Covid-19 Survey IV — results

This is the fourth of a series of surveys checking in on the economic consequences of the COVID-19 epidemic in my district. The additional dimensions explored in this survey were: Housing status (rent/own) and the variations in response depending on form of outreach.

Key Takeaways

  • Roughly 1/3 of all those reporting working outside the home before COVID-19 expect to be working from home “in the long run”. This result appears consistent across the respondent groups in the survey.
  • A majority of respondents feel that the state is opening too fast. The percentage with this view ranged from 48% to 66% among the different respondent groups. Many people qualified this in comments by noting that if people were better about wearing masks, etc., we might be better able to sustain more opening.
  • The percentage of respondents who are renters varied significantly across the respondent groups, ranging from 71% among individuals in Boston who have corresponded with my office to 18% on Allston-Brighton news lists to only 9% on a Belmont news list. However, the rate reporting behind on bills was low in all groups.
  • Response rates are vastly higher for individual emails than for impressions on Facebook. Individual emails appear to have much higher response rates than list emails, but the list denominator is unknown — we don’t have subscriber data for the news lists as of this writing.

Survey Process and Sample

The survey process included the same methods as in our March, April , and June surveys. However, in this survey, I sent different forms to the outreach groups, so that I was able to compare response rates and results across groups. My outreach emails include no open-tracking tokens so as to fully respect the privacy an anonymity of my constituents. So, until this survey, I had no clear sense of the group sourcing of the responses. Here is the breakdown:

ReachRepetitionForm ViewsRaw ResponseDeduped ResponseNet response rate
Email to 3 Allston-Brighton community google groups (“AB Groups”)?217610192?
Email to 1 Belmont community mail group
(“Belmont group”)
Individual emails to Boston correspondents with my office
(“Boston emails”)
Individual emails to Belmont Watertown correspondents with my office
(“Bel/Wat emails”)
Facebook advertisement targeted to whole senate district (Belmont, Watertown and parts of Boston)
Individual email to subscribers to my office new email list

As discussed in connection with the the March and April surveys, “the outreach heavily targeted people who are engaged in their local community. It should be added that the outreach would especially favor those interested in online discussion of issues, especially issues of state policy.”

The initial mailing was on Sunday, August 9 with a repetition on Tuesday, August 11. Some recipients got an extra emailing through an error on Sunday, August 9. Due to delays in Facebook ad approval, the Facebook ad ran from August 12 through August 17. Although the forms remained open online through August 18, only 83 entries (3%) were made on the emailed forms after August 12.

The individual emails to correspondents and formal subscribers to my news list were not overlapping, but the community groups and Facebook outreach could overlap all groups. Between the potential overlap and the repeated sends, there were a total of 276 possible duplicate entries, where IP address and browser type were the same. These are not necessarily true duplicates — they could be the people in the same household. However, in caution, we only retained the last entry in each case.

Age of Respondents (Self Reported)

24 or under25 to 6465 or overAll Ages
AB Groups (3)0%63%37%100%
Bel Group0%79%21%100%
Boston emails11%75%14%100%
Bel/Wat emails2%76%22%100%

Zip Code of Respondents (self reported)

Back Bay (02116)Fenway
(02115, 02215)
Allston-Brighton (02134, 02135)Watertown (02472)Belmont (02478)OtherTotal
AB Groups (3)0%0%82%0%13%5%100%
Bel Group0%0%0%3%96%1%100%
Boston emails11%21%58%1%0%8%100%
Bel/Wat emails0%0%0%53%43%3%100%


Question 1: Massachusetts’ COVID-19 response so far

formAbout rightShould open fasterOpening too fastTotal
AB Groups (3)43%1%55%100%
Bel Group34%0%66%100%
Boston emails34%5%61%100%
Bel/Wat emails45%7%48%100%

Question 2: Own economic situation

OK for nowBehind on billsSecure for at least 1 yearTotal
AB Groups (3)27%2%71%100%
Bel Group24%1%75%100%
Boston emails38%4%57%100%
Bel/Wat emails31%5%64%100%

Question 3: Shelter payments

Subsidized RentMarket RentMortgage Taxes OnlyTotal
AB Groups (3)2%16%46%36%100%
Bel Group0%9%71%21%100%
Boston emails6%65%20%10%100%
Bel/Wat emails2%29%48%21%100%

Question 4A: Work arrangement before COVID-19

Working outside homeWorking from homeUnemployedNot working (retired, partner works, other)Total
AB Groups (3)68%10%2%20%100%
Bel Group60%13%0%26%100%
Boston emails80%6%3%11%100%
Bel/Wat emails75%9%3%14%100%

Question 4B: Work arrangement now

Working outside homeWorking from homeUnemployedOther not workingTotal
AB Groups (3)18%48%10%24%100%
Bel Group7%54%12%26%100%
Boston emails20%53%14%12%100%
Bel/Wat emails17%57%11%15%100%

Question 4C: Expected work arrangement “in the long run”

Working outside homeWorking from homeNot workingTotal
AB Groups (3)35%39%26%100%
Bel Group38%34%28%100%
Boston emails52%33%14%100%
Bel/Wat emails52%33%15%100%

Question 4C: Expected work arrangement “in the long run” — responses limited to those working outside home before COVID-19

Working outside homeWorking from homeNot workingTotal
AB Groups (3)48%44%8%100%
Bel Group59%34%7%100%
Boston emails61%34%5%100%
Bel/Wat emails64%33%3%100%

Cross Tab: Economic Outlook vs. Shelter Payments

OK for nowBehind on billsSecure for at least 1 yearAll
Market Rent42%6%52%100%
Subsidized rent42%14%43%100%
Taxes only13%0%87%100%

The underlying data appear in this spreadsheet. The survey questionnaire appears here.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

144 replies on “Covid-19 Survey IV — results”

  1. Bars, indoor restaurants, large weddings and gatherings should be shut down. Our children should at least be able attend school in a hybrid model.

  2. I work in healthcare and we have been able to safely return to work. We are in the highest risk group for contracting COVID and the assumption that schools, restaurants and gyms are as dangerous as working in an ICU or as an anesthesiologist is a fallacy. The hospitals prove infection control can stop viral transmission and the state should take a similar view. The economic damage at this point isn’t worth the mitigation.

  3. Very concerned about schools (primary and universities) re-opening and would echo the comments already mentioning the need for remote learning, as well as those alarmed about college parties. Am also always surprised by the number of people I have seen out and about without masks on or who are not properly social distancing. I live in Fenway and people are regular engaging in physical activity and/or partaking in sports on a very crowded field. Many don’t even wear masks. If we’re re-opening, we really need to follow established guidance from established scientists in medical and public health professions. That means if re-opening is not recommended, we need to *pause* asap.

  4. I was already retired, and medically at a high risk, so I can nearly always stay home. But I am worried about the impoverishment of younger people. Also, a social worker told me many newly mentally ill people cannot get into the Mass. mental health system now. That is why my already diagnosed friend just got a place in a staffed group home.

  5. I don’t understand why closing bars at 10 or 11 is a safety measure. (Admittedly, this may be more of a problem in Boston than Belmont.) Whether people are eating and drinking inside or out, they are congregating in large numbers without masks and not observing social distancing measures. And why are casinos considered essential businesses???

    I’m also concerned and unsure about what to do about reopening schools. I thought the quality of education provided in the spring was awful, laughable for a town like Belmont that prides itself on the quality of its public education. I’m now reading that many more children are getting the virus than we realized, which threatens to keep it spreading. On the other hand, kids are really struggling with social restrictions placed on them (other than the teenagers who continue to gather in groups, many without masks) and need the social and emotional (not to mention educational) benefits of being in school. I believe there is a way to balance these needs, but we are not approaching this problem in a collaborative way and individual interests (e.g., parents vs teachers) are keeping us from finding a better solution.

  6. Opening gyms and indoor dining was a mistake, and I dearly wish that we had had a much stronger statewide campaign on “everyone should wear masks, this is a good mask, this is a bad mask (exhale valves, not sealed to face)”. We had a chance to drive this disease out and we blew it. Other countries (Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Vietnam) manage to carry on most of their business and transit despite cities even denser than Boston/Cambridge/Somerville, because they are good at wearing masks (and, apparently, at not talking on the subway!)

    I realize that closing certain business is very hard on those businesses, but till the bug is gone, I’m not setting foot in a restaurant anyway, so my business is lost no matter what. I would gladly pay a higher tax rate to supply the money needed to make those businesses and their employees comfortably whole. Income taxes were higher when we moved here, and that was fine. (to the inevitable response of “what’s stopping you from paying more now?” — governments run on taxes, charities run on charity. A few people paying more voluntarily does not generate enough money to support people who are out of work because of this disease.)

    And uh, regarding taxes and taxing telecommuters from NH — I do enjoy sticking in to NH, but sorry, no, that’s not fair, and I also think you want to be careful where this might go in the long run (I work for a company with headquarters in California, no doubt incorporated in Delaware, that also plays clever tax games in the EU with Ireland and the Netherlands, don’t think they wouldn’t try to game this for advantage. Leave those worms in the can, please.)

  7. Thank you for your survey.
    I am very concerned about how I might be expected to arrive at work, as I am on the Green T “B” line (BU-to-BC). This is a *packed* line, and no distancing of any kind is possible.
    If there will be people packing in, discretionarily wearing masks (see other comments from the “rebellious”), I feel this is a complete failure of service-v.-guidance.
    How is the state dealing with this?!
    Thank you.

  8. On the commuting vs. working remotely question, long term:
    Someone asked at a recent company meeting if working remotely would be allowed permanently. The answer was very non-committal. Our company used to be more flexible years ago and later added restrictions. The answer, though evasive, seemed to say that those restrictions would be loosened to some degree but it very much was not saying you can all work from wherever you want. So what I want to do and what my company allows may be different things. Btw. this is a good company, among the best larger local ones in terms of how it treats its employees.

    Money might talk on this if you like telecommuting as an answer to the congestion and transportation emissions problem. However, if we can work anywhere will we want to stay in Massachusetts? Will taxing out of staters who work for in state companies hold up legally? For myself, aside from work, I have exactly two connections to this state. One has mentioned possibly moving to California. If that happens I go to southern Vermont or possibly Springfield, assuming my company allows it. When the other connection grows older and is more independent I leave the country and fulful my dream to live in Montreal or Quebec City. Point is, you might consider balancing incentives to telecommute with the possibility of losing state revenue.

  9. One last thing, about the economic problems exacerbated by this virus situation, there needs to be both a state and a federal tax on wealthy businesses and on individuals who earn income above a certain level. IT platforms such as Amazon, Instacart, and other food delivery services like Doordash are flourishing financially during this time as are their executives, while their bottom rung employees toil delivering at low pay rates, and the rest of the economy crashes, people lose their jobs, and the government gets more and more in debt. These companies and people are earning billions, and they need to pay/contribute to help restore the state and U.S. economy.

  10. Thanks for reaching out to your constituents. There should have been an additional question asking: “If you ARE working, has your income been reduced?” I suspect answers would be “YES”. As many employers in Mass. are probably contemplating or doing; mine has reduced my income.
    That being the case…Will, please don’t vote for any tax increases. I’ve had enough money removed from my wallet, already this year.

  11. SR, the problem is, what you consider as wealthy, may not be what others consider as wealthy, and by allowing the legislature to judge what is wealthy, at some point, whatever YOU make, will be considered wealthy too.
    Today, in theory, we are taxed evenly. A flat income tax rate of 5.05%, as well as a flat statewide sales tax rate of 6.25%. There are certainly loopholes, and LOTS of other taxes and fees, but that’s another matter.

    1. Hi Carlos,
      I get what you are saying, but do you consider a billion dollars or more not wealthy? 50 million? Come on. I am sure that there are lots of “millionaires” in this state with 5 million, but 30 or 40 million or more- that is super, super rich. I do not know the details of loopholes for these people, but they should be closed. There is a difference between wealth and WEALTH. At least some of these people are philanthropists.

  12. I am happy to see the library open in Watertown. I think COVID is revealing a major weakness in american democracy. People are inconsiderate not wearing masks and socially distancing. It is a false sense of freedom to not make such a small sacrifice for the benefit of your fellow Americans. We are losing lives and the economy is crashing. South Korea is a Democracy and they are finished with this bug.

  13. Regrettably it is likely that the pandemic will get much worse before it can get better. It is unlikely or rather a certainty that the earliest we can hope for movement towards the establishment of reasonable, well founded, realistic and decent policies and actions at the national level is January 20, 2021. It is astounding and profoundly sad that the main difference between a spokesperson for Chinese state media and one for the White House does not lie in the respective and distinctively different levels of their truthfulness and honesty, but rather that the latter is blonde. Absent coordinated and consistent behavior at the national level with respect to some basic precautions and patterns of behavior. every location in the US will be subject to the lowest common denominator of success in combating Covid-19 because people travel. It is easy – and justified – to criticize and express alarm about the attitudes and partying of young people (students and others) but evidently many adults are guilty of equally appalling carelessness or indifference to their impact on others, including prominent leaders in the worlds of business, finance, politics, and the legal system. I note finally that if corporations and others were truly committed to helping create a new and better normal instead of limiting themselves to PR gestures and expressions of support for “Black Lines Matter” they would unilaterally apply significant resources and demonstrate real commitments such as: (a) Telecom companies – Investing aggressively in providing powerful broadband access services and devices to all households who do not yet have them; (b) Financial institutions – reducing the usurious interest rates they charge on debts such as credit cards and student debt to levels much closer to what they pay, for example on money market accounts.

  14. We don`t need to re-open much more slowly, but we do need to re-open somewhat more slowly. Thank you, Will, for your web-post/comment board (a few weeks ago) about rolling back some targeted parts of the re-opening. I am curious for an update on any discussions taking place with the Senate/with the Governor regarding moving that forward. I imagine that the legally-binding quarantine-or-test rules that just came into effect are part of that; what else is being discussed? Thanks.

  15. I won’t be able to pay rent next month, and it’s very unclear what my landlord can do or not do. Will they be able to collect the rent at a later time? Will it be forgiven? Is the no eviction rule still going? Things are very unclear.

  16. When I say in the survey that we’re taking things too fast, I want to specify that this is mainly the people I see on the sidewalk and in the supermarket who STILL won’t mask or social distance. I feel like our businesses and local governments are trying their best, but their efforts are being undercut by puddings-for-brains who think that basic safety measures are “attacks on their freedoms”.

  17. I cannot believe that States have been allowed to formulate individual Covid responses and now we are encouraging Universities and Local School Districts in coordination with Local public health to do the same. This is a national problem. Charlie Baker should be deciding what colleges are doing and what public schools should be doing in conjunction with state board of health. To assume that local superintendents, college presidents or local boards of health have the skill and ability to deal with this problem and can think beyond the borders of their own instititions is foolhardy.
    And the adaptation of the hybrid model is catchy, means nothing except we do not know what to do so we will do a little of everything. The political leadership should have the public health community making these decisions on a national and state level. The results of our efforts thus far are borne out in our rates of infection and it only will continue to worsen under this scenario.

  18. We need to reopen faster, but people need to be responsible, socially distance, and wear face coverings and NOT gather in large groups without face coverings. People need to consistently do the right things to stay safe – wash hands, sanitize surfaces, don’t touch their face… In other words – BE SMART ABOUT IT.

  19. I wish that folks in Belmont would wear masks more consistently. I live on a major thoroughfare and it seems that 30-40% do not have masks on or fail to bring them over their faces in time. This is in start contrast to Cambridge where almost everyone outside seems to have a mask on. Also, I think that priority should be given to opening schools rather than restaurants, bars and casinos.

  20. Re. Question #1:
    Perhaps the pace of reopening is alright, but unless there is strict enforcement of proper mask usage, safe distancing, etc., and I mean enforced by police if need be, then I believe we will never get back to anything resembling normal. Too many misguided folks are being allowed to do whatever they want to.

  21. Due to the pandemic I was no longer able to afford to live where I lived in Watertown anymore, and had to give up my apartment back in June. I now live at my moms house north of Boston. It is not where I expected to be at my age, 62. I am one of the lucky ones who had someplace to go. I know that there are many, many people out there who have not been so lucky. There are also many people who are far worse off than I. It did not have to be this way, but now that it is, we have to do whatever we can to survive this time in our worlds history. Luckily I live in a state where our elected leaders seem to care about the citizens who voted them into office. On the national level, this does not seem to be the case. Thank you for your service Mr. Brownsberger, and for reaching out to your constituents to find out how they are doing. I can only hope that the representatives where I live now will do the same. We will get through this if we all look out for each other, wear masks, socially distance, etc. Listen to the people who have studied hard at being scientists, public health officials, or doctors, etc. to help us get through this pandemic. They aren’t trying to fool us, why would they. They are trying to help us all survive this so we can get back to our lives! I am a people person. I had a very good career come to a screeching halt. A career where I had built up years of great relationships with my clients. So loosing that, and my home, has been really tough. So to get through this, I listen to those who know more than I do, so that I can hopefully put that career back together again sooner than later. I miss Watertown, which I had made my home for the last eleven years. Maybe someday I will come back. Thanks again, Will. Your office also helped me out with unemployment back in April. Your staff did what they could to give me a hand, and I appreciate that.

  22. I do not understand the restaurant tables I see all over Back Bay where people who obviously are not household members sit close together with no masks. Are we certain distance is not a factor as long as we are outdoors?

  23. Thank you will for taking in all our voices. You show there is a lot more to leading than many elected officials know or show. Listening is key and helping where you can. I am grateful for what you do.

  24. I see many students who think if they’re wearing a mask, their friend next to them seems to think they don’t need one. Why can’t remote learning be better coordinated? With remote learning we could accept students from other states while they stay in their respective states. It is probably more complicated for international students though..

    We need to think way more creatively on this..

  25. I am so sorry for children who won’t be able to start school in person because the “grown ups” insist on summer partying, getting haircuts and enjoying happy hours, etc. Massachusetts last spring had a relatively responsible approach to mitigation, but all the summer reopening is taking its toll. I say we should prioritize the needs of children and the elderly/at-risk. Mask wearing, closing nonessential businesses, and battening down the hatches is important until we kick this thing to the curb.

  26. I am absolutely appalled at what happened in the local nursing home. There should be some sort of public hearing on this. Something is fundamentally wrong here. We have the best medical care in the world. And we in Belmont have had a death rate worse than any country in the world.

  27. thank you for soliciting our views. Like other responders, I think that the pace of reopening has been appropriate, or perhaps I should say, would be appropriate, if everyone were prepared to accommodate the governor’s very minimal masking and social distancing guidelines. Since most people seem to be trying to be careful and thoughtful, I am distressed that a small number of others are prepared to jeopardize the health of the community as well as the financial well-being of the many businesses which are on the edge of bankruptcy and will most certainly go under if there is another significant shutdown. State and local communities need to respond more clearly, directly, and forcefully to those who refuse to comply with the small number of guidelines (correct masking, social distancing, limitations on numbers, etc). Those who manage restaurants need to understand that if they continue to allow groups to use restaurants as bars by allowing them to count chips and pretzels as food service, they will be
    closed down. Every entity allowed to reopen must understand the quid pro quos of remaining open. If they are not willing to accept these conditions and monitor them, then the Governor will have no choice but to revert to Phase 2a
    I am particularly concerned about the consequences of a large influx of students into the area and think both the communities and the state should be very clear with each institution about its responsibility for these folks whether or not they reside on campus. Although educational institutions are, in some cases, are being very clear about appropriate behavior on campus, I have not seen any evidence that they have extended these guidelines to behavior in the off-campus community. State and local communities should insist that they do so. Although I think indoor dining could be made safe without the influx of students, I doubt that the current gentle educational safeguards are sufficient to protect the community once they arrive. If these venues (Coffee shops, restaurants which do not require that a meal be purchased with liquor service) are open, students will patronize them —probably even more than in the past because the usual on-campus social spaces will not be open.
    Unfortunately, the behavior of the few has now
    jeopardized the reopening of in-class instruction for K-12 students. Although it appears that it would be safe to provide face to face instruction in the towns in western Ma and on the islands which have few if any covid cases, most other towns will need to begin with remote learning.
    Although remote learning techniques have no doubt improved, they are still not ideal for most
    children, are very problematic for some, and create significant, in some cases insurmountable pro-
    blemish for parents, both those trying to work from home and those who do not have that option.
    Group size both for indoor and outdoor activity needs to be reduced. Immediate families are
    not as large as the current guidelines allow. Once
    groups become large, particularly in social situations involving food and beverages, but even without them, participants lose sight of the basic guidelines, which is understandable but not acceptable.

  28. While commuting may be easier with less traffic on the road, I constantly find it to be a stressful game of keep-away. especially when cycling. Even if the potential exposure is brief, I’m constantly trying to stay away from other people, whether masked, unmasked, or wearing a mask improperly. This includes other cyclists, pedestrians in crosswalks or near the curb, path users who don’t keep to the right or pull off when they’re stopped, construction workers, police details, delivery drivers, and even cars with open windows. Some may question whether my fears are rational, but there is no excuse for others to fail to respect the seriousness and situational awareness required for social distancing.

  29. I would like to see the state require masks outside of the home, similar to the ordinance in Cambridge, MA. Especially now with the rise in the number of cases we should not be taking chances!

  30. Long run was a difficult modifier… I responded for after Covid is over, but will be staying home for my job for at least the next 10 months.

  31. I also would suggest a more private forum for comments. Many people may want you to have information, but may not want to deal with the back and forth of public commentary.

Comments are closed.