LOWELL, Mass. – Republican incumbent Scott Brown has the edge over Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren in the race for U.S. Senate, according to a new UMass Lowell-Boston Herald poll released today.
The independent, nonpartisan poll – which surveyed more than 500 Massachusetts registered voters – found that 50 percent of registered voters said they would vote for Brown if the election were today, compared to 44 percent for Warren. Among those deemed likely to vote, Brown got 49 percent support to Warren’s 45 percent. The margin of error for the poll is plus or minus 5 percentage points. The survey, conducted Sept. 13 through Sept. 17, began a week after the end of the Democratic National Convention, at which Warren had a prime-time speaking slot. The last night of the poll was the day a video was disclosed of Mitt Romney making controversial comments at a private fundraiser.
The new findings are a reversal from the last UMass Lowell-Boston Herald poll, conducted in December 2011, which found Warren had a seven-point advantage, 49 percent to 42 percent, over Brown. The poll released today is the third by the UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion
and the Boston Herald; they were the first to ask voters about a potential Brown-Warren matchup in September 2011 and held the first debate in the Senate race between the Democratic candidates in October 2011.
Brown and Warren will debate at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell on Monday, Oct. 1 at 7 p.m. The UMass Lowell-Boston Herald debate will be the first between the candidates that is open to the public and more than 4,500 people are expected to attend.
The poll found that Brown is backed by one in five Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents and a similar share (22 percent) of the 60 percent of likely voters who say they support re-electing President Barack Obama. Brown also has the support of 58 percent of all independent voters surveyed, up from 53 percent in December 2011. The new poll found Warren has the support of 35 percent of independent voters, compared to 37 percent in the December poll.
Brown has also made gains among voters asked who would better represent the middle class, an area that has been a hallmark of Warren’s campaign. Asked which candidate would do a better job of looking out for middle-class families’ economic interests, 46 percent of registered voters polled said Warren and 44 percent said Brown. Warren had a 10-point advantage in this area in December’s poll.
The new UMass Lowell-Boston Herald poll found that Brown has opened a large lead among men, 20 points among registered voters (56 percent for Brown and 36 percent for Warren) and 18 points among likely voters. In December’s poll, Warren and Brown were almost exactly even among men and Brown has eroded Warren’s advantage among women voters since December from an 18-point lead among registered voters for Warren to seven points now. Warren received 51 percent among women registered voters in both polls, while Brown has improved from 35 percent support to 44 percent.
“Brown’s apparent advantage is built on a narrowing gender gap among women and a widening gender gap among men. These numbers also represent a significant shift from December and indicate that Brown’s campaign has been especially effective at winning over independents, including those who are Democratic-leaning,” said Joshua Dyck, associate professor of political science and co-director of the UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion. “The return of Brown’s pickup truck and his moves to the center appear to be playing well with all voters, but especially men.”
Warren’s favorability score increased 14 points from December to 48 percent favorable now. Her unfavorable rating rose from 27 to 34 percent. Brown’s job approval rating among voters improved from 45 percent in December to 58 percent in this poll. His favorability rating climbed 13 percent to 57 percent favorable, compared to 29 percent unfavorable.
The new poll also looked at the race for the White House and found that Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have a large lead over Republican challengers Romney and Paul Ryan, 60 percent to 35 percent among registered voters and 59 percent over 36 percent among likely voters. Obama’s favorable rating is 60 percent to 34 percent unfavorable among voters surveyed, virtually unchanged from the December poll, and Romney’s favorable rating is 32 percent to 60 percent unfavorable, compared to 40 percent favorable and 48 percent unfavorable in December.
“While Gov. Romney continues to trail President Obama in Massachusetts by a margin nearly identical to that in our poll last December, Sen. Brown, in that time, has seen his favorability rise significantly and his unfavorable rating decline,” said Prof. Frank Talty, co-director of the UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion.
Other findings from the poll include:
- Thirty percent of voters surveyed said Warren is too liberal while 24 percent said Brown is too conservative. Fifty-six percent called Brown’s ideology “about right,” up 11 points since December. Forty-nine percent said they see Warren’s ideology as “about right,” up 9 points since December.
- Warren leads Brown among the youngest and oldest voters, with 54 percent to 40 percent support among likely voters younger than 35 and 51 percent to 43 percent among likely voters age 65 and older. She also leads among voters who hold master’s or other advanced degrees, while Brown has the advantage among those with some college or undergraduate degrees; the candidates evenly split support among voters who did not continue their education past high school.
- Massachusetts voters’ views on the role of government held nearly steady from a UMass Lowell-Boston Herald poll conducted in September 2011. The latest poll found that 49 percent said the government should do more to solve problems, 41 percent said it is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals.
- Gov. Deval Patrick’s favorability rating among voters surveyed is 57 percent favorable, 33 percent unfavorable, compared with 52 percent favorable to 31 percent unfavorable a year ago.
In the Senate matchup, the poll found that a substantial number of voters could change their minds before Election Day: 29 percent of those supporting Brown and 19 percent of Warren supporters indicated they may change candidates.
“Scott Brown has been running numerous ads touting endorsements from Democrats well-known in various parts of the state, as well as one with President Obama telling him, ‘Good job.’ These may be helping him retain considerable crossover appeal with voters in this poll. Brown needs their backing in strong numbers if he is to win re-election as a Republican in heavily Democratic Massachusetts,” said Mike Mokrzycki, the independent survey researcher who directed the poll for the Center for Public Opinion and Boston Herald. He is the former head of polling for the Associated Press whose other clients include NBC News, where he manages the exit poll operation, and the Pew Research Center.
Results for the UMass Lowell-Boston Herald poll are based on telephone interviews with a random sample of 524 Massachusetts voters conducted Sept. 13 through Sept. 17 via landline and cellular telephones by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. Statistical results are weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies. The margin of sampling error for the complete set of weighted data is plus or minus 5.3 percentage points. More information on the poll methodology and full polling data are available at www.uml.edu/polls