The vast majority of residents in the deep blue state of Massachusetts approve of their Republican governor's handling of the coronavirus crisis, polling data shows.
Some 84 percent of respondents said they approved of how Gov. Charlie Baker has handled the coronavirus outbreak in the state in a poll conducted by Suffolk University. Of the Massachusetts residents who participated, roughly 46 percent identify as Democrats, 13 percent as Republicans and 37 percent as Independents. The remainder were either undecided or declined to answer.
More than 85 percent said they support Baker's decision to extend the stay-at-home advisory and statewide shutdown of nonessential businesses to May 18, despite nearly half -- 46 percent -- who said the pandemic has diminished their income.
And two-thirds of respondents said they are prepared to wait the pandemic out either three months or even indefinitely.
"Indefinitely is a powerful response," said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston, adding that he'd thought people would be at the end of their rope with social distancing.
Boston resident Daniel Friedrich is one of those who isn't completely done with the stay-at home order despite skyrocketing unemployment and boarded-up main streets.
"It’s definitely the right thing to do and I’m very OK with it," he said.
But people like Stephen Seery say enough economic devastation has been done and Massachusetts should open up, as 19 other states have done.
“I think it’s ridiculous," he said. "Three stores I’m familiar with up the street, they’re all closed, they're hurting."
And some business owners, at risk of losing their life work, feel it’s easy to support the restrictions if you’re working from home and getting a paycheck.
“It’s kind of a have and have-not economy at this point. That to me is extremely sad,” said Larry Doyle, owner of the Swansea Country Club.
Even when Massachusetts does reopen, more than seven out of 10 residents said they won’t be comfortable going to the movies or concerts, sporting events and taking public transportation, the numbers show.
“These data can inform politicians, sports team owners and business organizations as they consider how to emerge from the current restrictions once public health indicators deem it safe,” Paleologos said. “The large percentages of people who rule out going to an athletic event or riding public transportation suggest that even as businesses reopen it will not be business as usual.”
Weighing in on mail-in voting, 74 percent of residents supported conducting upcoming Massachusetts elections entirely by mail, and 21 percent opposed. The response broke sharply along party lines, with 84 percent of Democrats and 82 percent of independents supporting it, compared to 14 percent of Republicans.
Poll respondents saw themselves as more vigilant about social distancing than their neighbors, with 69 percent saying they are very strict about social distancing and 24 percent saying they are pretty strict. However, when asked how strict other people are, only 12 percent said very strict and 51 percent pretty strict.
Nearly 41 percent of respondents say they wear a mask or face covering any time they are outside of their home, including walking outdoors, and 52 percent said they wear masks when they are inside public spaces like grocery stores. Seven percent said they rarely or never wear masks or face coverings.
Baker's high ratings come despite some protests calling on him to immediately reopen the economy.
Hundreds of protesters on Monday came to the Massachusetts State House on Monday to call on Baker to lift his declaration of a state of emergency and stay-at-home advisory aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus.
Baker has said his administration is waiting for a sustained decrease in coronavirus cases before any reopening of the economy.
And former State Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez agreed, saying re-opening now is not the answer: “I don’t think we can afford to do that yet. Especially here in Massachusetts where, per capita, we are affected more than most states.”