A new poll from WBUR and MassINC shows opposition to Boston’s Olympic bid has picked up since last month.
In January, a poll found that 51 percent of Boston-area voters supported the bid with 33 percent opposed. (That poll carried the big caveat that respondents also said they wanted the opportunity to vote on whether or not to move forward). This month, the numbers have adjusted sharply—46 percent of 505 Boston-area voters were opposed, 44 percent were in favor.
Previous polls have offered some mixed results for opinions on the bid. A statewide poll from Emerson College Polling Society found 48 percent opposed, with 42 percent in favor. Another poll from Sage Systems in January found majority support—55 to 40—but swapped to majority opposition when respondents were asked whether they supported the use of public funds to pay for the games.
The finding from Sage is relevant again with the release of the latest poll from WBUR, which drilled down a bit on questions related to the use of public funds for the Olympics. Only 12 percent of respondents to the WBUR poll said they were “more likely to support’’ the bid if public funds were used to pay for Olympic venues (something Boston 2024 has said would not happen), compared to 40 percent who said such a use of public funds would make them less likely to support it. Another 42 percent said it would make no difference to their position.
There may be a different feeling when it comes to putting public funds toward a recent hot topic, though. Asked how they’d feel about public funds being incorporated into Olympic plans to improve the MBTA, 40 percent said they would be more likely to support the bid compared to 16 percent who said they’d be less likely.
In fact, according to the poll, 24 percent of those who said at the outset that they oppose the idea of bringing the Olympics to Boston would be more likely to support the bid if the process involved publicly-funded improvements for the T—so there may be room for converts. However, half of those who said they oppose the Olympics said the promise of MBTA improvements would not change their position, and another 25 percent said it would even deepen their opposition.
The T, in case you haven’t heard, has had a rough month. And social media has been abuzz in the last few weeks with commentary that Boston is ill-equipped to host the Olympics if the state can’t even get the MBTA operating successfully. MassINC President Steve Koczela told WBUR he thinks those frustrations played a role in the about-face in the Olympics polling. “It has to do with voters now having a new appreciation of how bad the MBTA actually is and seeing the impacts of the storm and thinking there are other priorities in which money would be better spent,’’ he said.
Olympic bid organizers Boston 2024 have downplayed the concerns about the T this winter. CEO Richard Davey told The Boston Globe: “We’re not bidding on the Winter Olympics, we’re bidding on the Summer Olympics.’’ Boston 2024 has long stressed improved infrastructure part of its plans, and the hiring last month of Davey, a former MBTA and state transportation leader, was telling. The group has said it is relying on public funding from a $13 billion bond bill passed last year, and the proposals within it, as the basis of its transportation plans. Much of that bill focused on expansion of public transportation across the state, though there are some provisions for improvements and upgrades to existing services.