IN 2020, Massachusetts handed Joe Biden a 35-point victory over then-President Donald Trump, the second largest margin for the Democrat of any state. So it’s all the more remarkable that a new CommonWealth Beacon poll (topline, crosstabs) finds now-President Biden looking shaky in the Bay State, where just 47 percent of residents say they approve of the job he is doing in the White House. Nearly the same number (46 percent) say they disapprove. These figures echo other recent Massachusetts surveys, none of which carry good news for the Biden camp.
Comparing his job approval to the 64 percent of the Massachusetts vote Biden got in 2020 yields a 17-point gap. Put another way, a huge swath of voters who cast their ballots for Biden don’t like what they see. That is different from the last Democratic president at the same point in his term, when Barack Obama’s job approval was still within 6 points of his vote total. Obama’s approval and favorability in Massachusetts were typically in the 50s and 60s.
Digging into the numbers by party identification shows the shape of the challenge for Biden. He actually has just about as many fans among Democrats and independents when compared to other statewide leaders. But Republicans are almost completely against him, while Democratic statewide leaders in Massachusetts still have around a fifth or so of the state’s GOP in their corner. Additionally, Biden’s negatives are greater across all three groups compared to other leaders.
When it comes to national politics, Massachusetts is as blue as they come, and there is no suggestion that a Republican has a realistic chance of pulling off an upset and carrying the state in the 2024 presidential contest. However, modest ratings in Massachusetts portend dismal ratings in states where the election will be decided.
Warren stable: Elizabeth Warren, who also faces reelection in 2024, remains about where she’s always been, with 51 percent offering positive reviews of her job performance, and 35 percent saying the opposite.
Since early in her first term, Warren’s favorables and job approval have tended to be in the low to mid-50s, with her unfavorables in the 30s. In 2018, with similar numbers early on in the cycle, Warren ran up a 24-point margin against perennial Republican statewide candidate and perennial shellac-victim Geoff Diehl.
Recent reports suggest difficulty recruiting a GOP Senate candidate for this cycle, and a recent poll showing Warren against a generic Republican finds her with a 25-point edge.
Healey grows, slowly: Gov. Maura Healey is moving into a stronger position when it comes to her own numbers, with 54 percent approval and 28 percent disapproval. Earlier in her term, she struggled some with name recognition among less engaged voters, a challenge that hasn’t entirely gone away.
Other polls we at the MassINC Polling Group conduct often just ask about political leaders by name, without job title. In a recent poll without job titles included, we found 10 percent said they had “never heard of” Maura Healey in addition to 18 percent who had heard of her but could not rate her performance.
Sailing to a 34-point blowout victory last year (also against Geoff Diehl) followed by a lower profile start to her term has left more voters in the uncertain column than was the case for her predecessor.
State Legislature coasts: Legislative delays, inaction, and half measures in the face of serious statewide issues are fairly common occurrences in Massachusetts. But when asked by journalists, legislative leaders can (probably truthfully) say they are not hearing the same urgency from their constituents. The state Legislature draws the approval of 49 percent of residents, with 31 percent disapproving of their job performance. This is lower than their 65 percent peak from a few years back but still adequate.
Alongside a positive approve/disapprove ratio is the fact that there is very little chance of electoral consequences for legislative action – or inaction. Massachusetts has for several cycles had among the least competitive legislative elections in the country. Democrats currently hold 134 of the 160 House seats and Republicans claim just 3 seats in the 40-member Senate. With 72 percent of Democrats offering their approval for the body (11 percent disapprove) and lawmakers facing little chance of electoral opposition, there is not much chance any of them will be sent packing if they push consideration of a big bill off to the next session.
Steve Koczela is president of the MassINC Polling Group.