Baker Holds Slim Lead in Race for Governor

Posted October 31, 2014

Latest poll finds five-point edge among likely voters

As the race for governor of Massachusetts heads into the final weekend of the campaign, Republican Charlie Baker leads Democrat Martha Coakley by a margin of 46 percent to 41 percent among likely voters, according to the latest survey from the Western New England University Polling Institute.


The telephone survey of 430 likely voters, conducted Oct. 21 – 30, found that Baker has built significant leads among men and independent voters, while Coakley’s advantage among female voters lags behind what Democrats typically need to win statewide office in Massachusetts. 

The survey also found:

-- U.S. Senator Ed Markey, a Democrat, leads Republican Brian Herr 54 percent to 34 percent as Markey seeks re-election to a full six-year term in the Senate

-- A ballot initiative that seeks to repeal a state law that authorizes licensing up to three casinos in Massachusetts faces significant opposition from likely voters, with 59 percent saying they would vote no on the question and 35 percent saying they would vote yes.

The survey of 430 likely voters has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus five percentage points. The likely voters were part of a larger sample of 522 registered voters, which has a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.

While Baker, a former health care executive, leads Coakley by five points among likely voters, his lead shrinks to one percentage point – 41 percent to Coakley’s 40 percent – among all registered voters in the sample.

Tim Vercellotti, director of the Polling Institute and a professor of political science at Western New England University, said the narrower edge among all voters illustrates the importance of get out the vote efforts on Tuesday.tim_vercellotti_web.jpg

“Martha Coakley has an opportunity to make up ground if the Democrats succeed in turning out the vote,” he said.

Vercellotti noted, however, that the poll found troubling indicators for Coakley, the state’s attorney general and an unsuccessful candidate for the U.S. Senate in a special election in 2010. Baker leads Coakley by 18 points among male likely voters, 54 percent to 36 percent, while Coakley’s lead among women is six points, 46 percent to 40 percent. 

“Democrats usually need a double-digit advantage among women to prevail in statewide races,” Vercellotti said.

Baker also holds a 25-point lead among voters who identified themselves as independent, 54 percent to 29 percent. In addition, while 94 percent of voters who identify themselves as Republicans said they would vote for Baker, no Republicans said they would back Coakley. The poll found that 75 percent of Democratic likely voters said they would support Coakley, but 15 percent of Democrats said they would vote for Baker. 

“Martha Coakley has to shore up her base if she is to catch Baker,” Vercellotti said. 

Candidate favorability ratings also contained good news for Baker and worrisome news for Coakley. Fifty-four percent of likely voters said they have a favorable view of Baker, up seven points from the Polling Institute’s Sept. 20 – 28 survey. Baker’s unfavorability rating also rose by four points to 28 percent. 

Meanwhile, more likely voters viewed Coakley unfavorably than favorably in the latest survey. Forty-seven percent said they had an unfavorable view, up nine points from the September survey, while 42 percent had a favorable view, down four points from September.

Seven percent of likely voters said they were undecided in the race for governor, and another five percent of the vote was divided among three independent candidates. Evan Falchuk, founder of the United Independent Party, received support from three percent of likely voters. If Falchuk can maintain that level of support on Tuesday his party will receive official state recognition and the ability to run candidates under the party’s banner in 2016.

While Baker currently holds the upper hand in the race, voters’ views are not set in stone. Of the voters who expressed a preference for governor, 29 percent said they could still change their minds before the election. That was true for 23 percent of Baker’s supporters and 33 percent of Coakley’s supporters. About one-third of Democrats and independent voters who expressed a preference said they might change their minds, while that was true for only nine percent of Republican voters.  One-third of women and one-fourth of men who said they backed a candidate also said they could still change their minds. 

The economy is the top issue for voters as they deliberate over the candidates for governor. When asked to state in their own words the most important issue in determining whom to support, 31 percent said the economy, jobs or unemployment. Education was the second most cited issue (14 percent), followed by concerns about government spending and taxes (11 percent).

Issues identified by supporters for Coakley and Baker reflected the varying emphases of the campaigns. Among Coakley’s supporters, 25 percent said the economy and 23 percent said education. Thirty-nine percent of Baker’s supporters cited the economy, while 17 percent pointed to taxes and government spending.

In contrast to the race for governor, the contest for the United States Senate provided little suspense in the latest survey. Markey, a Democrat who won a special election in 2013 to serve the remainder of John Kerry’s term when Kerry was named secretary of state, maintained a comfortable lead over Herr in the survey. Markey led Herr, a former Hopkinton selectman, across almost all demographic and geographic categories. Herr drew even with Markey only on the North and South Shores, 47 percent to 47 percent, and led among Republicans and voters with some college.

The casino ballot question also drew a lopsided response from likely voters. Fifty-nine percent said they would vote against repealing the law authorizing casinos, while 35 percent said they would vote in favor of the ballot initiative. The gap has grown since the September survey, when 52 percent of likely voters said they would vote no and 41 percent said they would vote yes.

The survey found some variation by religious denomination and observance. Clergy have urged members of their congregations to vote to repeal the law. That appeal appears to have resonated with Protestant likely voters, with 51 percent saying they would vote no and 46 percent saying they would vote yes. Among Protestant likely voters who attend worship services at least once a week or almost every week, 55 percent favor repeal and 45 percent oppose it.

Catholic likely voters, meanwhile, oppose repeal by a margin of 62 percent to 32 percent. But the gap is narrower for Catholics who attend mass once a week or almost every week, with 54 percent opposed and 37 percent in favor.

  Click here to view complete poll results.      


The Western New England University Polling Institute survey consists of telephone interviews with 586 adults ages 18 and older drawn from across Massachusetts using random-digit-dialing Oct. 21 – 30, 2014. The sample yielded 522 adults who said they are registered to vote in Massachusetts. Of those registered voters, 430 voters were classified as likely to vote in the Nov. 4, 2014 election.  Voters were classified as likely voters based on their responses to questions about interest in the upcoming election, likelihood of voting in the election, participation in recent elections, and knowledge of the location and name of their polling place

Paid interviewers at the Polling Institute dialed household telephone numbers, known as “landline numbers,” and cell phone numbers using random samples obtained from Survey Sampling International of Shelton, CT. In order to draw a representative sample from the landline numbers, interviewers alternated asking for the youngest adult male or the youngest adult female age 18 or older who was home at the time of the call. Interviewers dialing cell phone numbers interviewed the respondent who answered the cell phone after confirming three things: (1) that the respondent was in a safe setting to complete the survey; (2) that the respondent was an adult age 18 or older; and (3) that the respondent was a resident of Massachusetts. The sample of all adults consisted of 402 interviews completed on landlines and 184 interviews completed on cell phones. The landline and cell phone data were combined and weighted to reflect the adult population of Massachusetts by gender, race, age, and county of residence using U.S. Census estimates for Massachusetts. The data also were weighted to adjust for cell phone and landline usage based on state-level estimates for Massachusetts from the National Center for Health Statistics. 

All surveys are subject to sampling error, which is the expected probable difference between interviewing everyone in a population versus a scientific sampling drawn from that population. The margin of sampling error for a sample of 522 registered voters is +/- 4 percent at a 95 percent confidence interval, and the margin of sampling error for a sample of 430 likely voters is + / - 5 percent at a 95 percent confidence interval. Thus if 55 percent of likely voters said they hold a favorable view of a candidate, one would be 95 percent sure that the true figure would be between 50 percent and 60 percent (55 percent +/- 5 percent) had all likely voters in Massachusetts been interviewed, rather than just a sample.  Sampling error increases as the sample size decreases, so statements based on various population subgroups are subject to more error than are statements based on the total sample.  Sampling error does not take into account other sources of variation inherent in public opinion studies, such as non-response, question wording, or context effects. 

Established in 2005, the Western New England University Polling Institute conducts research on issues of importance to Massachusetts and the region. The Institute provides the University’s faculty and students with opportunities to participate in public opinion research.

Additional information about the Polling Institute is available at



Molly Bish  “Just One Piece” Tip Campaign

Posted October 31, 2014

omollybishfacebook_2jpgSince the day Molly Bish was abducted from her lifeguard post on June 27, 2000, the Worcester District Attorney’s office has maintained that the case is “just one piece” of information away from finding the person responsible for abducting, and ultimately murdering, sixteen year old Molly. There have been several persons of interest in Molly’s case who have surfaced over the years, but no solid leads that have connected these persons of interest to Molly’s murder.

The “Just One Piece” tip campaign is a collaborative effort between Molly’s family and Western New England University Criminal Justice Professor, and private investigator, dr_steinjpgDr. Sarah Stein. The “Just One Piece” tip campaign is designed to support the investigative activities of the Worcester County Detective Unit as they are inundated with cases and don’t always have the resources to devote to unresolved crimes.

On Saturday, October 11 from 8:00 a.m. to 8 p.m. Dr. Stein coordinated a team of volunteers comprised of Western New England University students and volunteers from the Molly Bish Foundation to assist anyone who believes they may have any information pertaining to the unsolved case.  Dr. Stein will be personally following up all leads generated by the “Just One Piece” campaign. 

Criminal Justice students: Joseph Reder, Alexander Blanchette, Brandi Norden, Matthew Simard, Rachel Collette, and Samantha Jordan

For more information about the Molly Bish Foundation, click here. 


U.S. Supreme Court Review Conference Held 

Posted October 31, 2014



Western New England University School of Law recently held its annual two-day U.S. Supreme Court Review Conference focusing on several federal court decisions handed down this year, mostly concerning discrimination. Law Professor and Director of the Legislative Institute, Art Wolf, moderated the presentations.


Professor Harpaz discussed six cases, five that dealt with 1st Amendment issues and a sixth, the Hobby Lobby case, that dealt with the interplay between the Affordable Care Act and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.In commenting on the cases as a group, Professor Harpaz concluded, "There is a distinct pattern in these recent cases which use First Amendment principles to invalidate progressive legislation and wrap conservative causes in constitutional protection.”

Law Professor Bruce Miller discussed the Schuette vs. BAMN case involving a voter-approved referendum banning racial preferences at Michigan universities (affirmative action). The Supreme Courtbruce_miller_2jpg ruled the referendum is not the equivalent of racial discrimination, a decision that drew an impassioned dissent from Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Professor Miller concluded that this decision was profoundly confusing and will be debated for some time. “A ‘discriminating’ law is just the tip of a much bigger social and political iceberg. The insidious wrong here is the ongoing subordination of people, the infliction of second-class status on a group or segment of society,” explained Professor Miller.

Law Professor Jennifer Levi analyzed the impact of the Court’s refusal to hear seven cases in which federal courts of appeal struck state constitutional provisions that exclude the right of same-sex couples to marry.  Professor Levi said that as a result of that decision, the number of states in which same-sex couples can marry rose to 24 and will likely rise soon to at least 35.  “This means that same-sex couples can now marry in Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin, and beyond.  It is a huge step forward in the national struggle for marriage equality.” 


For more information about the School of Law Legislative Institute, click here.


Senate Candidates Spar During Western New England University Debate

Posted October 29, 2014


Western New England University School of Law hosted a debate between two of the candidates running for the 1st Hampden and Hampshire state Senate seat. Democrat Eric Lesser and Republican Debra Boronski spared over issues including tax reform, economic development, heroin epidemic, crime, and both candidates spoke at length about their personal qualifications for the Senate seat. The debate was sponsored by The Western New England University School of Law and the Hampden County Bar Association. candidite 


The panel questioning the candidates included Reminder Publications Managing Editor Mike Dobbs, and reporters Yoojin Cho, WWLP-TV, Shakala Alvaranga,WGGB-TV, and Brian Steele, 


Dr. Douglas Battema, Chair of the Communication Department at Western New England University College of Arts and Sciences moderated this important event which ran for approximately 90 minutes. 


The debate was streamed live for those watching remotely and will be rebroadcast on Ludlow and Wilbraham Cable Access Channels over the next week. 

The 1st Hampden and Hampshire state Senate seat has been occupied for the past 17 years by Senator Gale Candaras who is running for register of the Hampden County Probate & Family Court.


53rd Annual Tax Institute Set for November 12 at Western New England University

Posted October 28, 2014

 unknown2pngWestern New England University will host its 53rd annual Tax Institute on Wednesday, November 12 from 8:15 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. This year’s program will include sessions on the Repair and Maintenance Final Regulations, state and federal tax updates, and planning for the sale of a business. To register or for more information, visit or call 413-796-2173.

The luncheon will feature keynote speaker Frederick J. Benoit from the Internal Revenue Service, discussing tax preparer responsibility. The Western New England University Tax Institute provides written materials and oral presentations from expert speakers on detailed tax structuring and planning techniques and their practical applications. The program is designed for CPAs, enrolled agents, and tax preparers. Attendance qualifies for eight CPE credits based on the Massachusetts Board of Public Accountancy Rules and Regulations.


This event is sponsored by the College of Business. The cost of this program is $179. A discount per person is available for registering three or more from the same company at the same time, and for Western New England University alumni.


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