Brown Holds 8-Point Lead in Massachusetts Senate Race
Posted March 4, 2012
Nearly one-third of voters who expressed a preference say they may change their mind
Republican Scott Brown leads Democrat Elizabeth Warren by eight percentage points among registered voters in the race for the U.S. Senate, according to the latest poll conducted by the Western New England University Polling Institute in partnership with The Republican newspaper of Springfield, MA and MassLive.com.
Click here to view complete poll results.
The telephone survey of 527 adults who identified themselves as registered voters found Brown with support from 49 percent and Warren with 41 percent, while 10 percent were undecided. The poll, conducted Feb. 23 – March 1, 2012, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.
Brown held a five-point lead over Warren in a survey conducted by the Western New England University Polling Institute Sept. 29 – Oct. 5, 2011. The latest results suggest that Brown is making inroads among voters who identify themselves as Democrats, while maintaining his advantage among voters identifying as Republicans or independents.
Warren, a professor at Harvard Law School, leads Brown by a margin of 70 percent to 22 percent among Democrats, compared to an 82 percent to 9 percent margin among Democrats in the fall survey. Independent voters preferred Brown over Warren 58 percent to 29 percent in the latest survey, compared to 57 percent to 32 percent in the fall. Brown leads Warren 94 percent to 4 percent among Republican voters, virtually unchanged from his standing among Republicans in the fall.
“Warren needs to shore up her base of support among Democrats and make progress with independent voters if she is to close the gap with Brown,” said Tim Vercellotti, associate professor of political science and director of the Polling Institute at Western New England University. “As it stands now, Brown is in a strong position to win re-election.”
The survey also found, however, that a sizable percentage of voters said they are not firmly committed to their choice. Thirty-one percent of voters who expressed a preference for a candidate said they might change their minds before Election Day. Such was the case for 34 percent of Brown’s supporters, and 28 percent of Warren’s supporters.
“With eight months to go until the election, a large number of voters are keeping their options open,” Vercellotti said. “This race is far from over.”
The poll results also found Brown’s job approval rating has not changed significantly since the fall survey, despite Brown’s recent support for Senate legislation that would allow employers citing moral concerns to opt out of federal requirements to provide health insurance coverage to employees. The Senate tabled the measure on Thursday.
In the latest survey, 54 percent of voters said they approve of the job that Brown is doing in the Senate, while 28 percent said they disapprove, compared to 54 percent and 30 percent respectively in the fall.
Vercellotti noted that an analysis of the polling data for each day of the survey revealed no statistically significant day-to-day changes in Brown’s job approval through the end of data collection on Thursday night.
In addition, Brown’s standing among women in particular did not show significant signs of fallout from the debate, which centered on whether the federal government should require employers to include contraception in the insurance coverage they provide to employees.
Female voters approved of the job that Brown is doing as senator by a margin of 50 percent to 28 percent in the latest survey, compared to a 47 percent job approval rating and a 31 percent disapproval rating among women in the fall survey. Vercellotti noted that the differences are within the margin of error for the latest survey.
Brown’s overall favorability rating has declined since the fall, however. Forty-seven percent of voters said they have a favorable view of Brown, down from 52 percent in the fall, while his unfavorable rating was up one percentage point to 28 percent.
Brown’s favorability rating among women showed slight changes, but the changes were within the margin of error for the latest survey. His favorability rating of 43 percent among women dropped three percentage points from the fall survey, while his unfavorability rating of 31 percent among women was up one percentage point from the last survey.
Warren’s overall favorability ratings also changed somewhat, but also within the margin of error. Thirty-seven percent of voters said they have a favorable view of Warren and 20 percent said they have an unfavorable view. Each rating is up four percentage points from the fall survey.
Warren has become better known among voters since the fall survey, when nearly half of registered voters said they hadn’t heard of her or did not have an opinion of her. About one-third of voters offered those responses in the latest survey. Twenty-one percent of voters said they had not heard of Brown, or did not have an opinion of him, up two percentage points from the fall survey.
“Warren, and to a lesser extent Brown, still have opportunities to shape their images with a segment of the electorate,” Vercellotti said. “But each candidate’s opponent also has that opportunity.”
The Western New England University Polling Institute conducted telephone interviews with 576 adults ages 18 and older drawn from across Massachusetts using random-digit-dialing February 23 through March 1, 2012. The sample yielded 527 adults who said they are registered to vote in Massachusetts. Unless otherwise noted, the figures in this release are based on the statewide sample of registered voters.
The Polling Institute dialed household telephone numbers, known as “landline numbers,” and cell phone numbers for the survey. In order to draw a representative sample from the landline numbers, interviewers first asked for the youngest male age 18 or older who was home at the time of the call, and if no adult male was present, the youngest female age 18 or older who was at 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 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.
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 sampling error for a sample of 527 registered voters is +/- 4.3 percent, at a 95 percent confidence interval. Thus if 55 percent of registered voters said they approved of the job that Scott Brown is doing as U.S. Senator, one would be 95 percent sure that the true figure would be between 50.7 percent and 59.3 percent (55 percent +/- 4.3 percent) had all Massachusetts voters 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 valuable opportunities to participate in public opinion research. Additional information about the Polling Institute is available at www1.wne.edu/pollinginst.
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