WBUR Poll: With Trump Dominant, Signs Of A Shifting Mass. Republican Party

Download Audio

With a new WBUR poll finding President Trump running away with the Republican presidential primary in Massachusetts, there are signs of a historic change underway in the state's Republican Party.

The WBUR poll finds Trump leading his challenger, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, 83% to 14%. The poll of 374 likely Republican primary voters (topline, crosstabs) was conducted Feb. 23-26, and has a margin of error of 5.1%. (We also polled in the Democratic primary.)

Among Trump's wide base of support in the state is Boston's Janice Hurd, who retired from a career in nuclear medicine.

"I would like to see the wall built," Hurd says. "I see him accomplishing things. Now, do I believe he's perfect? Absolutely not. I think he's a bit of a bully."

"He's been a big change for the country, and he's not just your average politician," says Michael Lane, a retired truck driver in Pembroke and also a Trump supporter. "He's upset the balance of the status quo."

Lane prefers Trump's style of leadership over the top Republican in the state, Gov. Charlie Baker.

"Charlie Baker seems to lean more towards the liberal side," Lane says. "And Trump is just a breath of fresh air."

It's not just that the overwhelming number of Republican voters intend to vote for Trump. It's that the Republican Party in Massachusetts has transformed in four brief years.

In 2016, Trump won the Massachusetts primary, but with just 49%.

His support is now overwhelming: 82% of likely Republican primary voters have a favorable view of him, compared to only 50% for Baker.

"The party here is Donald Trump's party," says Steve Koczela, president of the MassINC Polling Group, which conducted the survey for WBUR. "Sometimes, it's harder to see, because Charlie Baker is a Republican governor and is incredibly popular, but when it comes to the committed base of the Republican Party, it is Trump's party."

The WBUR poll finds the state's two Republican governors who have stood up to Trump, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, who voted to convict Trump in his impeachment trial, and Weld, who is running against Trump, are extremely unpopular with Massachusetts Republicans.

"Bill Weld ran one of the largest electoral margins in history as Republican governor of Massachusetts, but now, you look at his favorables, and among Republicans, his own partisans, he's way under water when you compare who view him favorably to the number who view him unfavorably," says Koczela.

Baker is in fact much more popular among likely Democratic primary voters than he is among Republicans. And he's more popular among Weld supporters, like Laura Yager.

"Charlie Baker at least seems to listen to people and listen to his advisers, whereas Donald Trump seems to make an emotional decision, then runs with it no matter what anybody seems to tell him," says Yager.

Yager, a retired bookkeeper in Framingham, says she feels Weld did a good job as governor of the state, which is part of the reason he has her support.

"He was pretty level. He's very smart. He got a lot of good things done for Massachusetts, and I really hate Donald Trump," she says. "He doesn't have any of the qualities that I think a president should have: integrity, honor, intelligence."

For decades, as the Republican Party nationally moved right, New England Republicans clung to their traditions of fiscal conservatism and social liberalism. That old Yankee Republican Party, once a hallmark of Massachusetts, appears to to be gone, swept away by Trump.

This segment aired on February 28, 2020.


Headshot of Fred Thys

Fred Thys Reporter
Fred Thys reported on politics and higher education for WBUR.



More from WBUR

Listen Live