Poll results indicate most voters support charter cap, marijuana legalization
By Evan Lips | September 14, 2016, 17:33 EDT
BOSTON — Results of a new poll released this week may shed light on the direction voters will go regarding a series of November ballot questions, and the results do not bode well for charter school proponents and opponents of marijuana legalization.
The survey, conducted last week by the MassINC Polling Group in conjunction with WBUR Boston Public Radio, found that while 41 percent of respondents supported lifting the state’s cap on charter schools, 48 percent are opposed, with 11 percent undecided. The survey also found that 50 percent support the legalization of marijuana, compared to 45 percent who oppose it and 5 percent who are undecided.
The poll, conducted via telephone, featured 506 “likely voters,” and according to WBUR, has a margin of error of 4.4 percent.
Both ballot questions have attracted huge sums of campaign donations. According to state campaign finance reports filed last Friday, backers of marijuana legalization have raised $2.8 million, $2.2 million of which came courtesy of a single out-of-state source — the Washington-based New Approach PAC. Opponents of the effort, in comparison, have raised only a little more than $389,000.
While $2.4 million may seem like a considerable haul, that figure is dwarfed by the sum of money donated by charter school backers. According to state finance data, donors funneled more than $12 million to help fund the campaign for Question 2: An Act to Allow Fair Access to Charter Schools.
On the opposing side, the Save Our Public Schools organization disclosed that it has raised more than $6.7 million.
Charter school opponents, in response, have criticized proponents over the influx of out-of-state donations. Some of the biggest players include former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has donated $240,000 to the charter school cap-lifting effort, and Jim Walton, a Walmart heir from Arizona who chipped in more than $1.1 million.
The biggest donation — a $5.5 million contribution — came from a New York City-based organization known as Families for Excellent Schools Advocacy, Inc.
In comparison, the biggest donors to Save Our Public Schools included the Massachusetts Teachers Association which gave more than $4.1 million and the National Education Association, based in Washington, which gave $1.9 million.
Save Our Public Schools has also been critical of a $100,000 donation to pro-charter efforts from Paul Sagan, chairman of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. When asked by the State House News Service to comment on the perceived controversy surrounding Sagan’s donation, Gov. Charlie Baker responded by describing it a “nothing-burger.”
Election day this year falls on Nov. 8.