The Topline: T riders open to fare hikes for better service

Our latest poll for WBUR, out this morning, seems to confirm Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack's claim that T riders would be willing to pay more for better service. Sixty percent of voters who reported riding the T would support fare hikes if it meant improved service on the system. Only 34 percent say they would oppose a hike. Despite that willingness, there are some notes of caution. First and foremost is the call for better service in exchange for fares. Last week's MBTA Panel report laid out the considerable roadblocks on the way to better service. And without better service, the willingness to pay higher fares evaporates. A majority (of riders and overall) think fares are set "about right" for the current level of service, and a quarter think fares are too high. Riders also don't want fares used as a substitute for state support; 57 percent think the government needs to contribute significant funds to running the T, while 36 percent think the T should be mostly self-sufficient.

Pollack made the claim while floating the idea of combining higher base fares with discounts based on income. She argues that by setting fares so that the poorest riders can afford them, the T is leaving money on the table. "We have riders who can afford higher prices and would gladly pay them if it meant they got better service," she told Boston Globe columnist Shirley Leung. Maybe so, but riders seem willing to pony up only if better service is on the table.


Olympics numbers rebound

After declining sharply through February and March, support for Boston's bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics edged slightly higher in new WBUR poll. This month, 40 percent of voters in the Boston area support the bid, compared to 50 percent opposed. In the City of Boston, support now leads opposition (47/41), a flip from last month. Margins of error make it difficult to know for sure whether the apparent increase in support is due to a change in opinion or statistical noise. Nonetheless, the fact that the numbers appear to have stopped falling will no doubt give some comfort to Olympic supporters.

But support in Boston remains below the levels recorded in other potential host cities. A recent poll in Hamburg found 64 percent support for their bid. In February, Paris newspaper found 73 percent in France support hosting the games. Boston 2024 may have stopped the bleeding, but it still has a ways to go when compared to its European rivals.

Support can appear much higher in countries with less of a tradition of democratic participation. A literally incredible 94 percent in China back their nation's bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics, including 99.5 percent in Zhangjiakou, which would host the games with Beijing.




Event Alert

On April 22, the Cambridge Forum is hosting Michael Dimock of the Pew Research Center to talk about Pew's study on political polarization. The event starts at 7pm at the First Parish Church, 1446 Mass. Ave. in Cambridge and is free.


Tsarnaev Trial

CBS finds twice as many Americans favor the death penalty than life in prison for now-convicted Marathon Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a mirror image of what we found when polling Bostonians in March.

Meanwhile, Pew finds support for the death penalty generally matching a 40-year low.

We will have new numbers on this later today for WBUR.



In case you hadn't heard, Hillary Clinton is running for president. But are Americans ready for Hillary? Nate Silver puts her chances of winning the White House at 50/50, while his colleague Harry Enten notes Clinton's favorables have been moving in sync with President Obama's for some time.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post's Phillip Bump analyzes recent swing state polling from Quinnipiac that suggests Clinton's lead is slipping.

But at least in terms of the Democratic primary, HuffPost Pollster argues Clinton is starting from a better position than she did in the 2008 cycle.

Last but not least, the Post has created it's very own Hillary font (or "Hillvetica") slogan generator based on the Clinton campaign's now (in)famous H logo.


Republican Presidential Primary

On the GOP sides, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio have joined Ted Cruz as officially declared candidates. FiveThirtyEight is bullish on Rubio, despite his lackluster poll numbers so far.

Pollster Matt Barreto notes that Rubio has a net negative favorable rating with Latino voters.

As for Rand, Mark Blumenthal notes he starts with good name recognition and favorables, but Nate Cohn of TheUpshot doubts that the libertarian wing of the party is developed enough to carry him to victory.

Polling for USA Today, fellow Massachusetts pollster Suffolk University finds a wide-open GOP race, with no candidates winning higher than single-digit support.


Welfare Reform

YouGov finds a majority of Americans support restrictions on what welfare funds generally, but oppose two of the three specific changes now being implemented in Kansas.

Meanwhile, the WaPo WonkBlog analyzes a new federal survey on household spending by income bracket and finds "no evidence that the poor are wasting their money on delicacies."



FiveThirtyEight tracks the rise and fall of various spices since the 1970s. Turmeric, so hot right now.

And WonkBlog uses Google Trends to track the rise of brunch.



Suffolk University/USA today finds nearly three-quarters of Americans think Congress should have a role in approving the Obama administration's deal with Iran

Just in time for Tax Day, Gallup finds that Americans' views on tax fairness split along income lines. Also, a majority think that upper-income Americans are paying too little in taxes.

Pew is out with a major study on the projected global growth of major religions. Sadly, "Jedi" was not included.

Pew also released a detailed look at party affiliation by demographics, drawing on 25,000 interviews conducted during 2014.


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MPG in CommonWealth

We have an article in the latest issue of CommonWealth Magazine about how online surveys are challenging the underpinning of traditional, probability-based polling. Check it out if you want a primer on the statistical theory behind polling and why the shift to online surveys is such a big deal in the public opinion research world.


A Call for Transportation Data Transparency

This week MPG President Steve Koczela presented our polling and data analysis on transportation before a State Senate informational session. (You can download Steve's slides on our website.) In addition to recapping our recent WBUR polls about the MBTA and our earlier research on funding sources for transportation, Steve also called for better and more transparent data around transportation. In particular, he cited wildly varying estimates of Commuter Rail ridership, misleading stats on the Commuter Rail's recovery from the winter and on dropped bus trips, and questions about employee absentee data in the MBTA panel's report.

We think releasing data to the public will increase confidence in decision-making, while letting government and media benefit from free data analysis and interpretation. Not that hackathons and crowdsourced analysis will solve all the T's problems, but they couldn't hurt.