Poll: Markey Has Early Lead in Race for Senate

Democrat Leads Candidates from Both Parties, But All Lack Name Recognition with Voters

03/06/2013


Detailed poll results and analysis are available at www.bostonherald.com and www.uml.edu/polls.

UMass Lowell representatives are available for interviews about today’s poll. 

TV assignment desks – UMass Lowell offers live interviews via ReadyCam by VideoLink.

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

LOWELL, Mass. – U.S. Rep. Edward Markey has a double-digit lead over his Democratic opponent U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch in the run for U.S. Senate as well as the three Republicans seeking the seat, according to a new UMass Lowell-Boston Herald poll released today.

The poll is the first to measure the matchups in both the Republican and Democratic primaries, as well as potential contests in the June 25 special election for U.S. Senate since the candidate filing deadline on Feb. 27. The independent, nonpartisan poll, conducted on behalf of the UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion and the Boston Herald, surveyed 600 Massachusetts registered voters between Saturday, March 2 and Tuesday, March 5. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

In addition to voters’ views on the Senate candidates, the poll also asked for opinions on whether they would vote for former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown if he runs for governor, Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s favorability rating and views of Gov. Deval Patrick’s budget and tax plan. Respondents also expressed a strong feeling of distrust in both federal and state governments.

In the race for Senate, the poll found that Markey leads Lynch by 29.5 percentage points among potential Democratic primary voters, 50 percent to 20.5 percent, with 23 percent unsure about how they plan to vote in the April 30 primary. Markey also leads all three Republican candidates in head-to-head matchups by double digits: 19.5 percentage points over businessman and former Navy SEAL Gabriel Gomez (47 percent for Markey to 27.5 percent for Gomez); 17.2 percent over former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan (47.5 percent for Markey to 30.3 percent for Sullivan); and 23.2 percentage points over state Rep. Dan Winslow (49.1 percent for Markey to 25.9 percent for Winslow). Lynch also leads all three Republicans by margins of 18.4 percent (Gomez), 17 percent (Sullivan) and 24.5 percent (Winslow). 

The poll also found that while 86 percent of Massachusetts registered voters are aware the special election is June 25, most are unfamiliar with the candidates. While 30.6 percent of registered voters surveyed report they have a favorable view of Markey (compared with 19.9 percent unfavorable), 30.6 said they have no opinion of him and 18.7 percent said they had never heard of him (49.3 percent combined). Even among registered voters surveyed who said they follow Massachusetts politics closely, 32.2 percent said they had no opinion of Markey and 17.2 percent said they had never heard of him. 

Markey fared better in name recognition than all of the other candidates: 41.6 percent of voters surveyed had no opinion of Lynch and 18.7 percent had never heard of him (60.3 percent total); 38.9 percent had no opinion of Sullivan and 40.2 percent had never heard of him (79.1 percent total); 31.5 percent had no opinion and 53.4 percent had never heard of Gomez (84.9 percent total); 21.9 percent had no opinion of Winslow and 69.6 percent said they had never heard of him (91.5 percent total). 

“Ed Markey is clearly the front-runner in a race characterized by the lack of attention Massachusetts voters are giving to it. Even among those who report following politics closely, most of the candidates are not known. Markey’s lead, while it is substantial against both Stephen Lynch and the three Republican candidates, is built on a great deal of soft support. In a limited timeframe and with competitive primaries on both sides, there are considerable obstacles for candidates to overcome. However, there is still great potential for this race to shift as the campaign heats up,” said Joshua Dyck, Ph.D., co-director of the Center for Public Opinion and associate professor of political science, who also noted that the advantage of both Democrats against the Republicans is largely explained by the 2-to-1 party registration and identification advantage that Democrats have over Republicans in Massachusetts, which was reflected in the sample of registered voters surveyed in the poll.

The poll also found that 77.1 percent of those surveyed preferred a special election to fill a vacant U.S. Senate seat rather than a gubernatorial appointment. Voters were more mixed when presented with the estimated $13 million cost, with 42 percent saying special elections are a good use of taxpayer money, 37.9 percent saying such votes are a waste of taxpayer money and 19.6 percent unsure. More Republicans, 49.3 percent, were more likely to say special elections are a good use of taxpayer money than Democrats, 40.1 percent, which Dyck said could be because of Brown’s success in the 2010 Senate special election.

When asked about their level of trust in the federal and state governments, voters reported low marks for both, with only 12 percent saying they trust the federal government “just about always” or “most of the time” and 28 percent saying that of state government. Historical lows in national polls of trust in federal government have been about 17 percent, according to Dyck.

“Massachusetts registered voters are disinterested and frustrated,” Dyck said. “After enduring a series of recent contentious elections and observing the continuing budget struggles in Washington, trust in the national government is at a historically low level. State trust in government is higher, but still well below 50 percent.” 

Other findings from the poll include:
  • Brown has considerable bipartisan support for a run for governor in 2014, with 32.7 percent of voters surveyed saying they are very likely to vote for him and 26 percent somewhat likely. Brown, who got the support of 92.2 percent of Republicans polled and 36.7 percent of Democrats, had more name recognition than other possible candidates, including Charlie Baker (67.2 percent combined no opinion/never heard of), former Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey (58.4 percent combined no opinion/never heard of) and state Treasurer Steve Grossman (79.5 percent no opinion/never heard of).
  • Warren is viewed favorably by 51.1 percent of those polled, compared with 34 percent who view her unfavorably. These results reflect no net change to her favorability rating since the November 2012 UMass Lowell-Boston Herald poll.
  • Patrick is viewed favorably by 50.6 percent of voters surveyed, compared with 32.2 percent unfavorable. When asked about Patrick’s plan to raise income taxes and decrease sales taxes to fund investments in transportation and education, 47.9 percent said they strongly or somewhat support the proposal, 45.6 percent said they strongly or somewhat oppose the plan and 6.4 percent were unsure.
Results for the UMass Lowell-Boston Herald poll are based on landline and cellular telephone interviews with a random sample of 600 Massachusetts voters conducted via landline and cellular telephones by RKM Research and Communications, directed by R. Kelly Myers, president. The poll was designed and analyzed by Dyck. Statistical results are based on a random digit dial probability sample. More information on the poll methodology and full polling data are available at www.uml.edu/polls.

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