Poll: Coakley leads race for governor

Survey Also Finds Majority of Voters Do Not Want to Repeal Casino Law

09/02/2014
By Contact: Christine Gillette, 978-934-2209 (w), 978-758-4664 (c), Christine_Gillette@uml.edu

LOWELL, Mass. – With just a week to go before the Democratic primary in Massachusetts, Martha Coakley has a commanding lead over all other candidates in the race for the party’s nomination for governor, according to a new UMass Lowell/7News poll released today. 

Coakley, the current Massachusetts attorney general, has a 32 point lead (52 percent to 20 percent) among likely Democratic primary voters over fellow candidate state Treasurer Steve Grossman and an even greater margin over former federal health-care administrator Donald Berwick with 9 percent and 19 percent undecided in the independent, nonpartisan poll. Conducted from Aug. 25 through Aug. 31 for the UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion and 7News, the survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.55 percent among likely Democratic primary voters. 

“Coakley is now a prohibitive favorite to win the Democratic nomination. Her support is still somewhat soft, but Steve Grossman’s campaign has simply not captured the attention of a largely unengaged Democratic primary electorate,” said Prof. Joshua Dyck, co-director of the Center for Public Opinion, who wrote and analyzed the poll, which is the first in a new partnership between UMass Lowell and 7News.

In a potential matchup in the November general election, Coakley leads Republican Charlie Baker (41 percent to 32 percent) and is up by double digits over independent candidate Jeff McCormick (7 percent) and United Independent candidate Evan Falchuk (1 percent) among Massachusetts registered voters surveyed. Seventeen percent were undecided and 3 percent said they would not vote. The poll’s margin of error among registered voters was plus or minus 2.94 percent.

“One significant wild card in the general election is the effect of what promises to be an onslaught of super PAC ads. While both sides may be aided by such outside spending, the conservative PACs are likely to attack Martha Coakley. Negative ads often drive candidates’ unfavorability up. If Coakley’s support is at all soft, it could bring her numbers down and in a close race, affect the outcome of the election,” said Frank Talty, co-director of the Center for Public Opinion and assistant dean of UMass Lowell’s College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. 

Although Coakley’s lead over Baker among all registered voters polled is 9 percent, it widens among women to 22 percentage points (48 percent to 26 percent) while Baker is up 8 points (40 percent to 32 percent) among men. 

“Given the growing antipathy among women toward the national Republican brand, we may see Coakley attempt to nationalize her campaign and brand Baker as a ‘typical Republican,’” said Dyck, acting chairman of UMass Lowell’s Political Science Department.

In a potential faceoff with Grossman in the November general election, Baker holds a narrow lead, 33 percent to 31 percent among registered voters. Twenty-three percent were undecided, while McCormick got 8 percent and Falchuk 2 percent of voters’ support.

The new UMass Lowell/7News poll also looked at voters’ views on the referendum on the November ballot that asks whether the Commonwealth should repeal the 2011 law establishing casino gaming. Fifty-nine percent of registered voters polled said they oppose repealing the measure while 36 percent support it. Only 5 percent were undecided.

“Casino gambling will likely be staying for good in the Commonwealth,” said Dyck. “With the campaign just ready to ramp up, the well-financed ‘no’ side is likely to vastly outspend proponents of the repeal, further decreasing the odds of a successful repeal effort.”

In the race for the nomination for lieutenant governor, the poll found that with just seven days to go before the primary, a large group of likely Democratic primary voters – 57 percent – are undecided about which candidate they will choose. Steve Kerrigan leads among those who have decided, with 24 percent to 10 percent each for Leland Cheung and Mike Lake. 

Other findings from the poll include:
• Despite her lead over other Democratic candidates in the poll, fewer than half (48 percent) of likely Democratic primary voters said they believe Coakley will be the next governor. Twenty percent felt Baker would win while another 18 percent are uncertain about who will succeed Deval Patrick.

• Among those polled who are likely to vote in the Democratic primary, 68 percent said they have a favorable view of Coakley and 19 percent said they have an unfavorable view, for a net favorability of 49. Baker has a net favorability rating among the likely Democratic primary voters of 18, with 42 percent viewing him favorably and 24 percent unfavorably. 

• Among Democrats seeking to replace Coakley as attorney general, former state legislator Warren Tolman has a narrow lead over Assistant Attorney General Maura Healey, 39 percent to 34 percent, with 27 percent of likely Democratic primary voters undecided.

• Of the independent candidates for governor, McCormick has the greatest support among registered voters who identify with a particular political party with 6 percent support among both Democrats and Republicans polled.

• McCormick and fellow independent Falchuk have the combined support of 14 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds polled (13 percent for McCormick and 1 percent for Falchuk), a sign that young voters are looking for more options in the political process, according to Dyck.

• Sixty percent of likely Democratic primary voters polled said they trust state government “only some of the time” or “never,” compared to 39 percent who said they “always” or “most of the time” trust Beacon Hill. 

• Forty-six percent of likely primary Democratic voters would prefer that the majority of the legislature and governor come from different political parties while 43 percent think it is better when a single party has control over both the executive and legislative branches.

Results for the UMass Lowell poll are based on interviews with a random sample of 1,624 Massachusetts registered voters and 685 likely Massachusetts Democratic primary voters conducted via landline (68 percent) and cellular telephones (32 percent) Aug. 25 through Aug. 31. Statistical results are weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies. The margin of error for registered voters is plus or minus 2.94 percent and plus or minus 4.55 percent for likely Democratic primary voters. More information on the poll methodology and full polling data are available at www.uml.edu/polls.

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