Poll finds racial tilt on government priorities

Black, Latino residents more supportive of interventions

BLACK AND LATINO residents of Massachusetts are more likely than white residents to support a stronger government intervention in society, according to a poll released Wednesday by the MassINC Polling Group.

The polling group, which is partly owned by the parent company of CommonWealth, asked voters what priorities of government they ranked as important in the long term, ranging from education to housing to health care. On every priority, more black and Latino voters characterized the topic as “very or somewhat important” than white voters.

“When you think about what the agenda is that the voters are telling us they want from government, black and Latino voters have a bigger to-do list,” said Rich Parr, research director for MassINC Polling Group.

Parr said this could be because black and Latino residents are experiencing problems and want a government response, or it could be an ideological difference – that minority residents think government should play a bigger role than white residents.

Some of the areas that voters overall ranked as less important – investing in communities of color and increasing state contracts with women and minority-owned businesses – were likely more important to minority respondents because they would be most affected. Overall, 41 percent of respondents ranked investing in communities of color as “very important,” compared to 67 percent of black respondents and 60 percent of Latinos. Just 35 percent of all respondents ranked increasing diversity in state contracting as very important compared to 63 percent of blacks and 56 percent of Latinos.

But even in areas that affect all residents, black and Latino respondents were more likely to list them as important government priorities. For example, 60 percent of white voters think it is very important for government to increase access to health care, compared to 70 percent of black voters. Among white voters, 55 percent ranked improving K-12 schools as very important, compared to 69 percent of Latinos. Less than half – 47 percent – of white voters ranked expanding access to affordable childcare as important, compared to 64 percent of black and Latino voters.

The poll also asked about government’s response to COVID-19 and found broad support for several interventions, with more than 80 percent of voters supporting emergency funding for COVID-19 testing and vaccinations, emergency paid sick leave, housing assistance, and funding to preserve transit for essential workers. Again, support was stronger among black and Latino voters.

The challenge of implementing these priorities, however, often comes down to funding. The state is expecting a tight budget year and the economy is in recession. Many businesses and individuals are struggling financially.

The poll asked about ways of raising new revenue and found the most support – around 70 percent – for raising the tax rate on income over $1 million and raising taxes on corporate profits. There was little support – less than 30 percent – for broader tax proposals, including raising the income, sales, or gas taxes or increasing tuition at public colleges.

Parr said there may be some dynamic of people wanting things but opposing taxes they themselves have to pay. But the survey also shows some notion of fairness at play.

Asked about attitudes toward taxes, between 55 and 60 percent of respondents think upper-income residents and large businesses do not pay enough in state taxes. (Even a majority of upper income earners said higher income households pay too little.)  At the same time, 51 percent of respondents said middle and low-income residents pay too much.

There is less of a split between white and minority voters on the revenue side, but there are some differences. Latinos are less likely to support a higher income surtax. Blacks and Latinos are more supportive of increasing the income tax rate and the sales tax.

The poll of 1,522 registered voters – including around 250 black voters and 250 Latino voters – was conducted December 8-20. The poll was sponsored by The Boston Foundation, The Hyams Foundation, King Boston, Amplify LatinX, BECMA, the Mass Budget and Policy Center, The Bridgewater State University Foundation, the Massachusetts Municipal Association, and individual contributors