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NEPM wants to know what you think are the top priority issues in western Massachusetts.

UMass Poll: Strong support for Healey, East-West Rail

Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey talks through details of her fiscal 2024 budget proposal at a Statehouse news conference Wednesday, which included her budget chief Secretary Matthew Gorzkowicz, at right.
Sam Doran
State House News Service
Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey talks through details of her fiscal 2024 budget proposal at a Statehouse news conference Wednesday, which included her budget chief Secretary Matthew Gorzkowicz, at right.

Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey’s approval rating stands at 57% as she nears the 100-day mark of her administration. That's the result of a new poll from UMass Amherst and WCVB.

The poll also looked at the issues voters are most concerned about, and where they stand on parts of Healey’s platform.

Tatishe Nteta, director, UMass Poll: She's clearly in a honeymoon phase where there's little in terms of substance to critique the governor on. But as we're getting closer to likely disagreements regarding her budget priorities and her tax code changes, the likelihood of these approval ratings staying at their relatively high level is low.

Whether or not they will get lower than Sen. Markey or Sen. Warren or even President Joe Biden is still a story to be told.

Kari Njiiri, NEPM: When you asked folks for the one issue they want Healey to focus on in her first year in office, there was a clear favorite.

We had a number of issues from inflation to immigration to crime to reproductive rights, taxes, income inequality. And the overwhelming favorite is the housing shortage and housing affordability.

This is a problem, of course, not just in the eastern part of the state, but it's a problem throughout the state, whether you're in the South Shore or here in western Massachusetts. If Governor Healey can deal with this issue, first the housing shortage, which is affecting first time homebuyers, but also individuals who are looking to downsize, right? Or housing affordability, the rising costs of purchasing a home. If she can do this, it likely will cement her status not just as a successful first-term governor, but potentially could ensure a second term as governor.

We've been asking our audience to write in and let us know about their hopes for a Healey administration. We've got big responses about two issues that you asked about. Let's start with East-West Rail.

Yeah, we've been asking a question regarding level of support for the construction of high-speed rail that connects the eastern part of the state with the western part of the state, for about 3 or 4 years. And we consistently see strong majorities in support of the construction of this high-speed rail-train service between Springfield and Boston, and really connecting Pittsfield to the eastern part of the state.

And this is true, which is extremely surprising for us, given the partisan divide that we see within the state and in the nation, conservatives and Republicans, majorities of both of those groups, support the construction of an East-West rail. And so, this seems to be one of those unique issues for which partisan division is not the leading cause of a lack of movement.

We've also heard a large audience response about Healey's campaign promise to put a temporary moratorium on commercial logging in state forests. You polled on this as well. What did respondents say?

I think respondents here are of two minds. We have about 48% who support the moratorium on commercial logging. But we have a very high percentage of people who are found in the middle, they neither support nor oppose. There's about 37% of respondents who are there in the middle. And I think this is a reflection of a lack of saliency of this issue, so it has not risen to the top of the agenda.

And I think, as we move forward and there's a chance for the Legislature to weigh in, there's a chance for opponents of Gov. Healey to weigh in, I think we'll see a crystallization of this particular opinion. Whether or not that's going to push to higher levels of opposition — and right now only 15% express opposition to this moratorium — I think is going to be the story of the next few months.

Kari Njiiri is a senior reporter and longtime host and producer of "Jazz Safari," a musical journey through the jazz world and beyond, broadcast Saturday nights on NEPM Radio. He's also the local host of NPR’s "All Things Considered."
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