Election Center

New Poll: RCV ballot question a dead heat in Massachusetts

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A poll released Monday by UMass Amherst and WCVB is showing a tightening race among Massachusetts voters on Ranked-Choice Voting (RCV). With 9% of voters still undecided, support for the measure leads the opposition by only 5%. Carrying a margin of error of 4.5%, this is the second poll in a week showing a close race or a statistical dead-heat for the measure, which is Question 2 on Bay Staters’ ballots this year. 

Last week, an Ipsos poll showed support for the measure up 45% to 34%, with 21% of voters unsure of their stance. 

Massachusetts politico Paul Craney of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance broke down some of the UMass/WCVB poll crosstabs on Twitter:

Seeing voters with formal education of a high school diploma or less opposed to the measure almost 2-to-1 makes sense. A study from San Francisco, one of the earliest adopters of RCV (even though former mayor and current governor Gavin Newsom opposes it), showed that over 1-in-4 voters without, and almost 1-in-5 with a diploma or GED did not understand RCV. Even 13% of voters with a postgraduate degree surveyed did not understand it.

Craney also highlighted a poll conducted in Maine during late September 2016, while Mainers were weighing the pros and cons of the new voting system. While 52% of voters ultimately approved the measure, one among a host of contentious ballot initiatives being decided that year, polling indicated that 48% were in favor, with 23% undecided.

These recent polls suggest a wide range of possibilities for how the vote on RCV could play out next week. Opponents in Massachusetts have not been able to fundraise to meet the immense out-of-state support that proponents have. Other statewide RCV ballot measures have met the same challenge, including Alaska this year and Maine in 2016. One would think that, given a campaign cash disparity equal to at least one order of magnitude, conventional wisdom would dictate that the proponents have this race locked up.

Not so fast. Money doesn’t buy elections. Nobody but the voters will have the ultimate say on this issue. It seems as though Massachusetts voters are starting to see through RCV proponents’ claims that it will ensure a winner has “broad majority support” and will “save American democracy.”

They are realizing that ranked-choice voting is more trouble than it’s worth. Credible studies from around the nation show that the costs to voter participation and election integrity outweigh its purported benefits. This year, Massachusetts could be a firewall to stop the “majority” myth from spreading around the country.

About Nick Murray

Nick Murray, of Cornish, currently serves as Policy Analyst with Maine Policy Institute, writing, researching, and bringing Mainers together over the issues facing the state. Previously, he served as Outreach Coordinator, planning events to spread the word about Maine Policy's work to new audiences around Maine.

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