The Topline: Solar's future's so bright it's gonna need shades

Governor Baker popped down the hall yesterday to testify in support of his administration’s bill lifting the cap on net metering for solar power projects. Net metering allows residents, businesses or municipalities to “sell back” solar power to the grid, lowering their electric bills, in some cases to the point where the power company actually owes them money. The aim of the policy is to provide an incentive for consumers to adopt solar power on their own properties, which in turn helps the state meet its goals of increasing renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In pressing for net metering and more hydroelectric power, Baker is racing against time to find new sources of power to keep the state’s economy humming while keeping on track to meet climate change targets. Facing the loss of several coal plants and one (or possibly two) nuclear plants in the region, interminable delays on projects such as Cape Wind, and controversy over the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline, easy solutions seem in short supply.

Polling suggests net metering, or anything to encourage solar, is likely to find a warm and sunny reception around the state. Voters are clear on what they want, and have remained consistent for the last few years. They strongly prefer renewable sources of energy over other options, and solar leads the way, according to MPG polling from 2014 and 2011. Natural gas and hydro are in the middle of the pack, with fossil fuels and nuclear trailing far behind. Solar’s shining reputation is not unique to Massachusetts voters. Both Gallup (in 2013) and Pew (in 2011) found solar as the energy source Americans are most eager to see developed.

Both in Massachusetts and around the country, people appear willing to put their money where their mouths are. In 2012, Gallup and Pew found Americans in favor of increased government spending on research into solar power and other renewables. In Massachusetts, majorities of voters have consistently said they would pay more on their power bills if it meant more renewable energy and less pollution.


The market for consumer solar seems to be catching up to these long-held preferences, with rooftop solar installations proceeding at a record pace. But if our polling is any indication, concern about climate change is not the chief driver of this demand. While those who believe in climate change said they were more likely to install solar panels, there was little difference between believers and doubters (to use the AP’s new term) in terms of actual installations.

Regardless of the motivations, it appears that solar adoption is finally at a point where consumers are acting on a preference they have held for some time. The question now is how far government will go to encourage that change.

MPG testifies on regional ballots for transportation

Yesterday was a big hearing day on Beacon Hill, and MPG got in the act, sharing several recent poll findings about regional ballots for transportation. Read MPG president Steve Koczela’s testimony.



Only 92 days to go until 2016 (the year, not the election)

A new NBC News / Wall Street Journal is out, and basically voters don’t like anybody or anything: not Hillary Clinton, nor the direction of the country, nor Donald Trump, nor the Republican Party. The thing they like most: Planned Parenthood.

Speaking of which, by more than a 2-to-1 margin, Americans want to maintain federal funding for Planned Parenthood, according to a new poll by fellow Massachusetts pollster Suffolk University for USA Today.

Fox News’ latest poll (conducted in part by our Beacon Street neighbors Anderson Robbins) finds Hillary Clinton’s favorability at a new low while Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina enjoy a post-debate surge.

The most recent UNH poll of the Democratic primary has more bad news for Clinton: Bernie Sanders is now leading in his neighboring state by 16 points. Joe Biden is pulling 14 percent, most of which is likely coming from Clinton’s support.

But enough about Hillary. WaPo’s The Fix wonders why more people aren’t talking about Jeb Bush’s cratering in the polls.

Also in the Post, Donald Trump takes his lumps from Philip Bump as his bump in the polls seems to be on the downward side of the hump. Harrumph.

We come to bury Boehner, not to praise him

The same day as Boehner announced his resignation, NBC News and the Wall Street Journal found that 72 percent of GOP primary voters were dissatisfied with both the Speaker and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

And yet, as the Globe’s Evan Horowitz reminds us, Boehner was no moderate when it compared to previous GOP Speakers.

Some additional insight into Boehner’s motivations: back in August PPP found him deeply unpopular in his home state of Ohio.

And no Boehner post-mortem would be complete without a slideshow of the soon-to-be ex-Speaker turning on the waterworks.

Everything's a Problem

The latest batch of Gallup surveys finds Americans basically in a crummy mood: they distrust the media and think Congress is corrupt and out of touch.

Gallup also found those who have graduated college since 2006 are less likely to think that their education was worth the cost than grads as a whole.

And finally, HuffPost/YouGov finds that nearly 30 percent of Americans, including 60 percent of Republicans, think it’s fair to oppose a candidate solely because they are Muslim.

But hey, how ‘bout that Pope?

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For what feels like the umpteenth time, pollsters gathered, this time in Baltimore, to discuss the state of the profession in the face of declining phone response rates and new online technologies. (We weighed in on the issue of phone versus online surveys some months back for CommonWealth Magazine.)

HuffPollster has a wrap up, as well as a summary of new research from Pew about the problem of “coverage error” in online surveys -- basically, who is excluded from being surveyed because they lack internet access. This follows another Pew study on “mode effect” -- differences in the way respondents answer certain questions or kinds of questions depending whether they take the survey via the phone or online.

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