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Teflon Charlie: Baker sky-high popularity holds amid RMV scandal, T troubles

Governor Charlie Baker remains popular among state residents despite a series of administrative troubles.Lane Turner/Globe Staff/File 2019/Globe Staff

Catastrophic delays on the MBTA. A drip-drip of revelations about the Registry of Motor Vehicles leaving thousands of alerts about law-breaking Massachusetts drivers unprocessed. Ongoing scandal at the Massachusetts State Police.

It was a rough July, August, and September for Governor Charlie Baker.

But through it all, the Republican kept his sky-high job approval ratings and his long-held perch as the nation’s most popular governor, according to a survey released Thursday.

The Morning Consult poll of Massachusetts registered voters found 73 percent approved of the job Baker is doing as governor, while just 16 percent disapproved.


“It is getting to the point where him having this title this long is surprising and interesting on its own,” said Steve Koczela, a Boston-based pollster and president of The MassINC Polling Group. “When you consider the metric ton of the bad headlines during the period of the polls, it is sort of amazing that they haven’t impacted his numbers at all.”

Part of what might be happening, some specialists say, is that voters judge Baker’s response rather than the scandals themselves.

“Baker has an executive tone with handling issues, which is the opposite from how President Trump acts, and I think that carries him along past the gory details on the problem of the day,” said David Paleologos, a pollster and the director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center.

Democrats cite the comparison with Trump as the reason for Baker’s Teflon reputation.

“His numbers are so high because, other than Bill Weld, he is one of the few Republicans who will literally speak out against the president, though not nearly enough,” said Gus Bickford, the chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party. “If Trump is impeached [and removed from office] or if he loses reelection, then Baker’s poll numbers will go down.”


And Massachusetts isn’t the only blue state where Republican governors are beloved, the poll found.

Rounding out the top three most popular governors in the third quarter of the year were Republicans Larry Hogan of Maryland and Phil Scott of Vermont.

But other New Englanders overwhelmingly disapprove of the job their governors are doing.

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, and Maine Governor Janet Mills — all Democrats — were all listed among the seven most unpopular governors.

Baker’s political aides said his numbers were the result of his approach.

“Governor Baker and Lieutenant Governor [Karyn] Polito are grateful for support from across the Commonwealth as they continue to work on a bipartisan basis to grow the economy, invest in public schools, and bring fiscal discipline to state government,” said Brian Wynne, who runs Baker’s political office and served as his campaign manager last year.

The governor hasn’t ruled out running for a third term in 2022.

The Morning Consult poll uses a different methodology than other surveys. Most pollsters call hundreds of people over a few days. This particular poll claims to reach thousands by surveying people in each state daily over the course of three months. In Massachusetts, Baker’s 73 percent approval rating was gleaned, the pollster says, from interviews with 10,731 people meaning the margin of error was plus-or-minus 1 percent.

Paleologos, the Suffolk pollster, said the Morning Consult method does allow for Baker’s numbers to dip temporarily, and then recover over the course of weeks. That said, results of the survey mirror his own polls.


“It’s like even if Baker did have a dip, his numbers revert back to the low 60s and low 70s for approval rating, where most governors are around the 55 percent mark,” said Paleologos.

Among the troubles during the poll’s July 1 to Sept. 30 period was the fallout from a fatal June crash, in which a West Springfield trucker — whose license should have already been stripped by Massachusetts officials — allegedly hit and killed seven motorcyclists on a New Hampshire highway. RMV officials subsequently admitted that workers had been ignoring thousands of notifications from other states where Massachusetts-licensed drivers had broken the law. They suspended thousands of licenses.

Baker has said he didn’t know about the backlog until after the crash.

Meanwhile, there were more revelations in the ongoing State Police trooper payroll fraud scandal.

And during much of the poll, riders of the T’s Red Line faced long waits in the aftermath of a June derailment near JFK/UMass Station.

The poll also looked at the approval ratings of Senators.

Edward J. Markey had a 51 percent approval rating with just 25 percent disapproving of the job he’s doing.

Meanwhile, 49 percent approved of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s job performance, while 41 percent disapproved.

James Pindell can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell or subscribe to his Ground Game newsletter on politics: