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Obama Maintains Strong Lead Over Romney in Massachusetts

Posted September 18, 2012

Addition of Paul Ryan to the GOP ticket hurts more than it helps in the Bay State

President Barack Obama continues to hold a sizable lead over former Governor Mitt Romney in Massachusetts in the race for the White House, according to the latest survey from the Western New England University Polling Institute.

The statewide telephone survey of 444 likely voters, which the Polling Institute conducted Sept. 6-13, 2012 in partnership with The Republican newspaper of Springfield and, found Obama ahead of Romney by a margin of 60 percent to 38 percent.

Among a larger sample of 545 registered voters, Obama led Romney by a two-to-one margin, 64 percent to 32 percent. The Polling Institute’s previous survey in the race, conducted May 29-31, 2012, found Obama with a 22-point lead among all registered voters, with 56 percent supporting the president to 34 percent for Romney.

Click here to view complete poll results.

“As he has in other parts of the country, President Obama may be experiencing a post-convention bounce in Massachusetts,” said Tim Vercellotti, director of the Polling Institute and a political science professor at Western New England University. “Voter enthusiasm shows up not only in the presidential horse-race numbers, but also in his measures of job approval and favorability.”

Sixty percent of registered voters said they approve of the job Obama is doing as president, while 32 percent said they disapprove, compared to approval-disapproval numbers of 54 percent and 36 percent respectively among registered voters in the May 29-31, 2012 survey. Obama’s favorability also is up seven points, to 64 percent, among all registered voters, and his unfavorability rating is down four points since the May survey.

Romney, however, has seen his favorability rating decline since the last survey. Thirty-one percent of registered voters view him favorably, down from 36 percent in May, and 60 percent of registered voters view him unfavorably, up from 50 percent in the previous survey. Among the smaller sample of likely voters, 34 percent view Romney favorably, and 56 percent view him unfavorably.

In terms of the vice-presidential spot on the national tickets, Massachusetts voters also were more favorable toward the Democratic nominee than the Republican nominee. Fifty-one percent of likely voters had a favorable view of Vice President Joe Biden, and 35 percent had an unfavorable view. Twenty-nine percent of likely voters had a favorable view of Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman whom Romney has chosen as his running mate. Forty-seven percent of likely voters had an unfavorable view of Ryan, while 21 percent either had not heard of Ryan or had no opinion of him.

In the presidential match-up, Obama had support from 97 percent of likely voters who identified themselves as Democrats, while 91 percent of Republican likely voters said they support Romney. The candidates split the independent vote, with 47 percent backing Obama and 48 percent backing Romney. But the three to one registration edge that Democrats have over Republicans in Massachusetts means that Republican candidates have to win significant numbers of independent voters in order to be competitive in the state.

Obama led Romney among all other demographic groups. Male likely voters supported him by a margin of 53 percent to 43 percent, and women backed Obama over Romney by a two to one margin, 66 percent to 32 percent. Support for Obama also increased by age category, with likely voters ages 65 and older supporting him over Romney 66 percent to 31 percent.

Romney’s selection of Ryan as his running mate appeared to hurt the Republican ticket more than help it overall in Massachusetts. Sixteen percent of likely voters said the choice of Ryan as vice-presidential nominee made them more likely to vote for Romney, but 27 percent of likely voters said the pick made them less likely to back the former Massachusetts governor. Fifty-five percent said the choice made no difference to them.

Selecting Ryan did boost Romney’s support among Republican likely voters, with 27 percent saying the choice made them more likely to back Romney, 8 percent saying less likely, and 62 percent saying the decision made no difference. More than half of independent likely voters said the choice made no difference, with 21 percent saying the pick made them more likely to vote for Romney and 21 percent saying the choice made them less likely to support the Republican nominee.

While the polling results for the presidential race offered little drama, the voting preferences of Obama and Romney supporters in the state’s much-watched U.S. Senate race provided some intrigue.

The survey of 444 likely voters found Democrat Elizabeth Warren leading Republican incumbent Scott Brown 50 percent to 44 percent in the race for the Senate. Polling data, however, showed that some likely voters who back Obama indicated they would split their ballots and support Brown for the Senate race if the election was held today.

Among Obama supporters, 77 percent said they would vote for Warren and 14 percent said they would back Brown. The percentages were roughly the same among all registered voters, and were comparable to results from the previous survey conducted May 29-31, 2012.

“While Warren leads Brown in this survey, the defection of 14 percent of Obama supporters to Brown should be of concern to her,” Vercellotti said. “For Brown, winning over as many Obama supporters as possible is clearly a critical part of winning re-election.”


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. Complete results of the poll are available online at The full text of the questionnaire for this survey is available at Complete coverage of the polls by our media partners, The Republican and, can be found 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 57 percent of likely voters approve of the job that Barack Obama is doing as president, one would be 95 percent sure that the true figure would be between 52.4 percent and 61.6 percent (57 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, and + / - 4 percent for the sample of 588 adults. 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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