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New Poll Finds Early Lead Emerging in 3rd District

First look at race to succeed Niki Tsongas also asks voters for opinions on Trump, Baker and top issues

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04/18/2018

Contact: Christine Gillette, 978-934-2209 or Christine_Gillette@uml.edu or Nancy Cicco, 978-934-4944 or Nancy_Cicco@uml.edu

Detailed poll results are available at www.uml.edu/polls.

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

LOWELL, Mass. – Rufus Gifford is leading a crowded field in the Democratic primary race to replace U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas, according to the results of a new Boston Globe-UMass Lowell poll released today. 

The poll of 490 likely voters in the Democratic primary for Massachusetts 3rd Congressional District, the first independent, nonpartisan poll in this race, also looked at views on the job performance of President Donald Trump and Gov. Charlie Baker, as well as key issues in the minds of those surveyed.

Gifford, former U.S. ambassador to Denmark, leads a pack of 13 candidates with the support of 11 percent of likely voters, followed by state Sen. Barbara L’Italien (7 percent), Lori Trahan (5 percent); Dan Koh and state Rep. Juana Matias (both with 4 percent), Alexandra Chandler (3 percent), Bopha Malone (2 percent) and Don Bradley, Patrick Littlefield and Keith St. John (all 1 percent). The remaining candidates, Jeff Ballinger, Beej Das and Leonard Golder, received less than 1 percent of voters’ support. 

However, more than half (59 percent) of likely voters surveyed said they have not yet made up their mind about who they will vote for in the Sept. 4 primary. So far, the poll shows there is moderate interest in the race to succeed Tsongas, with 36 percent reporting they have not been following the race much, compared with 12 percent who said they are following it very closely. 

“The big winner in this poll is certainly Rufus Gifford, who has shown an early aptitude for out-campaigning his opponents in the district and in bridging an early name-recognition gap. Still, with nearly 60 percent of the electorate undecided, the race is very much wide open. It now shifts to how candidates who have been successful in securing campaign cash can convert those donations into getting their message out to voters, many of whom may still be unfamiliar with a large majority of the candidates,” said Prof. Joshua Dyck, co-director of the UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion, which conducted the poll in partnership with the Boston Globe.

The public will have the opportunity to see the candidates in action on Sunday, April 29 in two debates being held by UMass Lowell and the Boston Globe. The 90-minute debates – which start at noon and 2 p.m. – will be held at Durgin Hall on UMass Lowell’s South Campus at 35 Wilder St., Lowell. All 13 Democratic candidates have been invited to participate and the format for the debates will be announced next week. For more information, see www.uml.edu/debate

The Boston Globe-UMass Lowell poll also asked likely Democratic primary voters for their opinions on Trump’s job performance. Eighty-eight percent said they disapprove of the way the Republican is handling his job as president and 81 percent said they strongly disapprove. Fifty-five percent said impeachment hearings should be held to remove Trump from office, compared with 32 percent who said they should not be held. Support for impeachment was highest among women (63 percent) and Hispanic (68 percent) respondents, compared to 45 percent of male and 53 percent of white respondents. 

In contrast, Baker, also a Republican, has a strong approval rating among likely Democratic primary voters in the 3rd Congressional District. Eighty percent said they approve of the way Baker is handling his job as Massachusetts’ governor and just 11 percent disapprove. Baker’s net approval rating among those polled is virtually the same as U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat, who received 81 percent of likely voters’ support. The results highlight the bipartisan nature of Baker’s appeal, according to Dyck. 

On the issues facing the 3rd District, the most common responses about those considered the most important were related to the state of the economy, including unemployment and poverty. Those issues tied at 16 percent of respondents with dissatisfaction with government, including Trump and Republican incumbents, as well as lack of leadership and trust. Education and schools were second at 11 percent along with the nation’s opioid crisis and drug addiction. Health care, gun safety, cost of living/housing and traffic were among the other issues that were also mentioned by those surveyed in smaller percentages.

Those surveyed were also asked whether they thought Democrats were likely to take back control of the U.S. House of Representatives in the midterm elections this fall. Sixty-eight percent of likely voters in the 3rd District said they believe this will happen, compared to 20 percent who said Republicans will maintain a majority of House seats. If Democrats should have a majority, only 27 percent of those polled said Nancy Pelosi should serve as Speaker of the House again compared to 55 percent who said they should choose someone else and 17 percent who said they were unsure. Thirty-three percent of women polled supported Pelosi compared to 19 percent of men. 

“Democrats are still heavily favored in this district. While this is unlikely to be the linchpin race for control of Congress or control of the Democratic Party, primary voters in this race are bullish on Democrats’ chances to retake the House and if they do, they want Democrats to choose someone other than Nancy Pelosi to be Speaker of the House,” said John Cluverius, UMass Lowell assistant professor of political science and Center for Public Opinion research fellow.

Results of the poll are based on interviews with a sample of 490 likely Democratic primary voters who live in the 3rd Congressional District. Data was collected by live interviewers via landline (79 percent) and cellular (21 percent) telephones from April 11 to April 17. The margin of error is plus or minus 5.5 percent. Detailed analysis of results along with polling data, including methodology, are 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 18,000 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. www.uml.edu