by the Barr Foundation.

Massachusetts residents "strongly support" a wide range of policies to combat and prepare for global warming, including investing in renewable energy and public transit. This support stems from broad belief that the effects of global warming are either already underway or have already begun, and that they will be damaging for Massachusetts. Three-quarters think Massachusetts will suffer coastal flooding, sea level rise and more extreme storms as a result.

Despite their belief and their worry, climate change is still not a top issue in residents' minds. While four in ten think fighting climate change should be a high priority for state government, that figure is far lower than for issues like the economy, education and health care. This echoes other polls, which typically find global warming at or near the bottom of lists of priorities or concerns.

Voters may not be beating down lawmakers' doors on this issue, but there appears to be little political downside, either. Support for a variety of policy interventions is robust. Majorities "strongly support" stricter energy efficiency standards (65 percent), updating the electric grid to support renewables (63 percent), and investing in transit to reduce car travel (55 percent).

Most even say they would be willing to pay more, if required, to reduce emissions. Nearly three-quarters would pay $5 more a month for energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And residents want to get their future energy from renewables like solar (73 percent), wind on land (64 percent) and off-shore (63 percent) and hydroelectric (51 percent). Half would support new power from natural gas.

This poses a unique challenge to political and policy leaders seeking to address climate change. Few say they would punish a political candidate who took a strong stance on addressing global warming. But most elected leaders would prefer to ride a wave of popular demand for change when implementing sweeping new policies, rather than splashing around in a tepid eddy of voter apathy. No such wave exists here, which means those hoping to see action in addressing climate change are left "looking for leadership".

April Fools' Day Special Report: Do Americans prefer surveys... or monkeys?

The world of surveys is changing rapidly, alongside the breathtaking pace of change in the ways Americans communicate. We just finished up a piece on the rise of online surveys for the next print issue of CommonWealth Magazine, out soon.

Like every pollster, we are constantly working to stay ahead of the curve, trying out new methods and technologies as they arise. One of the major evolutions in the survey world is the use of online, "non-probability" surveys for serious purposes. SurveyMonkey, long known to most as an inexpensive, do-it-yourself survey tool, is now making a play for use as a more serious, public polling tool, even issuing surveys with NBC and a series of 2014 election polls.

We decided to try out the tool for this purpose ourselves, purchasing a national sample of respondents from SurveyMonkey. We wanted to see how closely the SurveyMonkey respondents matched the demographics of all residents in the United States, and how closely the responses matched up with commonly asked metrics like party identification, whether or not the nation is headed in the right direction, and approval ratings for national leaders.

With April Fools' Day approaching and March Madness underway, we decided to have a little fun with some of the questions. Here are the Important Insights we gleaned from our in-depth analysis of these Important Issues.Prank

  • We have a national April Fools' prank imbalance. Seventy-one percent report being the victim of a prank, but only 63 percent admit to pulling one. That means every prankster is averaging 1.13 prankees. Ball's in your court, FiveThirtyEight.
  • In honor of the survey tool, we asked whether Americans prefer surveys or monkeys. In an upset, surveys edged out monkeys 55 percent to 44. This despite surveys involving thought, and monkeys being adorable.
  • Fifteen percent of Americans admit to filling out a March Madness bracket, and 18 percent of those claimed their brackets were still perfect as of the time of taking the survey (between the round of 32 and the Sweet 16). Given that FiveThirtyEight put the chances of picking a perfect bracket at 1 in 1,610,543,269, that means that 2.7 percent of Americans (roughly, 8.6 million people) are probably playing their own little April Fools' Day joke.


More on Climate

Our global warming poll was done in September, before our epic winter. But Gallup finds that the harsh winter weather seems not to have moved Americans' belief in climate change one way or another.

In fact, Americans seems to have a more positive outlook on the environment generally, as concerns about specific environmental issues have declined.

Gallup also found about half (51 percent) favor the use nuclear power, down from 62 percent 5 years ago. Here in Massachusetts, only 9 percent want to see nuclear used for new energy generation, according to our new global warming poll.

And looking ahead to 2016, a new poll done for the Sierra Club and the Union of Concerned Scientists finds that 72 percent of likely voters in the presidential election favor the U.S. signing onto an international agreement on climate change.

Transportation Data Wars

How many people ride the Commuter Rail? We looked into the numbers and the short answer is: nobody knows. The long answer was in CommonWealth's Backstory last week.

Evan Horowitz crunches the numbers on Massachusetts' spending on roads and bridges and finds we spend less than any other state in the nation.

Meanwhile, a good old fashioned nerd fight has broken out between the conservative Pioneer Institute and the left-leaning Frontier Group over how best to compare the MBTA to other transit systems.

Boston 2024

Shameless speculation: Someone tweeted over the weekend they'd been polled about the Boston 2024 Olympics. The pollster ID'ed themselves as ADG, which is how the Globe's pollster Social Sphere has identified itself in the past. Ergo, keep an eye out for Thursday's Capital newsletter this week for a new Globe poll on the Olympics.

More shameless speculation: CNBC tweeted Tuesday that the United State Olympic Committee would be polling in Boston and might pull the plug on the bid if public support doesn't increase.

This prompted a swift denial by the USOC, in which they noted that polling is actually required by the International Olympic Committee as part of the bid process.

The Wall Street Journal reports that much rides on these polls, as "Local support is critical to the success of any bid".

2016 Presidential Primaries

The Boston Herald announced that it is teaming up with Franklin Pierce University to conduct polling of the New Hampshire primary. The partnership's first poll found Jeb Bush and Scott Walker tied atop the GOP pack.

Meanwhile, Suffolk University, the Herald's former dance partner, released their own New Hampshire polling last week, unaffiliated with a media organization.

Turning to our neighbors to the south, Quinnipiac polls Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania and finds Hillary Clinton still leading likely GOP opponents. But fewer voters find her trustworthy and honest in the wake of her personal email scandal.


Latino turnout was down sharply in 2014 in several states, according to pollster Matt Barreto.

Meanwhile, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll finds majorities of Americans support steps to make it easier to vote, like automatic and same-day voter registration. But a three-quarters also say it is an individual's responsibility to vote.

Foreign Policy 

Two new surveys ---- from Pew and ABC and the Washington Post ---- show Americans support the Obama administration's negotiations with Iran. But Pew also finds Americans are skeptical that the Iranians are serious about a deal, and a majority wants Congress to approve any agreement.

Meanwhile, the ABC/Washington Post poll finds low approval for both President Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu's handling of relations between the U.S. and Israel. The same poll finds support for a two state solution at a 20-year low.

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Pollsters Kristen Anderson and Margie Omero are launching a podcast called, appropriately, The Pollsters.

NPR reports on how the U.S. Census is testing an online version of its survey ahead of 2020.

Meanwhile, Pew reports on its experiments using Twitter to measure news coverage.

And Andrew Gellman looks at "wiki-surveys" as a way forward for political polling.