Poll results show Healey is seen as the stronger candidate on a host of issues

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Media contacts: Emily Gowdey-Backus, Emily_GowdeyBackus@uml.edu; Nancy Cicco, Nancy_Cicco@uml.edu

LOWELL, Mass. – Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has opened up a 45-point lead over state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz in the race to be the Bay State’s Democratic nominee for governor, according to a poll released Tuesday by the Center for Public Opinion at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. 

The survey found Healey leads 62% to Chang-Diaz’s 17% among 800 respondents identifying as likely voters in the 2022 Democratic primary on Tuesday, Sept. 6. Another 20% of respondents said they are either undecided or plan to vote for another candidate. The poll, conducted between Saturday, April 2, and Monday, April 11, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points. 

Healey leads across a wide range of age, race, demographic, and socio-economic categories. However, Chang-Diaz gains some ground on Healey among younger voters (18- to 44-year-olds) and non-white likely voters.

Poll results show Healey is seen as the stronger candidate on a host of issues, including: the economy (+31), COVID-19 (+26), police reform (+25) and health care (+29). Healey is also viewed as more of a strong leader (+41), the candidate who best represents Massachusetts values (+29), is the most honest or trustworthy (+13) and most likely to win the general election (+55). 

Chang-Diaz leads on a single issue: who is best suited to handle race relations (+12). 

The candidates are closely matched on the question of who is more of a progressive, where Chang-Diaz is up 1 point over Healey.  

“Healey starts the race as a prohibitive favorite,” said UMass Lowell Political Science Prof. Joshua Dyck, director of the Center for Public Opinion. “She is well-known, popular, and seen as someone who can both win and lead. Chang-Diaz has ground to make up, both in terms of name recognition and in convincing voters she is the superior candidate. But, there are positives here for her as well. Among Democratic likely voters who know her, she is very well liked.” 

Other competitive races in the Democratic primary have yet to fully take shape, as many respondents are still getting to know the candidates and remain undecided, according to Tuesday’s poll results. 

“Outside of the gubernatorial primary, the nomination contests for statewide office are anybody’s game. Less than a quarter of likely voters know enough about the candidates for lieutenant governor, attorney general or state auditor to form an opinion about them,” said UMass Lowell Political Science Associate Prof. John Cluverius, Center for Public Opinion associate director. “But that’s what the campaign is for: getting voters to know you and winning them over.”

Respondents, however, are clear about where they fall on the political spectrum. 

The survey asked participants how well both the national and state Democratic parties represent them. 

  • In considering the national party, 54% of those polled said it is about where it should be with 29% responding the party is too far to the right and 18% of respondents saying it is too far to the left. 
  • There is even greater satisfaction with the ideological orientation of the state Democratic party with 67% of those polled responding the party is about where it should be, 19% saying the party is too far to the right and 14% responding it is too far to the left.

Even voters who are not enrolled in a party, but plan to vote in the September Democratic primary, feel state Democratic views are on target. A majority, 57%, of respondents answered the party is about where it should be versus 24% reporting the state Democratic party is too far to the left and 19% who believe it is too far to the right.

Registered Democrats polled are even more in step with the party. Seventy-three percent responded it is ideologically where it should be. Nearly one in five, 19%, responded it is too conservative and 9% responded it is too liberal. 

“If you are voting in this fall’s Massachusetts Democratic primary, you’re probably to the left of President Joe Biden on most issues,” said Cluverius. “Bay State Democrats are stalwartly aligned left of their state, national party and the country as a whole. They support a fairly active insurgent left agenda by an overwhelming majority and view both their national and state parties as generally aligned with their interests.”

Even with such progressive views, a majority of those surveyed have positive feelings toward incumbent Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, who received a strong favorability rating (78%) from respondents. That number rivals the popularity of Biden, who has an 80% favorability rating among those surveyed.

“Here we see a glimpse into why Baker may not be running again. In a previous UMass Lowell poll, Baker was more popular among Democrats than Republicans in Massachusetts. While he would be a formidable general election candidate, it may have become increasingly difficult for him to contest a Republican primary,” Dyck said.  

This nonpartisan survey was funded by UMass Lowell, designed and analyzed by UMass Lowell’s Center for Public Opinion, and the online poll was fielded by YouGov. Detailed poll results – including topline and full methodology – are available at www.uml.edu/polls

The Center for Public Opinion presents events and polling on political and social issues to provide opportunities for civic engagement, experiential learning and real-world research. The center is a member of the American Association of Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) Transparency Initiative.

UMass Lowell is a national research university offering its 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 and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be leaders in their communities and around the globe. www.uml.edu