BOSTON (CBS) – In politics, polls come and go. Rarely do they provoke a morning coffee spit take.
But Wednesday’s Suffolk University/Boston Globe survey of public opinion on Governor Charlie Baker’s handling of the pandemic and the vaccination rollout is an exception.READ MORE: Massachusetts' 3 Casinos Have Encouraging Month In March
In our historically fervid “blame game” culture where we’re quick to jump ugly on politicians over their mistakes, this poll shows we feel good about the way things are going, with 64% saying the state is going in the right direction and only 23% saying we’re on the wrong track.
And Baker is surfing that wave. The impressive 67% approval of his overall performance and 58% approval of his vaccine distribution management are driven by three demographic groups: women, whose approval of his vaccine rollout is eight points higher than among men (a gender gap that shows up throughout the poll); Blacks (71% approval) and Hispanics (82%, highest approval rating in the poll). Baker has managed to build up credibility among groups that traditionally are the core of the Democratic base, and it’s paying off now.
After six weeks of crashing websites, frustrating waits and confusion, accompanied by intense criticism of Baker’s vaccination management, two million of us have now had at least one shot. And if you’ve had yours you can perhaps attest to the fact it’s a mood improver. The political chattering classes stunned by these numbers may have forgotten that most people are not on Twitter and do not live in a bubble. People have family or friends in other states who are sharing their horror stories, and 71% in the Suffolk/Globe poll believe we’ve done as well or better than them, putting Baker’s stumbles in context.READ MORE: Coronavirus In Massachusetts: Today's Developments
Baker’s constant harping on following the rules (such as social distancing and avoiding groups) clearly grates on Republicans, who consistently give the governor his lowest marks. Four in ten Republicans say they’re not strict about following those rules, double the overall number. But the poll shows Republicans live in a parallel universe, where things are going in the wrong direction and everything Baker does is bad.
While these results may be somewhat startling, they represent a continuation of the pandemic-era grasping for comfort and continuity in Massachusetts politics, from Joe Biden’s runaway win on Super Tuesday through Sen. Ed Markey’s defeat of Joe Kennnedy and the near-total incumbent sweep in legislative elections last fall. The voters for the most part are not angry and demanding change – if anything, they’re reaching for comfort food and staying the course.
And to the extent that we do want change, Baker has not been an impediment. He sought changes in recent high-profile reforms of policing rules and climate policy, but the bills got done.
Baker continues to benefit politically from the contrast between him and Congressional Republicans, between a functional Beacon Hill and a dysfunctional Capitol Hill. In fact, one implication of this survey is that Baker’s biggest hurdle to re-election if he seeks it could be surviving a Republican primary.MORE NEWS: Plainville Firefighter In Coma After Contracting COVID-19
Could that be setting the stage for the state’s first-ever serious statewide run by an independent candidate for governor? Stay tuned.