Voters Voice Concern about Ethics in Mass. Government

3/25/2009

Massachusetts voters have serious concerns about honesty, ethics, and influence in state government, according to a new poll from the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Service at Suffolk University Law School. 

The poll finds that 89 percent of respondents rate the level of ethics in state government as either fair (49 percent) or poor (40 percent).  Two percent gave the level of ethics in state government an excellent rating, and 10 percent of respondents rated it good.

Ethics and Lobbying Reform

The poll results were released at a Rappaport Center for Law and Public Service roundtable discussion at the Law School on “Ethics and Lobbying Reform in Massachusetts.”

Forty-seven percent of those polled said ethics and honesty in state government have decreased over the last decade, compared to 14 percent who said ethics and honesty increased, and 37 percent who said they remain the same.

A majority (51 percent) said they were “very concerned” about the influence of lobbyists and special interest groups over state government, while an additional 36 percent said they were “somewhat concerned.”

Legislating ethics

"These results bolster the case for the proposed overhaul of the state's ethics and lobbying laws," said Alasdair Roberts, the Rappaport Professor of Law and Public Policy at Suffolk University Law School.  "But the poll also shows justified skepticism about the effect of legal changes alone.  Continued leadership also will be critical."

Registered Bay State voters are mixed on whether proposed legislation to toughen rules on ethics and lobbying would help. Of those polled, 46 percent said the legislation would be “somewhat likely” to improve how state government works, while 21 percent said it would be “somewhat unlikely” to improve the situation, and 20 percent said improvement would be “not at all likely.”

Methodology

The poll was conducted March 17 through March 20, 2009, by the Suffolk University Political Research Center for the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Service at Suffolk University Law School.  The margin of error on the study of 400 is +/- 4.90 percent at a 95 percent level of confidence.  All respondents from the statewide survey were registered voters in Massachusetts. 

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