Strong Support For Sick Time Ballot Measure, WBUR Poll Finds

 Updated September 24, 2014, 8:00 am

A new WBUR poll finds strong support for a ballot question that would allow every employee in Massachusetts — part- and full-time — to accrue and use sick time.

The weekly tracking survey, conducted by The MassINC Polling Group, finds 56 percent of respondents said they would back the proposal, compared to just 25 percent opposed. Another 18 percent are undecided.

The support is broad-based, according to the poll. Majorities of Democratic and unenrolled respondents back the measure, as do a plurality of Republicans. Sixty-three percent of female voters favor giving employees sick time, as do 50 percent of men.

WBUR’s survey is believed to be the first public poll of the question, according to MassINC pollster Steve Koczela.

The proposal, ballot Question 4, would establish a system for both paid and unpaid sick time, depending on an employer’s size.

If it passes, employers would have to provide a minimum of one hour of sick time per 30 hours worked. Employees of companies with 10 or fewer workers would accrue up to 40 hours of unpaid sick time per calendar year, while employees of larger companies would accrue up to 40 hours of paid sick time per calender year.

Workers could use sick time for themselves, or to assist an immediate family member.

Supporters say the measure increases employee productivity and decreases turnover and prevents some workers from losing money — and perhaps their job — when they are sick.

Opponents take issue with the ballot question’s one-size-fits-all mandate, and say it would harm small businesses — especially coming after a planned hike in the minimum wage.

The question has become an issue among the top two gubernatorial candidates, as Democrat Martha Coakley has criticized Republican Charlie Baker for not backing the measure.

The WBUR poll finds overwhelming support among likely Coakley voters, 69 percent in favor to 11 percent against, while Baker backers are narrowly opposed, 37 percent to 44 percent. Voters undecided in the governor’s race support the sick time measure by a margin of 61-19.

To pollster Koczela, the findings show a delicate balancing act Baker is attempting on the issue, in lights of its bipartisan backing.

The telephone survey of 502 likely voters, conducted Sept. 16-21, has a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.

Tomorrow, we’ll release full results and crosstabs from our WBUR weekly tracking poll, and stay tuned for more WBUR coverage of the earned sick time ballot question.

Update: Here are the full poll results and the crosstabs.

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