Budget Takes Back Seat Among Mass. Voters

Even though they're sending a self-proclaimed deficit hawk to the Senate, Massachusetts voters don't see the budget as a major problem, if two recent public opinion polls are to be believed. Republican Sen.-elect Scott Brown railed against government spending in his campaign. But it appears that his upset win can be attributed to voter unrest on other issues , such as health reform rather than government spending.

Only 9 percent of the 554 likely voters surveyed by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center between Jan. 2 and Jan 6  identified taxes and the budget as the most important issue or problem facing the state's new senator. Health care, jobs and the economy and "other" finished ahead of taxes and the budget.  And ironically, more of those polled said they would trust Democratic candidate Martha Coakley to handle spending issues than the budget hawk Brown. Coakley beat Brown 42 percent to 37 percent when voters were questioned who they would trust the most to handle their checkbooks.

Another poll also showed the budget wasn't on voters' minds. Only 3 percent of the 500 likely voters polled by Suffolk University on Jan. 11-13 identified the budget and spending as the most important job facing the state's next senator. They rated health care and overall economic issues as the top problems. But voters also may be unsure of the impact of government spending. A poll of 1,000 likely voters by Rasmussen Reports on Jan. 11 found that 54 percent of the likely voters believed that increased government spending hurt or had no impact on the economy, while 38 percent said it helped.