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Baker Has Momentum in Governor's Race

Survey Also Finds Casino Repeal, Bottle Bill, Gas Tax Questions Likely to Fail

10/27/2014
By

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

UMass Lowell representatives are available for interview regarding the poll.

LOWELL, Mass. – Charlie Baker is ahead of Martha Coakley in the race for governor and has the momentum going into next week’s election, according to a new UMass Lowell/7News poll released today.

Republican candidate Baker has the support of 45 percent of likely voters surveyed, compared to 41 percent for Coakley, a Democrat, according to the poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percent for likely voters. Independent candidates Evan Falchuk, Jeff McCormick and Scott Lively received a combined six percent support. Eight percent of likely voters reported they are undecided about their choice for governor. 

“The momentum is clearly with Baker. Compared to our August survey of Massachusetts voters, Baker has gained five points on Coakley,” said Prof. Joshua Dyck, co-director of the Center for Public Opinion, who wrote and analyzed the poll, adding that Baker’s edge is bolstered by the higher percentage of Republicans who are likely voters than Democrats and strong support among independents, with whom Baker leads by 23 points. 

The independent, nonpartisan poll was conducted by UMass Lowell’s Center for Public Opinion in partnership with 7News from Oct. 21 through Oct. 25. Results are based on interviews, done by live interviewers via landline and cellular telephones, with a random sample of 1,001 Massachusetts registered voters and a subset of 601 likely voters. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.6 percent for registered voters.

Baker Viewed as More Moderate, Independent-minded

In a state where Democratic party-identifiers (54 percent) far exceed the number of voters who identify with the Republican party (31 percent), Republican candidates must be seen as likeable by both groups to succeed, according to Dyck, acting chairman of UMass Lowell’s Political Science Department. Baker not only leads by a sizeable margin among independent voters, but he is also supported by 16 percent of voters who identify with the Democratic party, Dyck said. 

Baker’s net favorability rating among likely voters is plus 17 (52 percent favorable, 35 percent unfavorable) compared to Coakley’s plus seven (50 percent favorable, 43 percent unfavorable). When asked which candidate is personally more likeable, 50 percent said Baker compared to 32 percent who said Coakley. And when asked which is more “independent-minded,” 47 percent chose Baker compared to 32 percent for Coakley.

“The shift in this race can be attributed to the fact that likely voters view Charlie Baker as more moderate, more independent-minded and more likeable than Martha Coakley. His favorability rating is 10 points higher than Coakley’s and asked which candidate is more likeable, Baker leads by 18 points among likely voters. It is very telling that, when asked which candidate is likely to win the election, the candidates poll nearly even at 45 percent for Coakley and 43 percent for Baker,” said Dyck, who explained that with so many Democratic-leaning voters in Massachusetts, being nearly even is a positive sign for the Republican. 

On some of the key issues in the race, voters surveyed see Baker as stronger on the economy, 53 percent to 33 percent, and Coakley as stronger on education, 48 percent to 35 percent. 

The poll found that Baker leads Coakley 51 to 36 percent among likely voters who are men, while Coakley leads women who are likely voters by eight points, 46 percent to 38 percent. Among registered voters who are women, Coakley leads by a larger margin – 14 points – but that is down eight points from the August UMass Lowell/7News poll when her lead was 22 points, 48 percent to 26 percent. 

“With just about a week to go, eight percent of likely voters have not made up their mind who they will vote for in the race for governor. Both candidates, particularly Coakley, need to convince that remaining part of the electorate to win this 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. 

Majority of Ballot Questions Unlikely to Pass

The new UMass Lowell/7News poll also found that three of the four referendum questions on the ballot – including the casino repeal – do not have the support needed to pass. Almost one in 10 likely voters said they plan to vote against all four questions. 

On Question 1, which would repeal the section of the gas tax that sets increases to the rate of inflation as determined by the Consumer Price Index, 54 percent of likely voters said they plan to vote no compared to 40 percent who plan to vote yes and 6 percent undecided. 

Only one in four likely voters (26 percent) said they will vote in favor of Question 2, which would expand the state’s bottle bill to include a deposit for non-alcoholic, non-carbonated beverages containers. Seventy-two percent of voters said they will vote against the measure.

On Question 3, which would repeal the state’s casino-gaming law, 60 percent of voters surveyed said they would vote no, compared to 39 percent who would vote yes. The poll found that voters with graduate degrees are the only demographic category with a majority (55 percent) that supports the repeal. 

Question 4, which would change the rules about earned sick time for workers in Massachusetts, is the only question that has strong support for passage. Sixty percent of likely voters – including 66 percent of women – said they plan to vote in favor of the question while 35 percent said they would vote no. The measure is supported by 80 percent of Democrats while 57 percent of Republicans oppose it. 

“As a whole, these measures highlight the difficulty of passing laws via ballot initiative when the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ sides may be unclear, when there is substantial money behind the ‘no’ campaign and when voters may be confused by the language in the law,” said Dyck. 

Other findings from the poll include:

• Current Gov. Deval Patrick is leaving office with a net favorability rating of plus 19 (55 percent view him favorably vs. 36 percent unfavorably) among registered voters and plus 10 (52 percent favorable vs. 42 percent unfavorable) among likely voters.

• President Barack Obama is viewed favorably by 53 percent of registered voters and unfavorably by 41 percent. The plus 12 net favorability rating is less than half the margin that the president received from Massachusetts in 2012, when he beat former Gov. Mitt Romney by 23 percentage points.

• Voters were also asked whether they feel it is better when the governor and legislature are controlled by the same political party. Sixty-five percent of respondents said they preferred control be divided between parties, 20 percent said they prefer unified control under one party and 15 percent were undecided. 

• Forty-two percent of likely voters think Baker has run a better campaign for governor compared to 29 percent who feel Coakley has. 

Results of the poll are based on interviews with a random sample of 1,001 Massachusetts registered voters and a subset of 601 likely voters conducted via landline and cellular telephones Oct. 21 through Oct. 25. The survey used a probability-based, random-digit-dial methodology with a dual-frame design for landline and cellular telephone surveys conducted by live interviewers in English and in Spanish. Final results are weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies based on the 2012 American Community Survey for Massachusetts. The margin of error for registered voters is plus or minus 3.6 percent and plus or minus 4.5 percent for likely voters. More information on the poll methodology, as well as full polling data, is available at www.uml.edu/polls.

UMass Lowell is a national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its more than 17,000 students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs, vigorous hands-on learning and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be ready for work, for life and for all the world offers.