WBUR Poll: Meager Mass. Support For Olympics, But Backing Rises For Statewide Games

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Reporters view a display of possible Olympic venue sites back in January. WBUR's latest poll on hosting the 2024 Summer Games finds support raises substantially under  the scenario of Olympic venues spread across the Bay State, rather than clustered around Greater Boston. (Charles Krupa/AP)
Reporters view a display of possible Olympic venue sites back in January. WBUR's latest poll on hosting the 2024 Summer Games finds support raises substantially under the scenario of Olympic venues spread across the Bay State, rather than clustered around Greater Boston. (Charles Krupa/AP)

A new WBUR poll (PDFs – topline, crosstabs) shows meager support across Massachusetts for the idea of hosting the 2024 Summer Olympic Games within the Boston region.

This is the first statewide Olympics survey conducted by WBUR, and it shows the lowest support level of any statewide poll published thus far.

However, support in the WBUR survey rises substantially under the scenario of Olympic venues spread across Massachusetts, rather than clustered around Boston.

In the poll, 49 percent of those surveyed oppose the notion of hosting the Olympics in the Boston region, with 39 percent in favor.

“To see support 10 points behind opposition just isn’t a number that I would imagine they’re going to be excited about,” pollster Steve Koczela said of the private organizing group Boston 2024. His MassINC Polling Group conducted the survey for WBUR.

But the opposition-to-support ratio flips when survey respondents are asked the following question:

Some have proposed spreading out the Olympic venues across Massachusetts. If the venues were spread out in this way, would you support or oppose the idea of bringing the Olympic Games to Massachusetts in 2024?

“Interestingly, we see support increase substantially when you talked about the idea of having a more statewide Olympics,” Koczela said.

Opposition to hosting the Olympics falls to 37 percent if venues were spread across the state, with 51 percent in support of hosting the games.

“So it seems to be a much more popular idea than the basic idea of hosting the Olympics [in Boston],” Koczela said.

Poll respondents offer some clues.

René Roy, a 74-year-old teacher at Central Catholic High School in Lawrence, says areas outside Boston could use an economic lift. “It would spread the wealth to a lot of these areas of Massachusetts [that] would truly benefit from a little boost in their tourist participation,” Roy said.

Last week, Boston 2024 announced plans to host Olympic sailing events in Buzzards Bay off of New Bedford, should the group win the hosting bid. The original venue plan had been Boston Harbor.

Notably, the WBUR poll shows that the region with the highest support for hosting the Olympics with a broader footprint is southeastern Massachusetts.

“There, support goes up to 66 percent, and opposition goes down to 25 percent, when you talk about … a more statewide games,” Koczela said.

The prospect of higher public support for venues statewide may factor into revisions to the bid underway at Boston 2024, which says it will unveil its new plan by the end of June. Boston 2024 has also agreed to abide by a statewide referendum on hosting the games.

Earlier polls conducted by WBUR in Greater Boston showed support fell sharply in the first few months of the year before ticking back up in April.

However, Koczela says while higher levels statewide in support of a more statewide-held Olympic Games may help defeat a referendum to end the bid, those levels still fall far short of a mandate to host the games.

“It’s still not the kind of number you’d want to see to really feel good about it,” Koczela said.

The United States Olympic Committee faces a September deadline to submit a U.S. host city bid to the International Olympic Committee.

“What matters most is, how does our support look compared to other [bid] cities internationally?” Koczela said. “And there, 51 percent is really not a good number.”

The WBUR poll shows opponents, when asked to describe the proposal, call it a bad idea and talk about financial concerns.

Poll respondent Erica Kostro, a 46-year-old tax attorney from Beverley, is a good example.

“I’m very grateful that I don’t think we’re going to win the bid,” Kostro said. “So I think this will end up being moot. I think it’s a bad idea, in short.”

Supporters, on the other hand, when asked to describe the Olympics proposal, talk about excitement for the idea and economic benefits.

In addition, the WBUR poll shows that Boston 2024’s new chairman, Steve Pagliuca, is largely unknown by respondents statewide. Sixty-six percent of respondents have never heard of him.

“From looking at the leaders, both current and past, is that people just don’t know who they are,” Koczela said. “There’s not a lot of attention being paid to [former Chairman] John Fish or Steve Pagliuca or [CEO] Rich Davey.”

The live interview phone survey, of 502 registered voters, was conducted June 4-6. It has a margin of error of 4.4 percent.

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