The public’s confidence in the Steamship Authority has improved markedly since 1987, according to polls commissioned 25 years apart by the Vineyard Gazette and conducted by a leading national market research firm.

In a survey of seasonal and permanent residents of the Vineyard conducted this spring, Harris Interactive found that 38 percent of all respondents said they had “a great deal” of confidence in the leadership of the boat line compared with just 12 percent in 1987. At the same time, 46 per cent of respondents in 1987 said they had “hardly any” confidence in the leadership of the Steamship Authority; by 2013, that figure had declined to just 11 per cent.

Among seasonal residents, the improvement in attitude toward the ferry service has been even greater. In 2013 45 per cent of seasonal residents said they had “a great deal” of confidence” in SSA leadership compared with 12 per cent in 1987.

In another measure of customer satisfaction with the boat line, the recent Harris Poll found that 51 per cent of all respondents are “very satisfied” with ferry service to and from Martha’s Vineyard, and another 39 per cent are “somewhat satisfied.” The same question was not asked in 1987, so there is no comparative data available.

In 1987 there was widespread concern about overcrowding on ferry boats and on the Island. At that time, respondents to the Harris Poll, by a margin of 84 per cent to 15 per cent, said they would be willing to have the boat line limit families to two cars each for the summer season if it would make the ferry operation more efficient.

The same survey 25 years ago found that 78 per cent of respondents would favor giving permanent residents preference on boat reservations. That policy has since been adopted by the Steamship Authority.

The Harris Interactive poll commissioned this spring by the Vineyard Gazette surveyed 521 permanent and seasonal residents of the Vineyard to find out their attitudes on a range of issues about quality of life. Topline results of the survey are available in the form of a PDF: In Gazette Poll of Island Residents, Coastal Erosion Tops List of Concerns.