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Poll Finds Obama Holding Commanding Lead in Massachusetts

Posted March 5, 2012

President leads former Governor Romney by 24 points, Santorum by 39 points

President Barack Obama leads two of his potential Republican rivals by large margins in the race for the presidency in Massachusetts, according to the latest poll conducted by the Western New England University Polling Institute in partnership with The Republican newspaper of Springfield, MA and

In a hypothetical matchup with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, Obama received support from 60 percent of registered voters, compared to 36 percent for Romney. The survey also found that former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania trails Obama by a margin of 66 percent to 27 percent.


Click here to read The Republican's coverage of the poll on

The telephone survey of 527 adults who identified themselves as registered voters, conducted Feb. 23 – March 1, 2012, found that Obama has higher favorability ratings than Romney, Santorum and Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House of Representatives.

Sixty-one percent of voters said they view Obama favorably, while 34 percent said they viewed him unfavorably. The three Republican presidential candidates included in the survey all had net negative favorability ratings, with Romney at 41 percent favorable, 46 percent unfavorable; Santorum at 18 percent favorable, 54 percent unfavorable; and Gingrich at 14 percent favorable, 73 percent unfavorable.

Click here to view complete poll results.

Even Republican voters in the state had net negative views of Santorum, with 33 percent favorable and 48 percent unfavorable, and Gingrich, with 32 percent favorable and 60 percent unfavorable.

Republican and independent voters in Massachusetts were more likely to view Romney in a positive light, with 74 percent of Republicans viewing him favorably and only 12 percent unfavorably, and 48 percent of independent voters viewing him favorably and 37 percent unfavorably. Seventy percent of Massachusetts Democrats view Romney unfavorably, and only 21 percent have a favorable view.

Obama’s lead over Romney in the survey is similar to Obama’s margin of victory in the 2008 presidential election in Massachusetts, in which Obama defeated Republican John McCain 61 percent to 36 percent.

“Needless to say, Massachusetts seems to be safely in Obama’s column for the general election,” said Tim Vercellotti, associate professor of political science and director of the Western New England University Polling Institute.

Obama and Romney have each consolidated their base, with 94 percent of Democrats in the survey saying they would support Obama and 90 percent of Republicans saying they would back Romney. Romney leads Obama narrowly among independents, 48 percent to 46 percent, but Romney’s showing among independents is not enough to offset Obama’s support from Democrats, who far outnumber Republicans in Massachusetts.

Obama’s lead over Romney is larger among female voters, 65 percent to 31 percent, compared to 53 percent to 42 percent among male voters. Sixty-two percent of college-educated voters say they would back Obama, compared to 35 percent for Romney. The race is closer among voters with a high school diploma or less, with 54 percent supporting Obama and 39 percent backing Romney.

Obama’s 39-point lead over Santorum reflects dissatisfaction with the former Pennsylvania senator not just among Democrats and independents, but also among some Republican voters. The survey found that 23 percent of Republicans said they would vote for Obama if they had to choose between him and Santorum in the general election.

Women flock to Obama in large numbers in a race against Santorum, 70 percent to 24 percent. Obama leads Santorum among men by a margin of 61 percent to 31 percent. The gap between Obama and Santorum increases as education levels increase. Obama leads Santorum by 28 points among voters with a high school education or less, but the difference grows to 48 points among voters with a college education.

While the survey found that Obama is in a strong position to carry the state in the November election, the poll also showed that Obama’s job approval rating has diminished considerably since the start of his term.

Fifty-five percent of voters said they approve of the job Obama is doing as president, while 37 percent said they disapprove. By comparison, a Polling Institute survey conducted in February 2009, a few weeks after Obama’s inauguration, found that 68 percent of voters in Massachusetts approved and only 11 percent disapproved of the job he was doing in the short time he had been in office.


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 Feb. 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 576 adults is +/- 4.1 percent, and 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 Barack Obama is doing as president, 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


Western New England University is a private, independent, coeducational institution founded in 1919. Located on an attractive 215-acre suburban campus in Springfield, Massachusetts, Western New England University serves 3,955 students, including 2,575 full-time undergraduate students. Undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs are offered through Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business, Engineering, and Pharmacy, and School of Law.


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