Poll: Here’s the top issue for Mass. — and how residents think Healey is handling it


Gov. Maura Healey’s approval rating remains unchanged and high, but Bay Staters have some concerns.

A picture of Gov. Maura Healey of Massachusetts in front of a microphone at a podium.
Gov. Maura Healey’s approval rating was at 58%, according to the latest UMass Amherst/WCVB poll. But respondents were worried about the state of housing and Healey’s handling of it. David L Ryan/Boston Globe

More than half of voting-age Bay Staters approve of Maura Healey’s performance as Massachusetts governor, but some unfixed issues in the commonwealth weighed heavy on voters’ minds, according to the latest UMass Amherst/WCVB poll.

Released Monday, the poll surveyed 700 residents from Oct. 13 to Oct. 20, with 58% approving of Healey’s performance. Slightly more than a quarter disapproved of Healey, while 15% said they didn’t know if they approved or disapproved. 

Healey’s approval rating was just 1% lower in April, the last time UMass Amherst/WCVB conducted the poll. Jesse Rhodes, a political science professor at UMass Amherst, told Boston.com that Healey’s unchanged approval rating is maybe the most interesting data point to come out of the new poll and therefore shouldn’t be understated.

“That’s actually a not-insignificant achievement,” Rhodes said. “She’s had to make more decisions. She’s also had to deal with both long-standing issues within the state, such as transportation and housing, but also the emergence of very new but salient issues, such as a pretty significant increase in migrants, immigrants, and asylum seekers within the state.”

Not surprising, those were some of the top issues that concerned respondents and that they thought — despite her steady overall approval rating — Healey had not done enough to correct.

Respondents were asked to pick one issue out of nine that they believe needs to be addressed, with 31% picking housing shortage and affordability. The next highest was immigration at 12%.

When asked how well Healey is doing at addressing the housing issue, only 6% said very well and 22% for somewhat well. The percentage of respondents who answered “not too well” and “not well at all” were higher — 27% and 24%, respectively — while 22% said they didn’t know. 

In past polls, Rhodes said housing issues have been a top reason residents have considered leaving the state.

Some of the survey was conducted before Healey unveiled a $4 billion housing bond bill that aims to make affordable housing more available in the state, through changed policy around transfer fees and zoning ordinances. The bill still must get approval from the state legislature, and it’s expected that the bill won’t earn support from real estate groups, Axios Boston reports. 

The bill — and people’s worries about Massachusetts housing — come at a time when the median cost of a single-family home in the state is more than $600,000, and in Greater Boston is just below $800,000. 

The availability of affordable housing has vied with another issue on voters’ minds: the migrant crisis.

Of the 700 respondents who gave their thoughts about how well Healey was handling the surge in migrants coming to Massachusetts, 7% said very well, 31% said somewhat well, 15% said not too well, and 26% said not well at all. A fifth of residents surveyed said they didn’t know. 

Just last week Healey said during a press conference that the state had no more room for more migrants seeking shelter and again called on the Biden administration for assistance to accommodate the thousands of families in need. 

Some respondents were also not too pleased with the current state of transportation and the MBTA. But as Politico points out, many of the current transit and infrastructure issues were ones Healey was saddled with from the previous administration. 

On the topic of Healey’s predecessor, the poll asked the 700 surveyed how they feel the current Democratic governor has handled Massachusetts’s top issues compared to former Republican Gov. Charlie Baker. 

Respondents said Baker did a better job with the economy and taxes, while Healey has done a better job handling climate change and reproductive rights. 

However, the poll also captured more positive than negative responses when it came to thoughts on the economy under Healey. 

Of the 700 respondents asked about the economy, 10% said Healey is handling it very well, 38% said somewhat well, 12% said not too well, and 20% said not well at all. A fifth responded that they didn’t know. 

“The Massachusetts economy has been fairly robust and at or above the growth rates for the nation as a whole,” Rhodes said. “When you see that happening, people are going to be fairly satisfied with the economy in the state.”

Healey also earned similarly high marks when it came to education. 

And when compared to other public officials, such as U.S. senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, the entire state legislature, and state Attorney General Andrea Campbell, Healey’s approval rating of 58% ranked at the top.

When looking at a breakdown of the Bay Staters polled, 52% were women, 41% were older than 55, the majority had a college or postgraduate degree, most voted Democrat — 67% for Biden in the 2020 presidential election — and 78% were white.