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Poll Finds New Leader in 3rd District Primary Race

10 candidates seeking Democratic nomination to run to succeed Tsongas

An American Flag flys outside the Capitol Building at twilight

08/23/2018

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 politics experts are available for interviews about today’s poll results. 

LOWELL, Mass. – With less than two weeks to go, Dan Koh has moved to the front of the crowded Democratic primary race to represent Massachusetts’ 3rd District, according to a new UMass Lowell-Boston Globe poll released today. 

Koh, former chief of staff to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, has surged to 19 percent of support, according to the independent, nonpartisan poll of 553 likely voters in the Sept. 4 Democratic primary in the 3rd Congressional District. Ten candidates are running for the Democratic nomination to replace U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas.

Koh has seen a 15-point increase in support since the first UMass Lowell-Boston Globe poll on the race in April, passing previous front-runner Rufus Gifford, former U.S. ambassador to Denmark, who is now tied for second place with state Sen. Barbara L’Italien at 13 percent. They are followed by Lori Trahan at 8 percent, state Rep. Juana Matias at 6 percent, Alexandra Chandler at 4 percent, Jeff Ballinger and Beej Das tied at 2 percent and Leonard Golder and Bopha Malone tied at 1 percent. 

However, 29 percent of likely primary voters are still undecided. While that is less than in April, when nearly 60 percent of likely voters had not determined who they will cast a ballot for in the primary, there is still evidence that the large field of candidates is making the choice difficult, according to faculty in the UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion, which conducted the polls in partnership with the Boston Globe. 

“Ten candidates in a congressional district primary leads to information overload, which can lead a voter to shut down and stop paying attention. With less than two weeks until the primary, many of the candidates are still unknown to Democratic voters in the 3rd District; a majority of voters have either ‘no opinion’ or have ‘never heard of’ nine of the 10 candidates, with Koh as the lone exception,” said Joshua Dyck, co-director of the UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion and associate professor of political science.

Despite the lack of name recognition for most candidates, many voters polled said they had been contacted by phone (48 percent) or in person (30 percent) by at least one campaign. The candidates that had the highest percentage of voters who reported being contacted are those with the highest percentage of support: Koh, Gifford and L’Italien. 

“The winner of this race will likely be the campaign who has talked to the most voters on the phone or in person. Right now, that campaign is Dan Koh’s,” said John Cluverius, associate director of the Center for Public Opinion and assistant professor of political science.

The timing of the primary may also play a role in deciding the outcome of the race. 

“In a primary election, particularly one held on the day after Labor Day, turnout is difficult to predict. The campaigns that have well-organized and well-staffed field organizations can exceed the candidates’ polling percentage,” 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.

Poll respondents identified the economy as the most important issue facing the district, followed by health care and general dissatisfaction with government. Asked about immigration, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement specifically, 80 percent said that ICE is in need of changes, but only 9 percent believe that ICE should be abolished. 

Likely voters identified the characteristics that are most important to them in a candidate to replace U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas. The top responses were someone who will stand up to President Donald Trump (51 percent), someone who has not taken campaign money from lobbyists or political action committees (18 percent) and someone who has lived in the district for most of their life (15 percent). 

The poll found that Tsongas, who has represented the 3rd District since 2007, will leave office with a 60 percent net favorability rating among likely Democratic primary voters, who also gave their opinions on U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker, both of whom are running for re-election. Baker, a Republican, scored a higher net favorability rating than Warren, a Democrat, 62 percent to 54 percent.

Ten percent of voters polled said they have a favorable view of Trump, compared with 80 percent unfavorable. Forty-seven percent gave House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi a favorable rating and 25 percent said they have an unfavorable view.

Results of the poll are based on interviews with a sample of 553 likely Democratic primary voters who live in the 3rd Congressional District. Data was collected by live interviewers via landline (78 percent) and cellular (22 percent) telephones from Aug. 14 to Aug. 21. The margin of error is plus or minus 5.2 percent. Detailed analysis of the results, along with polling data and methodology, are available at www.uml.edu/polls. UMass Lowell’s Center for Public Opinion is a member of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) Transparency Initiative.

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