Suffolk Poll: Majority of Massachusetts Residents Say Economy Is in Decline

More than half report financial hardship from price increases

Worries about the economy are weighing heavily on the minds of Massachusetts voters, with a majority saying that recent price increases have caused at least some financial hardship in their households, according to a Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll of Massachusetts residents taken April 24-28. 

Almost three-quarters of respondents (74%) classified the economy as being stagnant (23%) or in decline, with 35% labeling it a recession and a further 16% saying the economy is entering a depression. Only 18% believe the U.S. is in a period of economic recovery. This marks a significant change from a Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll released in April 2021, during which 29% of Massachusetts voters said the economy was in recovery.

This perception contrasts with the 2021 gross domestic product expansion of 5.7% adjusting for inflation—the largest annual increase since 1984, as reported by the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis. 

“As we rapidly approach the midterm elections, political candidates must navigate voters’ perceptions of reality,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center. “What we know for sure is that a majority of Massachusetts residents believe we are in a period of economic recession or depression, even if economic indicators contradict that belief.”

One-third of Republicans took an even bleaker view, saying the country is in an economic depression (33%), an outlook shared by only 15% of Independents and 11% of Democrats.

Financial security and inflation

Though the majority of Massachusetts voters (52%) said they were “not at all” or “not very” concerned about their personal financial situation or employment, the number who said they were “very” or “somewhat” concerned inched up 7% (from 40% to 47%) from a Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll conducted last spring. That’s despite the Massachusetts unemployment rate standing at 4.3% this March, a decrease of 2.1% over the past year, according to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development. 

Those surveyed have felt the effects of inflation, with the majority (56%) stating that recent price increases have caused them some or a lot of financial hardship.

Still, more than seven in ten Massachusetts voters (72%) said they feel optimistic about the future after more than two years of ups and downs since the pandemic began.

Charlie Baker

As Republican Charlie Baker finishes his final term as governor, he is poised to go out of politics with a bang. Over three-quarters of residents (75%) approve of the way Baker is handling the coronavirus outbreak in Massachusetts, while 17% disapprove. And though he is not seeking a third term as governor, he would defeat the likely party nominees handily. In a three-way ballot test Baker—running as an Independent—earns the support of 37% of voters over favored party nominees Democrat Maura Healy (28%), and Republican Geoff Diehl (17%), with 17% undecided.

Hypothetical Match-Up For Massachusetts Governor
Suffolk University/Boston Globe Poll of Massachusetts Voters May 2022

Candidates for Governor

Among the actual candidates for governor, both Healey and fellow Democrat Sonia Chang-Diaz easily best their Republican opponents:

  • Democrat Maura Healey (54%) over Republican Geoff Diehl (27%) with 17% undecided
  • Democrat Maura Healey (55%) over Republican Chris Doughty (25%) with 19% undecided
  • Democrat Sonia Chang-Diaz (45%) over Republican Geoff Diehl (29%) with 24% undecided
  • Democrat Sonia Chang-Diaz (43%) over Republican Chris Doughty (27%) with 28% undecided

“Among voters who selected Healey in all three ballot tests, 77% could identify a specific reason or issue linked to Healey. Ten percent said that she ‘fights for what’s right’ or ‘fights for the people.’ This is not a scenario where most voters are choosing her and can’t say why. The diverse array of responses indicates a depth that successful gubernatorial candidates possess,” said Paleologos.

Medical Aid-in-Dying

Nearly 77% of Massachusetts residents believe a mentally sound adult with an incurable, terminal illness should have the legal option of asking a physician to prescribe aid-in-dying medication to end their suffering. Nearly 16% opposed and 7 percent were undecided.


The Suffolk University statewide survey of 800 residents was conducted April 24-28 and is based on live interviews of adults 18 years of age or older. Each area’s quota and demographic information—including race, education, and age—was determined from 2020 Census data, the 2021 American Community Survey, and affiliated sources. Samples of both standard landline and cell phones were called using a probability-proportionate-to-size method, which means that the phone numbers assigned to each area were proportional to the number of adult residents in each area. All respondents indicated that they were residents of Massachusetts. The 14 Massachusetts counties were grouped into four general regions. The margins of error for the 800 residents and 765 registered voters are +/- 3.5 percentage points. The margin of error for the 651 likely midterm election voters is +/- 3.8 percentage points. All surveys may be subject to other sources of error, including but not limited to, coverage error and measurement error. 

Suffolk University students Esther Nwanne Ikwani, Douglas Bennett, and Mikaela Linder all contributed questions to this survey. Results are posted on the Suffolk University Political Research Center website. For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310, [email protected].

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