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WBUR Poll: On Syrian Refugees, Mass. Voters Split Along Party Lines

Syrian refugee children run at a temporary refugee camp on Nov. 28 in Irbil, Iraq. (Seivan M. Salim/AP)
Syrian refugee children run at a temporary refugee camp on Nov. 28 in Irbil, Iraq. (Seivan M. Salim/AP)
This article is more than 7 years old.

Massachusetts voters have conflicting feelings when it comes to Syrian refugees and their vetting by the U.S. government, despite recent federal efforts to better explain how refugees are screened, a WBUR survey has found. And those feelings are largely divided along party lines.

The new poll (topline, crosstabs) surveyed 504 registered voters across the state, asking about the screening process for Syrian refugees and whether or not those refugees should be accepted into Massachusetts.

A plurality of Massachusetts voters, 46 percent, say they do not believe the vetting process for Syrian refugees is sufficient. But a slight majority, however (54 percent), say Syrian refugees who pass that exact U.S. government's screening process should be accepted into the state.

Steve Koczela, president of the MassINC Polling Group, which conducted the poll for WBUR, says the numbers show that while voters have real concerns, they also feel a commitment to some sort of ideal.

"There are a lot of people who either don't know if the process is sufficient or who think it's not sufficient, but still think it's important that Massachusetts accept refugees," he said.

Koczela says there's also a distinct political pattern among many of the responses.

"The most interesting thing to me was the sharp partisan split on these questions," the pollster said. "We've seen some evidence of it in the way that politicians at the national level are approaching this issue, but you see it in public opinion as well."

According to the survey, 75 percent of Massachusetts Republican voters don't think the refugee vetting process for Syrians is sufficient. That's compared with just 33 percent of Democrats who say the same thing.

Republicans and Democrats also disagree when it comes to resettling Syrian refugees in their city or town. Sixty-eight percent of GOP voters are opposed, compared with just 30 percent of Democratic voters.

Koczela says those numbers add up.

"There's the perception among Republican voters, that the screening process is not sufficient," he said. "If you start with that as your premise, then you can understand why they would be reluctant to accept Syrian refugees that have only been vetted through a screening process that they view as not adequate."

Overall, voters are essentially split when it comes to the idea of resettling Syrian refugees in their own hometown: 47 percent support the idea, while 43 percent are opposed.

The poll was conducted Nov. 30-Dec. 2, as the White House proposed offering governors reports about refugees resettled in their states. The administration's outreach came after more than two dozen governors, including Gov. Charlie Baker, said that in the wake of the Paris terror attacks, they were opposed to resettling additional Syrian refugees.

The live telephone poll has a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.

This segment aired on December 4, 2015.


Shannon Dooling Twitter Investigative Reporter
Shannon Dooling was an investigative reporter at WBUR, focused on stories about immigration and criminal justice.



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