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Warren Leads Brown by Five Points in Latest Senate Survey

Posted October 7, 2012

Women flock to Warren and men to Brown as campaign enters final weeks

Democrat Elizabeth Warren leads Republican Scott Brown by a margin of 50 percent to 45 percent among likely voters in a new survey that shows shifting support for the candidates despite Warren’s steady lead.

election_logojpgThe latest telephone survey, conducted by the Western New England University Polling Institute in partnership with The Republican newspaper of Springfield, MA and Sept. 28 through Oct. 4, found little change in the overall numbers in the race for the U.S. Senate. Warren led Brown 50 percent to 44 percent among likely voters in a Sept. 6-13 survey conducted by the Polling Institute on behalf of its media partners.

The latest survey of 440 likely voters, however, shows Warren extending her lead over Brown among female voters, while Brown has pulled away from Warren among men. The survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.7 percent.

Click here to view complete poll results.

Warren, a professor at Harvard Law School, leads Brown by 26 points – 61 percent to 35 percent – among women, up from a 15-point advantage in the Sept. 6-13 survey.

Brown, who is seeking a full six-year term in the Senate after winning the seat in a special election in January 2010, leads Warren 56 percent to 38 percent among male likely voters. Brown’s 18-point margin among men more than triples the five-point lead he had among male voters in the Sept. 6-13 survey.

Brown also leads Warren by 27 points among independent voters – 62 percent to 35 percent. Ninety-eight percent of voters who identified themselves as Republicans said they would support Brown, and not a single Republican likely voter voiced support for Warren in the latest survey. But those margins could not completely offset Warren’s 85 percent to 11 percent lead among voters who describe themselves as Democrats.

Eighty-four percent of likely voters say they are very sure about their choice for the Senate, a level of certainty that has not changed appreciably since the Sept. 6-13 survey, and 15 percent said they might change their minds before Election Day.

Certainty varies by party identification, however. Among voters who said they support or lean toward a specific candidate, 22 percent of independents said they might change their minds, as did 10 percent of Democrats. No Republicans who expressed a preference said they might change their minds.

Fourteen percent of Warren supporters said they might change their minds, as did 16 percent of Brown supporters.

tim_vercellotti_web.jpg“The candidates cannot take their supporters for granted,” said Tim Vercellotti, director of the Polling Institute and a professor of political science at Western New England University. “With a month to go before the election, Warren and Brown have not fully closed the deal with voters.”

Poll results suggest the race is taking a toll on the candidates’ standing among likely voters. Warren’s unfavorability rating has risen eight points, to 41 percent, among likely voters since the Sept. 6-13 survey. Brown’s job approval among women has dropped to 45 percent, down eight points from the previous survey, while his standing among men has held steady.

“The negative ads that each campaign has aired recently may be hitting their targets,” Vercellotti said.

He added that the past few weeks may represent a cooling-off period for Democrats. The Sept. 6-13 survey began as the Democrats concluded their presidential nominating convention, which included a nationally televised speech by Warren to convention delegates.

“The energy from the convention appears to have dissipated somewhat for Democrats in Massachusetts,” he said.

When asked how much interest they have in the upcoming election for president and U.S. Senator, 84 percent of likely voters said, “a lot.”  Interest was highest among Republicans, with 97 percent answering “a lot,” followed by independents (84 percent), and Democrats (79 percent). Democrats held the edge on that question in the Sept. 6-13 survey, with 93 percent saying they had a lot of interest, compared to 86 percent of independents and 81 percent of Republicans.

Voters, when asked to say in their own words which issue is most important to them in choosing a Senate candidate, continue to point to the economy and jobs. But the survey found that other priorities are also emerging, possibly in response to the candidates and their messages.

Twenty-eight percent of all registered voters cited economic concerns in the latest survey, compared to 39 percent of registered voters the last time the Polling Institute and its media partners asked the question in a May 29-31, 2012 survey. Morals, ethics, and the personal integrity of the candidates continues to be the second most frequent response, coming from 11 percent of registered voters in the latest survey compared to 10 percent in May.

Six percent of registered voters cited the party of the candidate as their most important consideration, compared to seven percent in May. But, for the first time, party control of the Senate has surfaced as an issue, with six percent of registered voters and six percent of likely voters offering the response.

Breaking down the data by likely voters who said they support or lean toward one of the candidates reveals interesting differences. While 41 percent of Brown supporters cited the economy and jobs as their most important concerns, the same is true of only 19 percent of Warren supporters. Eighteen percent of Brown voters cite the morals, ethics and personal integrity of the candidate, compared to eight percent of Warren supporters.

Vercellotti said the different emphasis on candidates’ morals, ethics and personal integrity may reflect the Brown campaign’s continued focus on Warren’s claim to be of Native American descent, and whether she used that information to advance her career, a charge that she and her current and former employers deny.

Warren voters, on the other hand, were more likely to emphasize the party of the candidate (10 percent compared to five percent among Brown supporters), and party control of the Senate (10 percent compared to three percent among Brown voters).

Warren has stressed that re-electing Brown could tip control of the Senate from the Democrats to the Republicans, while Brown has emphasized that he is more likely to work with the opposing party in a bipartisan manner. Three percent of Brown voters said bipartisanship was the most important issue to them, while no Warren voters offered that response.

Nine percent of Warren supporters cited concerns about health care, compared to two percent of Brown supporters. Six percent of Warren voters said they the most important issue was having a senator who stands up for the working class or middle class, while no Brown supporters offered that response.

After responding to the open-ended question about the most important issue, voters were asked directly whether they prefer to see the Democratic Party or the Republican Party in control of the Senate after the election, or whether the party in control makes no difference to them.

Nearly half of likely voters – 48 percent – said they want to see the Democratic Party control the Senate after the election, while 24 percent said the Republican Party and 22 percent said the party in control makes no difference to them.

More than 80 percent of Democrats and Republicans each said they want their party to be in control. Independent voters were split almost evenly, with 33 percent preferring the Democrats, 31 percent preferring the Republicans, and 31 percent saying the party in power makes no difference.

Eighty-four percent of Warren supporters said they want the Democrats to be in charge, two percent said Republicans and 13 percent said the party in power makes no difference. Among Brown supporters, 51 percent said the Republicans and 30 percent said it makes no difference.

Nine percent of Brown supporters said they would like to see the Democrats control the Senate. “That segment of the electorate may think that Democrats will still hold a majority of seats even with a Brown victory,” Vercellotti noted. “Or they may not have made the connection between the two issues.”

The field period for the Sept.28 – Oct. 4 survey coincided with televised debates between the Senate candidates on Oct. 1 and the presidential candidates on Oct. 3. Vercellotti said that the data on voter preferences in the Senate race did not show statistically significant differences when compared before and after the Senate debate.

The field period included only one night of interviews after the presidential debate, making it difficult to gauge the immediate impact of the debate on public opinion in Massachusetts, Vercellotti said. The Polling Institute and its media partners, The Republican and, will report the survey results for the presidential race in Massachusetts on Monday, Oct. 8.


The Western New England University Polling Institute survey consists of telephone interviews with 567 adults ages 18 and older drawn from across Massachusetts using random-digit-dialing Sept. 28 – Oct. 4, 2012. The sample yielded 516 adults who said they are registered to vote in Massachusetts, and 440 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 440 likely voters is +/- 4.7 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 50.3 percent and 59.7 percent (55 percent +/- 4.7 percent) had all Massachusetts likely voters been interviewed, rather than just a sample. The margin of sampling error for the sample of 516 registered voters is +/- 4.3 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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