Nearly six in 10 likely Massachusetts voters support a proposed constitutional amendment to impose a higher tax rate on income above $1 million, while a smaller plurality back a new law allowing undocumented immigrants to acquire state-issued driver's licenses, according to a new poll.
A MassINC Polling Group survey of 987 likely voters published Thursday found 49% of voters would vote to keep in place driver's license access for all Bay Staters regardless of immigration status, compared to 37% who would vote to repeal the law before it takes effect on July 1, 2023. would vote to repeal the law before it takes effect on July 1, 2023.
Fourteen percent of respondents said they do not know how they would vote on the measure or refused to answer.
Democrats in the Legislature enacted the law, a similar version of which exists in 16 other states, this year over Republican Gov. Charlie Baker's veto. Buoyed by support from the state Republican Party, opponents quickly gathered enough signatures to put a proposed repeal question on the ballot.
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Previous polls about the topic have varied. In April, while the bill was making its way through the House and Senate, a Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll found registered voters nearly split on the legislation with 46.1% in support and 46.6% opposed. Another Suffolk/Globe survey in July reported 58% of registered voters on board with preserving the law and 34% hoping to repeal it.
MassINC conducted the new poll, sponsored by The Barr Foundation, between Oct. 5 and Oct. 14. The organization's senior research director Richard Parr said its margin of error was 3.2 percentage points.
Pollsters also found voters leaning toward "yes" on another one of the four questions that will be on the ballot, albeit with a larger margin.
Fifty-nine percent of voters said they would back imposing a 4% surtax on high earners, compared to 31% who would vote to keep the existing flat personal income tax rate and another 10% of voters who do not know or refused to say where they stand.
That represents a sizable lead for the measure with fewer than three weeks to go until the proposal reaches its key vote following a years-long, stop-start journey.
If the question prevails on Nov. 8, Massachusetts would continue to tax all personal income up to $1 million at the current rate of 5% and newly subject earnings above that threshold to an effective tax rate of 9%.
Analysts project the higher rate will generate $1.3 billion in annual revenue for the state, which the question seeks to direct toward transportation and education investments.
Asked to rate the condition of Massachusetts transportation, 52% responded "fair" and 26% responded "poor," while 18% said the system is in "good" condition and only 3% dubbed it "excellent."
How policymakers should fix those concerns is about as divided as can be: 47% of likely voters answered that Massachusetts needs only "to fix and maintain our current transportation system," while another 47% said "we need major changes to the way we get around in Massachusetts."
And despite the frustration apparent with the state's transportation system, most voters still favor Baker's approach to the issue as the top elected official: 64% strongly or somewhat approve his management of transportation issues, compared to 31% who strongly or somewhat disapprove.
"Voters are not happy with the state of transportation in Massachusetts, but they're not taking it out on Charlie Baker," Parr said. "It will be interesting to see if the next governor inherits Baker's suit of armor on this issue."
The MBTA has drawn much of the attention in recent months amid a federal investigation that flagged persistent safety issues and a month-long shutdown of the Orange Line, which a sizable majority of voters felt was worth the inconvenience, according to the MassINC poll.
In fact, 59% of respondents said they believe the T should focus on making repairs as quickly as possible, even if that entails shutting down entire subway lines. Thirty-two percent said the MBTA should keep subway lines open as much as possible, even if that extends the duration of repairs. Support was slimmer, but still a majority, among those who bore the brunt of the Orange Line closure. Among voters who said they were personally impacted by the shutdown, net support for faster repairs over keeping lines open was 10 percentage points; among voters not personally affected by the Orange Line diversion, net support for speedier maintenance was 34 percentage points.