Gov. Charlie Baker continues to enjoy the kind of approval ratings that most politicians can only dream of.
It's a much different story for President Trump, who remains strikingly unpopular in the state: Just 29 percent of voters here approve of the job he's doing.
The survey offers a study in contrasts. On the one hand, Baker, a low-key, moderate Republican governor, working effectively with Beacon Hill Democrats, has become the most popular politician in Massachusetts — and perhaps the most popular governor in the country. On the other hand, Trump, a controversial Republican president, working with a Republican Congress, has historically low approval ratings nationally, and rock-bottom approval ratings in the state.
"Charlie Baker and Donald Trump are pretty much as far apart as you can get in terms of their poll numbers,” says Steve Koczela, president of the MassINC Polling Group, which conducted the WBUR survey.
The live telephone poll of 504 registered voters was conducted Friday through Sunday. It has a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.
Baker has had impressively high approval ratings from the moment he took office. That continues today: 74 percent approval, while only 13 percent of voters disapprove of the job he's doing.
What is perhaps most striking about this is that most politicians would expect approval numbers like that to come down over time. "That hasn't really happened to Charlie Baker,” Koczela says. “Three years in, and three quarters of voters approve of the job that he is doing. That's just an incredible number.”
With 11 months before election day, Baker gets high marks from voters like Lucas Sturm, an independent who lives in Groton.
"I think he's done a good job," says Sturm, who voted for Baker, and who says he is especially impressed with the way the Republican governor is able to work with Democrats on Beacon Hill. "That's probably one of the most important things: being able to work across party [lines] and not follow just the agenda of one party."
The poll makes it clear that in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 3 to 1 margin, Baker is getting not only support from independents like Sturm — but also from lots of Democrats, like Eleanor Jones, also of Groton.
"He's there for everybody,” says Jones, who gives Baker credit for trying to tackle the opioid epidemic. “He’s trying his best. I think he's a good guy. I think he's going to be around for quite some time."
Jones voted for Baker three years ago and says she intends to vote for him again in November.
If Baker is riding a wave of popularity in this state, the WBUR poll found that his three Democratic challengers — Setti Warren, Bob Massie and Jay Gonzalez — are struggling to get their heads above water.
Claire O'Neil, a Democrat from Shirley, offers evidence of that.
O'Neil works in public education and doesn't support Baker because she says he is not doing enough to support public schools. But ask her if she is aware of the three Democrats running to replace him, and she hesitates.
"I am, but I cannot recall their names off the top of my head,” she says.
O’Neil represents lots of voters, many of whom, according to the poll, can't identify Massie, Warren or Gonzalez. According to the poll, 65 percent of voters have never heard of Massie, 68 percent have never heard of Warren, and 72 percent have never heard of Gonzalez.
“That's a huge number of people who have never even heard of the would-be challengers to Charlie Baker,” pollster Koczela says.
If Baker's positive numbers have remained remarkably durable, the same can be said of Trump's negative numbers. Sixty-five percent of Massachusetts voters disapprove of the job he's doing, while less than a third approve.
According to the WBUR poll, a majority think he's been bad for: the country overall (59 percent); relationships with other nations (66 percent); the environment (61 percent); and race relations (65 percent).
"We compared those numbers on the same questions we asked a year ago, and pretty much on every measure, people think that Trump's presidency has been even worse than they anticipated,” Koczela says.
The one somewhat positive number for Trump is that a plurality of Massachusetts voters (43 percent) say the president has been good for the overall economy.
"The economy is booming -- wouldn't you say?” asks Kurt Richard of Millbury, who responded to the WBUR poll.
Richard says he supports everything the president has done, from appointing Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, to signing the Republican tax bill into law.
"My 401(k) [retirement account] for the year is up probably $25,000,” Richard says. “And I think a good economy benefits everyone, from the lower class all the way up to the upper class."
But according to the WBUR poll, a majority of Massachusetts voters oppose the new tax law, and 64 percent say it will mostly help the upper class.
- Challengers to Democratic U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren are also having trouble gaining name recognition. Here are the favorable and unfavorable ratings for Baker and Warren, and their respective challengers:
- 80 percent of respondents say Trump's use of Twitter is inappropriate.
- 62 percent of Massachusetts voters say Trump is unfit to be president.
- A majority of the state's voters — 54 percent — say it's a good idea that former Gov. Mitt Romney is considering running for U.S. Senate in Utah.
With reporting by WBUR's Benjamin Swasey
Correction: An earlier version of this post gave an incorrect last name for Kurt Richard. The post has been updated. We regret the error.
This article was originally published on January 10, 2018.
This segment aired on January 10, 2018.
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