The Topline: Winter Storm Trump hits Massachusetts

Welcome back to The Topline! Now that we’re through Election 2016, we decided to reboot the newsletter. Every two weeks we’ll round up the latest in national and Massachusetts polling, politics, and data.

Non-presidential years are usually about state and local politics. We have a Mayor’s race in Boston this year, and next year Governor Charlie Baker and Senator Elizabeth Warren are both up for reelection. It’s likely that a proposal to increase the state’s income tax on incomes over $1 million will also go before voters in 2018.

But the state and local concerns risk being snowed under by a blizzard coming up from Washington D.C. Three weeks in, it seems that local politicians’ reactions to the Trump administration may matter as much, or even more, than what they are doing for the Commonwealth.

To that end, this week we asked registered voters to rate several Massachusetts political figures’ reactions to Trump: are they being too critical of the new administration, not critical enough, or have they been pretty much on target so far? Our WBUR poll in January showed 41 percent think Trump will have a negative impact on the state, with just 20 percent seeing positive impacts. It may be hard to avoid confrontation if his policies start showing local impacts.


Voters are split on Governor Charlie Baker’s approach to handling Trump.  A plurality of voters think Charlie Baker has threaded the Trump-GOP needle pretty well so far. But a quarter overall, and a third of Democrats, think he hasn’t been critical enough. Another 19 percent are undecided, meaning these numbers could continue to shift as their complicated relationship unfolds.

Voters have been divided on Elizabeth Warren even since they got to know her in the 2012 campaign.  As would be expected, three-quarters of Republicans think she’s going too far in her dealings with Trump, while 61 percent of Democrats approve of her hardline stance. Warren’s #ShePersisted moment happened while this poll was in the field, so these figures don’t capture the fallout, positive or negative, of that moment.

Attorney General Maura Healey and Congressman Seth Moulton’s reactions to the Trump administration have not registered to the same degree. Far fewer express an opinion on their actions, despite the Healey joining a lawsuit against Trump’s travel ban, and Moulton calling Trump a draft dodger. It won’t stop insider speculations about who’s positioning themselves for what and when, but these acts of resistance haven’t broken through to the same extent as Baker and Warren’s actions (or lack thereof).

Not all state-level politics have been buried by Trump news. Nearly two-thirds of voters know that lawmakers voted to increase their pay. Republicans (82 percent) are particular tuned into this issue. This high level of awareness suggests that voters have not been completely distracted by the Trump administration. So there’s some hope that local issues will emerge from the snow and matter over the next couple of years.


This poll was conducted by The MassINC Polling Group. Live telephone interviews were conducted February 6-8, 2017 among 704 registered voters in Massachusetts. Click here for crosstabs..


Speaking of Trump, Steve Koczela argues in Commonwealth that, despite misses in 2016, polling matters now more than ever. It’s a conduit for the voice of the people, and brings those voices to powerful people in ways nothing else can match.

Our latest poll for WBUR, keyed to the inauguration, found that Massachusetts voters were not very confident in the new president, and looked ahead to Baker and Warren’s prospects for reelection.

And last month, as Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson announced his run for Mayor, we examined his prospects for unseating Mayor Walsh.


The Gallup daily tracker has Trump still underwater; 43 percent approve of his job performance, while 52 disapprove. That’s the worst start of any president where comparable polling exists.

Despite railing against them, it turns out Trump can’t quit polls – even, to quote Sean Spicer, “the whole crosstab thing.”

HuffPollster notes there’s considerable variation across different pollsters, but overall Trump’s approval numbers are getting worse, not better.

There’s variation on Trump’s travel ban as well, driven largely by how the question is worded. POLITICO’s Steve Shepard looks at how these different polls are being used by both sides in the debate over the policy.

Americans view Islam less negatively than they did a year ago. “Last March, Americans were 42 points more likely to view the religion negatively than they were to view it positively. That gap dropped to 33 points by June, and to 20 points in the most recent survey, the lowest it’s been since HuffPost/YouGov surveys first asked the question nearly two years ago.”

Gallup finds that two-thirds of Americans think other world leaders don’t have much respect for the new President.

On the other hand, the London-based Chatham House finds a majority of Europeans would “support a Trump-style ban on further migration from mainly Muslim countries”.

Master troll-pollster Public Policy Polling is out with their latest national poll. One highlight: 51 percent of Trump voters think that the non-existent Bowling Green Massacre is a good justification for the Trump administration’s travel ban.

According to a recent Washington Post poll, 25 percent of adults are intending to become more involved in politics. Thirty-five percent of Democrats, and 40 percent of Democratic women, say they will increase their involvement.

The closely watched Onion Poll finds that at least the cockroaches think things are moving in the right direction.

------------------Nerd Alert Tearline: SCOTUS Special Edition-----------------

Politicians live and die in the court of public opinion. So can SCOTUS nominations.

A recent Forbes article looks at how Ronald Reagan’s failed nomination of conservative Robert Bork marked a turning point in the use of polling around Supreme Court nominations.

Morning Consult and POLITICO find 59 percent of registered voters believe Supreme Court nominees should be required to receive 60 votes to be confirmed. The sentiment was strongest among Democrats (72 percent) is also shared by 45 percent of Republicans.

CNN finds that 49 percent of Americans think Trump’s nominee Neil Gorsuch should be confirmed. That’s just below the 52 percent that blocked Obama nominee Merrick Garland received when his name was put forward.