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In navigating coronavirus pandemic, Massachusetts voters say they trust Baker — and Cuomo

But just 28 percent approve of the job President Trump is doing in crisis

Nearly 80 percent of those surveyed approve of Governor Charlie Baker’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, and 83 percent say they’re getting the information they need out of state government.
Nearly 80 percent of those surveyed approve of Governor Charlie Baker’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, and 83 percent say they’re getting the information they need out of state government.Blake Nissen/The Boston Globe

Steve Serino said he has closely followed updates about the mushrooming coronavirus crisis at both the state and national level, including tuning into Governor Charlie Baker’s daily briefings directly to learn the Republican is closing businesses or urging people to stay home.

“Whatever steps are necessary, I get it,” the 56-year-old Gloucester Democrat said of Baker’s “appropriate” attempts at controlling the spread of COVID-19. “You’ve got to do what you have to do.”

He can’t say the same about those other briefings, though. “The president of the United States does not deliver a clear message and doesn’t listen to those who know best," Serino said. “He contradicts them on a daily basis. Of course, I see a big difference."

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As Massachusetts residents scramble for guidance for how to navigate the pandemic, there’s a clear divide in both their perceptions of their leaders and where they trust getting their information, a Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll shows.

Nearly 80 percent of those surveyed approve of Baker’s handling of the outbreak, and 83 percent say they’re getting the information they need out of state government. About half — 53 percent — say the federal government is doing the same, but far less have confidence in President Trump.

About 64 percent disapprove of Trump’s handling of the pandemic — to date, compared to 28 percent who approve. Several respondents told the Globe they have even turned to New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo at times for information, despite his orders having far less of a direct impact on their daily lives.

The breakdown tracks with Massachusetts’ voters past views of Trump as well as Baker, who has at times been viewed more favorably among Democrats here than those within his own party.

But it also underscores the wide support residents have given Baker’s unprecedented efforts to slow the virus, including closing schools, shuttering bars, and prohibiting in-person service in restaurants. More than 90 percent of the 500 voters surveyed say they back all three.

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“This is all about rallying behind the state leader, Charlie Baker, supporting all of the initiatives, enduring the conditions,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, which conducted the poll. "That’s a pronounced endorsement of the way things are, at least to date.”

Voters in every region of the state overwhelmingly approved of Baker’s work, including 83 percent of those near Worcester or western Massachusetts. And even those who have seen their income drop amid the outbreak — and Baker’s orders to shutter non-essential businesses — gave him good marks, with eight of 10 approving.

Baker’s emergency declaration on March 10 gives him broad authority to shape the state’s response to the pandemic, meaning the vast majority of the life-altering restrictions the state’s nearly 7 million residents are adjusting to stem from him, not Trump.

It’s the federal government, however, that Massachusetts and other states are leaning on for help for emergency funding and to ease access to medical equipment, which in itself has been a point conflict between Baker and the Trump administration.

Baker and his top aides have said several times the federal government have blocked orders they’ve made for personal protective equipment, despite Trump’s urging for governors to seek out supplies beyond those available through the national emergency stockpile.

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Zachary Moyers, 30, of Boston is among those who “completely supports” what Baker has done, to the point he feels Massachusetts has been ahead of the curve compared to other states. But Moyers, who works in clinical research, has taken a dim view on Trump’s comments, including his hope of re-opening much of the country by Easter.

That’s “unrealistic and more of a danger to our population than a struggling economy,” said Moyers, a Democrat. “I generally just avoid his briefings now.”

Sue Lindmark, 70, of Littleton said she has signed up for text alerts the state has offered, and has tuned in to news conferences, including those held by Mayor Martin J. Walsh. (More than 65 percent of those surveyed statewide say they approve of the Boston’s mayor’s handling of the crisis, too.)

“But I just don’t feel what I’m getting from our president is truthful,” Lindmark said. “I feel like I get something that’s more truthful from the governor than the White House.

“Or Cuomo,” the Democrat added. "If anybody is plugged in, it’s him.”

Cuomo, like Baker, has held daily updates about the state’s response, but they’ve been carried far more broadly, including at times by CNN and Fox News, as the number of cases in New York rapidly escalated. Cuomo and Trump have also publicly, and repeatedly, clashed amid the crisis further elevating the New York governor’s national presence.

Andy Lipson, 32, of Arlington, said he particularly appreciates Cuomo use of PowerPoint during his briefings, with slides popping up on screen alongside the governor as he speaks.

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“They are the epicenter of the US," Lipson said. “They’re the ones who are going to be giving the information that the rest of the states are going to need. . . . I’m definitely thinking at the state level we’re getting more proactive information.”

Beth Tessmer, 49, a registered Republican on Martha’s Vineyard, said she tends to tune Trump out even as she seeks out information from the federal government.

“Ugh, good God, I prefer to mute him until [Vice President Mike] Pence or the CDC comes on,” said Tessmer, who didn’t vote for Trump in 2016. “Anything he says, it’s just appalling at this point.”

David Strasburger, 54, of Somerville, said his concerns over Trump’s approach go even further.

“It just freaking terrifies me that he’s acting in a way that makes it really difficult for the experts on his team to do good work,” said Strasburger, who described himself as a left-leaning Democrat.

“And this,” he said, "makes me long for George W. Bush.”


Matt Stout can be reached at matt.stout@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mattpstout Victoria McGrane can be reached at victoria.mcgrane@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @vgmac.