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New Poll Shows Warren Leading Brown in Senate Race

Posted September 16, 2012

Democrat Elizabeth Warren leads Republican Scott Brown by six percentage points among likely voters in the race for the U.S. Senate, according to the latest telephone survey from the Western New England University Polling Institute.

The survey, which the Polling Institute conducted Sept. 6-13 in partnership with The Republican newspaper of Springfield, MA and, found that Warren is relying on sizable support from Democrats and women to overcome Brown’s lead among independent voters and men.

Of the 444 likely voters interviewed for the survey, 50 percent said they would support Warren if the election was held today, 44 percent said Brown, and six percent said they were undecided. Among the larger sample of 545 registered voters, Warren led Brown by 12 points, 53 percent to 41 percent, with six percent undecided. The margin of sampling error for the sample of likely voters is plus or minus 4.6 percentage points, and the margin of error for the sample of all registered voters is plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.

Click here to view complete poll results.

The latest survey differs significantly from the Polling Institute’s previous survey in the Senate race, conducted May 29-31. Warren led Brown by two points among all registered voters in the May survey.

tim_vercellotti_web.jpgTim Vercellotti, director of the Polling Institute and a professor of political science at Western New England University, said Warren might be riding a wave of enthusiasm among Democrats after the party’s presidential nominating convention. Data collection for the survey began on the final night of the convention on Sept. 6, one night after Warren addressed convention delegates in a nationally televised speech.

However, while response patterns varied somewhat by day of the survey, the variation did not follow a consistent or statistically significant pattern that would indicate building or diminishing momentum for Warren from the start to the end of the survey period, Vercellotti said.

Among all registered voters in the survey, those who identified themselves as Democrats reported high levels of interest in the upcoming election for president and the U.S. Senate. Eighty-three percent of Democrats said they have “a lot” of interest in the election, compared to 81 percent of Republicans and 72 percent of voters who identified themselves as independent.

“Democrats are more fired up than independent voters at the moment,” Vercellotti said. “If that persists, that could pose a problem for Brown, who will need a strong turnout of independent voters to win re-election.”

Brown leads Warren by 22 points among independent likely voters, 57 percent to 35 percent. Still, that is not enough to overcome Warren’s 89 percent to six percent advantage among likely voters who identify themselves as Democrats. Brown leads Warren by a similarly lopsided margin among Republican likely voters, 91 percent to four percent, but Republicans comprise a much smaller portion of the electorate than Democrats in Massachusetts.

Voters also are divided by gender in terms of candidate preferences, but Warren’s lead among women is larger than Brown’s advantage among men in the latest survey. Among female likely voters, 55 percent said they prefer Warren and 40 percent said Brown. Brown leads Warren 49 percent to 44 percent among men.

Brown also holds a five-point advantage over Warren among likely voters ages 30 to 49, and the candidates are roughly even among voters ages 50 to 64. Warren, however, has a sizable lead among voters ages 65 and older, with 63 percent to Brown’s 35 percent.

Voters’ preferences appear to be solidifying as the election approaches. Among all registered voters who expressed a preference in the Senate race, 78 percent said they are very sure and 21 percent said they might still change their minds before Election Day. In the last survey in late May, 72 percent of voters who made a choice said they were very sure, and 26 percent said they might change their minds.

Among likely voters, 82 percent of those who expressed support for a candidate said they are very sure, and 17 percent said they might change their minds. Independent and Democratic likely voters were somewhat less committed than Republicans, with 21 percent of independents and 15 percent of Democrats who expressed a preference saying they might still change their minds, compared to 9 percent of Republicans. Women who chose a candidate were more likely than men to say they might change their minds, 20 percent to 14 percent.

“The numbers provide a potential roadmap to victory for each candidate,” Vercellotti noted. “Warren has to keep her base loyal and hold her own among independent voters, while Brown still has an opportunity to make inroads in those areas. Women voters also are still a possible wild card in the race.”

Warren and Brown have similar favorability ratings among likely voters, with slightly more than half of the sample viewing them favorably and about one-third viewing them unfavorably.

Favorability ratings for the larger sample of all registered voters, however, show Warren has made significant progress since the Polling Institute’s last survey May 29-31. In the latest survey, among all registered voters, 54 percent view Warren favorably, 28 percent view her unfavorably, and 11 percent have no opinion.  Warren’s favorability rating has climbed 13 percentage points since late May, and her unfavorability rating is virtually unchanged, while the percentage of the electorate that has no opinion about her has dropped by 10 points.

In contrast, Brown’s favorability rating among all registered voters has changed only slightly since late May, with 52 percent viewing him favorably, up three points, and 30 percent viewing him unfavorably, down two points. Eleven percent of voters said they had no opinion, down from 16 points in May.

“Warren has made progress as voters have gotten to know her,” Vercellotti said. “As an incumbent, Brown was better known going in, and thus has somewhat less room to improve his standing among voters who might not know him well.”

Brown’s job approval numbers have shown improvement. Fifty-five percent of all registered voters approve of the job he is doing as senator, up from 51 percent in late May, and the percentage disapproving has dropped four points to 28 percent since the last survey.

“While there is good news for Warren in this latest survey, there is also some good news for Brown, particularly in his job approval numbers,” Vercellotti said. 


The Western New England University Polling Institute survey consists of telephone interviews with 588 adults ages 18 and older drawn from across Massachusetts using random-digit-dialing Sept. 6-13, 2012. The sample yielded 545 adults who said they are registered to vote in Massachusetts, and 444 adults who are classified as likely to vote in the Nov. 6, 2012 general election. Unless otherwise noted, the figures in this release are based on the statewide sample of likely voters. The Polling Institute classified likely voters based on voters’ responses to questions about interest in the election, likelihood of voting in the election, ability to identify their polling place, and whether they reported voting in the 2008 presidential election.

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.The full text of the questionnaire for this survey is available at

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 444 likely voters is +/- 4.6 percent at a 95 percent confidence interval. Thus if 55 percent of likely 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 50.4 percent and 59.6 percent (55 percent +/- 4.6 percent) had all Massachusetts likely voters been interviewed, rather than just a sample. The margin of sampling error for the sample of 545 registered voters is +/- 4.2 percent at a 95 percent confidence interval. 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



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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