A feeling of suffocating unease: the inhabitants of Mass. are stressed by inflation, Supreme Court decisions and new polls

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“Even the last recession we had a while ago, I don’t remember feeling the pinch like we are now,” said Ed Batchelder, a 52-year-old Bridgewater resident and respondent to the survey. Batchelder works for a computer software company and his wife is on disability benefits, but their income can only stretch so far, he said.

Add in medical bills, the Democrat said, “and it gets really tough.”

For some, that economic anxiety has been compounded by the Supreme Court and its string of rulings last month, including overturning the constitutional right to abortion. More people said the court’s actions affected them the most emotionally, more than inflation or other events, such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Massachusetts residents also indicate that, despite the continued threat of variants, COVID-19 has become a major concern. Nearly 80% say they only think about the virus sometimes or not at all when making plans this summer.

In this void, financial concerns seem to overshadow almost everything. Soaring inflation is forcing people to reconsider vacation or summer plans, foregoing small luxuries that until recently the virus may have curtailed. And regardless of whether the data still confirms it, 61% of residents said they believe the economy is in recession or depression, a 10 point jump from a Suffolk/Globe poll just three months ago.

“That’s a big number,” said David Paleologos, director of the University of Suffolk’s Center for Policy Research. “The decibel level of a failing economy is drowning out everything that people are talking about and hearing right now. Part of that is echoing what they’re hearing. But part of it is because they’re adjusting their spending and they say, especially in low-income categories, “I don’t live comfortably.”

Amid this economic apprehension, Attorney General Maura Healey, the Democrats’ presumptive nominee, still appears to be on track to become governor. She holds a lead of more than 30 points over each of her potential Republican opponents, echoing the margins she enjoyed in the spring.

Healey would lead Geoff Diehl, a former Whitman state lawmaker, 54% to 23%, and Chris Doughty, a Wrentham businessman, 54% to 22% among about 500 likely voters in a November game. , according to this month’s survey.

The poll, conducted over four days last week, had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points among all residents and 4.4 percentage points among likely voters. He didn’t investigate the GOP primary game, and since the last Suffolk/Globe poll in the spring, Healey’s path has only gotten easier since his last primary opponent, State Senator Sonia Chang -Díaz, ended his campaign in June.

The 600 Massachusetts residents surveyed continued to give Governor Charlie Baker high marks, with 65 percent approving of the work he has done over the past 7½ years, compared to one-fifth disapproving.

Consistent with trends throughout his tenure, the second-term Republican, who is not seeking re-election, was viewed more favorably by Democrats and unregistered voters — with 71% and 66% approving of his work, respectively — only by members of his own party. About 52% of Republicans said they approved of Baker’s handling of his job.

“I didn’t think Charlie was a bad governor,” said 52-year-old Dedham resident Jeff Light. A Democrat, Light said he was also not opposed to voting for a Republican, “but I certainly can’t vote for the really right-wing people who are galloping today.”

But the governor’s office has faded somewhat from day-to-day importance, ousted by inflationary pressures or fears that a conservative-led Supreme Court that overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade could target other constitutional rights.

The governor’s race is “certainly on my mind, but it doesn’t seem like a priority to me at this point,” said Diane Sullivan, a 48-year-old Medford resident and co-founder of a nonprofit focused on poverty.

The impact of rising prices, particularly of food, is front and center and helping to fuel what she called a “perfect storm” of needs.

“Going to the grocery store is scary these days,” Sullivan said.

Seventy-nine percent of those surveyed said they had experienced some level of hardship due to price increases, although who feels it the hardest can vary widely from group to group.

About 30% of Hispanic residents and 29% of black residents said they felt “a lot” of difficulty, far outpacing their white counterparts (19%).

Of those earning less than $50,000 a year, 40% said they have enough money to live comfortably, a far cry from the 65% of residents who say they have enough.

Lila Hosbjor, 58, of Holliston, said rising prices mean she has less food in the fridge and has no summer vacation plans.

“No road trip. No beach trip because parking is so expensive,” she said. “I love summer, but it kind of limits what you do. It’s kind of the price you pay.

The anxiety, however, extends beyond people’s wallets. When asked which recent development had affected them most emotionally of four options, 42% said Supreme Court rulings on abortion rights, gun control and the environment, while 33% said inflation, 11% said war in Ukraine and 6% said COVID.

About 50% of women surveyed pointed to court rulings, with younger residents, white residents and Democrats also helping to shape the results.

“It’s something that I thought would never change, ever, in my lifetime,” Jill Newberg, 44-year-old chief marketing officer and Medfield resident, said of the cancellation of Roe v. Wade. “It’s just ridiculous and heartbreaking. I am a mother of two girls. It’s really worrying to think that maybe they don’t have the same choices that I may have had.

The decision also heightened fears of other life-altering decisions. More than 66% of residents surveyed said they were also concerned that the Supreme Court would restrict other constitutional rights, such as same-sex marriage.

“At this point, I feel like there’s nothing off the table,” said Ellen Massee, 57. “I worry about the Constitution. I fear that nothing is sacred anymore.


Matt Stout can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @mattpstout.

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