Monday, July 10, 2006

Patrick Leads First State House News Poll

Holy cow. The State House News has released the internals and the executive summary of their bi-monthly poll, and the results are a big surprise. For the first time in that poll, not only does Democratic candidate Deval Patrick lead the primary, but also polls the highest against Republican Kerry Healey.

The usual caveats apply to the Statehouse News poll. It's a poll of residents, so by the time you drill down to registered Democratic primary voters, the sample size is much smaller and the margins of error are much higher. Still, it's valuable to look at the trends -- and they continue to be bad for Attorney General Tom Reilly. Here are the results of the poll since January.

Reilly has lost 40 points in this poll since the beginning of the year. He may end up winning the primary after all is said and done, but this trend has been fairly steady and replicated in almost every poll done over the course of the year.

Here are the results for the general election, with the May Results in parentheses.
 Chris GabrieliDeval PatrickTom Reilly
Kerry Healey30.30%(31.2%)30.50%(31.1%)31.30%(29.9%)
Christy Mihos9.20%(10.4%)9.30%(14.5%)12.60%(12.9%)
Grace Ross3.10%(NA)1.70%(NA)3.20%(NA)
Don't Know11.40%(15.2%)11.40%(17.4%)10.60%(13.0%)

Notice again the big jump for Deval Patrick since May. Patrick beats Kerry Healey for the first time in this poll since January -- before Christy Mihos and Chris Gabrieli were poll options. The other candidates remain mostly unchanged.

The poll also asked about the most important problem facing Massachusetts today. Here are the results of that, sorted by the response of the unenrolled voters, with "other" and "don't know" removed:
Health care7.40%8.20%8.40%1.80%
The economy6.50%5.30%8.30%1.80%
Affordable housing5.70%4.10%7.50%3.80%

I'm not surprised to see "taxes" as the number one issue, though "education" -- often a top contender -- is number two among independents. I'm wondering if the recent discussions of the state budget, which have largely focused on state spending, have moved taxes to the forefront of the voters' minds. Still, I can't help but feel that it's the property tax that hurts more than the state income tax. Don't make the mistake of thinking that the tax issue is just about the rollback. There's a whole package of taxes and fees that people have to pay, and unlike the payroll tax, those are things you actually have to make out a check for. It's also about trust. Will voters trust a Democrat to lower their taxes, no matter what he says his position is? That's the danger whether you're talking about lowering the income tax rate to 5.0% or lowering the property taxes -- will voters believe it? On top of that, the legislature is viewed unfavorably by two-thirds of the population. Does it even matter what a gubernatorial candidate says about taxes if people think the legislature is unlikely to do anything about them?