Politics

Patrick’s legacy shows dents

As the candidates running for governor try to match his electoral success, Deval Patrick gets mixed reviews from voters on his handling of key issues

Then-governor-elect Deval Patrick listened while being introduced during a 2006 event.  At the end of his second term, a Globe poll found Patrick getting decidedly mixed reviews for his handling of a range of key issues.

Pat Greenhouse/Globe staff

Then-governor-elect Deval Patrick listened while being introduced during a 2006 event. As his second term comes to a close, a Globe poll found Patrick getting decidedly mixed reviews for his handling of a range of key issues.

Charlie Baker and Martha Coakley, locked in an electoral stalemate with less than three weeks until Election Day, would both like to summon some of the campaign magic that helped Deval Patrick break from political obscurity and burst into the governor’s office eight years ago.

But a new Globe poll finds Patrick, for all his skills on the campaign trail, gets decidedly mixed reviews for his handling of a range of key issues, complicating his efforts to cement his legacy as a transformational figure. Patrick’s solid but not outstanding reviews also pose a challenge for his efforts to help elect Coakley, who has vowed to extend his agenda for another for four years.

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She and Baker are tied at 41 percent in the poll, a change from last week when Coakley led by 5 points. The survey, in addition to tracking the governor’s race, drilled down into voters’ views of the governor’s tenure as he prepares to leave office after two terms.

The results found Patrick, while still popular, has some dents in his political profile.

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A soaring orator who promised to be “no ordinary leader” when he first ran for office in 2006, Patrick is now ranked by a majority of voters — 59 percent — as “about average” when compared to other governors in their lifetimes. Even among fellow Democrats, just 29 percent would place him in the pantheon of best governors they have seen, while 62 percent call him average.

Patrick receives his strongest marks for his handling of education and health care and lukewarm reviews for his management of state government — a hot topic in the governor’s race, where the failures of the state’s health care website and its child welfare system have been fiercely debated.

Voters have slightly unfavorable views of Patrick’s handling of the economy, job creation, and infrastructure such as roads and bridges, and strongly object to his handling of taxes and spending. After promising to cut property taxes when he ran in 2006, Patrick raised taxes in office, a step he said was necessary to preserve essential services after the recession caused a historic drop in state revenues.

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Overall, 51 percent of likely voters approve of Patrick’s job performance, while 41 percent disapprove.

“Massachusetts voters today rate him good, not great,” said John Della Volpe, chief executive of SocialSphere Inc., which conducted the poll for the Globe. Those mixed reviews suggest both Baker and Coakley “have to be careful because some parts of his agenda people clearly like and want to see emulated, namely education and health care,” Della Volpe said. “And other parts, people have concerns about, namely taxes and spending.”

The live telephone survey of 400 likely Massachusetts voters was conducted between Oct. 12 and Oct. 14, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

It found that one part of Patrick’s legacy that may be secure is casinos. The poll indicated that Question 3 on the November ballot, which would repeal the 2011 law that Patrick signed authorizing three casinos and a slot-machine parlor, is sinking under a wave of procasino ads funded by gambling interests. Fifty-six percent of voters said they oppose the repeal effort, compared to 36 percent who support it. That is an even wider margin than last week, when 52 percent said they opposed repeal and 40 percent said they supported it.

Deval Patrick is now ranked by a majority of voters — 59 percent — as “about average,” when compared to other governors in their lifetimes.

Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Deval Patrick is now ranked by a majority of voters — 59 percent — as “about average,” when compared to other governors in their lifetimes.

In the governor’s race, the independent candidates have not gained any traction, with Scott Lively and Evan Falchuk tied at 3 percent each and Jeff McCormick at 2 percent. Ten percent of likely voters are undecided and more than half of those — 61 percent — say they will make up their minds in the final days or even minutes of the election.

Both Coakley and Baker are viewed favorably by likely voters, although Baker’s standing is stronger. He has a favorability rating of 53 percent to 28 percent, compared to 50 percent to 41 percent for Coakley.

Among independents — a coveted bloc that often tilts Massachusetts elections — Baker leads Coakley 49 percent to 23 percent. Among women — another prized demographic that both candidates are courting — Coakley leads Baker by 11 points, a solid edge but hardly the whopping 24-point margin that Patrick rolled up among women voters when he defeated Baker in 2010.

One part of Patrick’s legacy that may be secure is casinos. The poll indicated that Question 3, which would repeal the 2011 law that Patrick signed authorizing three casinos and a slot-machine parlor, is sinking.

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Patrick, the poll suggested, may be even more popular among female voters than Coakley, who aspires to be the first woman elected governor of the state. Patrick has a job approval rating of 58 percent to 36 percent among women, making them among his strongest supporters, along with voters in their 20s.

A plurality of all voters, 45 percent, say that since Patrick took office in 2006, the quality of life in Massachusetts has stayed about the same, but more (30 percent) say life in the state is worse today than better (23 percent).

That contributes to the poll’s finding that while voters respect Patrick’s job performance, they see room for improvement. Asked if they would support Patrick for a hypothetical third term, 42 percent said they would definitely vote for someone else, while 25 percent said they would definitely back Patrick, and 29 percent said they would keep an open mind.

FULL POLL RESULTS:

Summary results

Full results

Michael Levenson can be reached at mlevenson@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mlevenson.
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