Approaching the two-month anniversary of the April 15 Boston Marathon bombing, a new UMass Poll released today by the University of Massachusetts Amherst shows that only one-in-eight Massachusetts residents are very concerned about a terrorist attack where they live. The poll also indicated distinct party-line divisions regarding which government officials and agencies were to blame for failing to prevent the attack.
In an online survey of 500 registered Massachusetts voters conducted by YouGov America under the direction of the UMass Poll from May 30 to June 4, Boston-area residents expressed an overall concern about a terrorist attack at a rate higher than those in the rest of the state, with 61 percent of Bostonians stating that they were "very concerned" or "somewhat concerned" of an attack, compared to 53 percent of other Bay State residents. The number of respondents who indicated that they were "very concerned," however, was actually lower in the Boston area than elsewhere in Massachusetts, 11 percent to 15 percent.
"I wouldn't necessarily call it complacency, but it's more likely that residents are moving on with their lives," said Raymond La Raja, associate director of the UMass Poll.
Maryann Barakso, associate director of the UMass Poll, noted that concern about terrorist attacks was lower in the Massachusetts poll than it has been in recent national polls. "Interestingly, Massachusetts voters seem less worried about another terrorist attack than Americans are as a whole," Barakso said.
In the aftermath of the attack, two-thirds of Massachusetts residents surveyed supported increasing the number of video surveillance cameras (66 percent) and the number of police officers at public gatherings (69 percent) in an effort to prevent future attacks. However, differences were evident depending on political party preference, as Democrats were much more likely to favor increasing the number of police officers (78 percent) compared to Republicans (50 percent). The least popular option for increased security was the use of unmanned aerial surveillance vehicles, or drones (23 percent).
When given the opportunity to select multiple government agencies or individuals that bore at least some responsibility for failing to prevent the bombing, federal agencies were assigned the greatest blame with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Department of Homeland Security found at fault by 56 percent and 50 percent of respondents, respectively, followed by the Central Intelligence Agency at 42 percent. City and state representatives received the least blame, with Governor Deval Patrick found most liable at only 11 percent. Overall, 30 percent of respondents replied that no agency or individual -- federal or state -- should bear the responsibility for the attack.
"The poll suggests that Massachusetts voters who believe one or more elected officials or agencies deserve a share of the blame see the attacks as a failure of national security intelligence rather than the mistakes of local law enforcement," said La Raja.
The political affiliation of respondents appeared to play a major role in their views of responsibility for the attacks. Although President Barack Obama was seen as culpable by 20 percent of overall respondents, nearly 40 percent of Republicans surveyed found the President at fault for the attack, while only 6 percent of Democrats laid blame with the President. Republicans were also four times more likely than Democrats to blame Governor Patrick, 20 percent to 5 percent. Nearly twice as many Democrats than Republicans stated that no particular agency or individual bore responsibility for the attacks (35 percent to 18 percent).
"Our results suggest that Republicans, more so than Democrats, believe that the 'buck stops' with the President," said Tatishe Nteta, associate director of the UMass Poll.
Regarding the punishment that accused Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should face if found guilty of the attack, 59 percent of those surveyed replied that he should be executed, while 35 percent responded that he should be sentenced to life imprisonment without the chance for parole. Boston area residents were more in favor of the death penalty for Tsarnaev than residents of the rest of the state, 56 percent to 50 percent, even though when asked their general opinion of capital punishment Bostonians were actually less in favor of executions for murderers than other Bay Staters, 41 percent to 62 percent.
Overall, 50 percent of all Massachusetts residents supported the death penalty for convicted murderers, while 40 percent preferred life imprisonment without parole.
Respondents of this poll were matched to a target sample of Massachusetts registered voters based on gender, age, race, education, party identification, ideology, and political interest. YouGov then weighted the matched set of survey respondents to known marginals for registered voters from the state of Massachusetts from the American Community Survey, resulting in a representative sample of registered voters in Massachusetts. All analyses were produced using these weights, and the margin of error for the poll is 5.4 percent.
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