New Poll Finds Support for Migrant Shelters in Massachusetts Is Dropping, Residents Name Immigration As Top Issue Amid Migrant Crisis

By: Alex Trent | Published: Apr 18, 2024

A new survey conducted by the MassINC Polling Group has found that a majority of Massachusetts voters now think immigration is the top issue for the government to solve. It also found support among residents for housing new migrant arrivals in shelters is dropping.

These changing attitudes among Massachusetts voters come as the state’s emergency shelters have reached capacity and about half the families in these shelters are migrants.

Biggest Issue

The GHB News/Common Wealth poll conducted between March 21 and 29 asked 1,002 Massachusetts residents to name “the single biggest issue facing state government here in Massachusetts?”

An interstate sign in Massachusetts seen while entering Salisbury, Massachusetts.

Source: Famartin/Wikimedia

The top answer reported by 21% of respondents was migrants/immigration. The next closest answer was housing at 15%.

Current Migration Situation

This poll also asked respondents to express the amount of concern they have toward “the current migrant” situation and found that a majority think it is at least a major problem.

A Border Patrol agent in a dark uniform with a U.S. Customs and Border Protection patch is in the foreground, blurred in focus, with a group of migrants in the background

Source: Wikimedia Commons

67% of the poll’s respondents said that they believe the migrant situation is a major problem or a crisis. Only 5% of people in the poll said the migrant situation is not a problem.

Emergency Shelter for Migrants

Another question the poll asked Massachusetts residents was whether they support thousands of migrants entering the state’s emergency shelter system.

A mother and daughter from Colombia pose for a photo.

Source: Jhon David/Unsplash

47% of respondents said they somewhat or strongly oppose migrants in the shelter system. This beat out the supporters, which represented 45% of respondents. When the question was asked without reference to migrants, 79% of respondents voiced support for the “right to shelter” system.

Drop in Support

The president of MassINC polling group Steve Koczela said the recent poll findings represent a drop in support for migrants in shelters, which had 55% percent support in October. Koczela blames the budgetary impacts the migrant situation is having on residents.

A Chicago mural that says 'we are a nation of immigrants.'

Source: Acediscovery/Wikimedia

“The budgetary impacts are becoming more clear, and people are beginning to see it as a bigger issue, perhaps, than it was when it first began,” Koczela said.

Activists Alarmed by the Support Drop

The New England Chair of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Robin Nice, was alarmed by the divided support for migrants in the poll.

Reporter Uncovers Child Labor Law Violations Involving Immigrant Minors in Los Angeles

Source: John Moore/Getty Images

“If you were to rephrase this question as, ‘Would you do anything to keep your kids safe and to keep a roof over their head?’ I would imagine that that result will be 100%,” Nice said. “Shift the conversation and think about what do we need and what do we all deserve as humans, regardless of where we may have been born?”


Maxed Out Shelters

In late March, Democrat Governor Maura Healey said the city’s shelter system is at capacity and the system cannot handle any more strain.

An official-looking woman in a purple blazer is signing a document at a table, focused on the content before her. Around her, several individuals in business attire, including a woman in a red blazer and men in suits, stand watching the signing

Source: maura_healey/X

“We’re at capacity and … we simply cannot sustainably continue to house the numbers that we’re seeing come into Massachusetts,” Healey said during an interview with Boston Public Radio.


Nearly Half of Families Are Migrants

In October, Healey declared a state of emergency around the migrant influx into the state’s shelter system.

A family with suitcases and bags in tow walks along a paved path beside a verdant area overgrown with wild grasses and trees. A man leads the way, followed by a young girl wearing a backpack and pushing a stroller, and two women, one carrying a toddler and pulling a red suitcase

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Approximately 45% of the families in the Massachusetts emergency shelter system are migrant families. Healey set the capacity limits for these shelters at 7,500 families. In March, Massachusetts started spending millions to help move migrants out of these shelters and into “stable housing.”


Congress Failing

In March, Governor Healey was furious that the state was having to dig into its own coffers to solve this problem, a problem that she feels Congress should be funding.

The United States Capitol Building is captured on a bright day with a clear blue sky scattered with white clouds

Source: Wikimedia Commons

“It is outrageous that we, as states, are having to bear the burden of this, bear the cost, bear the strain simply because Congress has failed to act,” Healey said.


More Cash

This month, top Democrats in the Massachusetts House put forward a $58 billion spending plan that allocated half a billion dollars to support the sheltering system.

A view of the city of Boston in Massachusetts from the harbor.

Source: King of Hearts/Wikimedia

The proposal overall would increase state spending by 3.3% and hoped to generate more government revenue through state Lottery sales. The state is now spending around $75 million per month on maintaining the sheltering system.


New State Policy

To try to ease capacity concerns in shelters, Massachusetts recently implemented a one-month stay policy for families being housed. Families will only be allowed to stay for one month at a time and must reapply for permission to continue their stay.

A nighttime view of Boston's illuminated skyline reflecting off the calm waters. The photograph shows a dense cluster of skyscrapers and buildings

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The goal was to help families in need who have been unable to get a sheltering spot because the system has been at capacity since Governor Healey capped it at 7,500 during the fall.


Presidential Support Breakdown

The MassINC survey asked respondents to choose who they would vote for among a field of different candidates if the presidential election occurred today.

On the left, President Joe Biden in an official photo for the White House. On the right, former President Donald Trump, with an American flag and White House in the background.

Source: Adam Shultz/Library of Congress | Library of Congress/Unsplash

Joe Biden received the highest votes with 44% while Donald Trump had 26%. RFK Jr. got 7% of the vote while Cornel West got 2%.