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Nearly Half of Voters Approve of Job Elizabeth Warren is Doing as Senator

TUESDAY, APRIL 23, 2013 - 12:01 AM Polling Institute

One hundred days into her term, Warren also regains ground on favorability

Voters approve of the job Elizabeth Warren is doing as United States Senator by a margin of nearly two to one, but one-fourth of voters couldn’t offer an assessment 100 days into her term, according to the latest telephone survey from the Western New England University Polling Institute.

The telephone survey of 528 registered voters, conducted April 11 – 18, found that 49 percent of voters said they approve of the job Warren is doing. Twenty-six percent said they disapprove, and 25 percent said they did not know. The survey, which the Polling Institute conducted in partnership with MassLive.com, The Springfield Republican, and television station WSHM CBS-3, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.

Warren, who was sworn in Jan. 3, has drawn attention for posing pointed questions to regulators during Senate Banking Committee hearings, with video from at least one hearing going viral online. She also made her first speech on the floor of the Senate last Wednesday, in which she spoke of the Boston Marathon bombings and the resilience that the city was demonstrating in the aftermath of the attack.

Tim Vercellotti, director of the Polling Institute and a professor of political science at Western New England University, said some survey respondents indicated to interviewers that it was just too early to judge Warren’s job performance. "These numbers provide benchmarks, however, against which to measure the senator’s performance as time passes," he said.

Warren’s job approval varied along demographic and partisan lines that provide interesting comparisons to her performance in the Nov. 6, 2012 Senate election, in which she defeated Republican incumbent Scott Brown by 7.5 percentage points.

Women approve of the job she is doing by a margin of 50 to 22 percent. The gap is narrower for men, with 49 approving and 30 percent disapproving. According to the exit poll conducted by the National Election Pool, a consortium of national news organizations, Warren carried women by 18 points in the Nov. 6 election, but lost the male vote to Brown by six points.

The Democratic senator remains popular within her party, winning approval from 76 percent of registered Democrats, with only seven percent disapproving. Unenrolled voters were split, with 42 percent approving and 31 percent disapproving. Fifty-five percent of registered Republicans said they disapprove of the job Warren is doing, but 16 percent approve.

Vercellotti noted that the job approval numbers among registered Republican and unenrolled voters compare favorably when considering the exit poll results from November. Only five percent of voters who said they thought of themselves as Republicans indicated in the exit poll that they had voted for Warren, and Warren lost to Brown among voters who identified as independents by a margin of 59 to 41 percent.

"The job approval numbers are not a perfect comparison, but they suggest that Warren has either made inroads with independent and Republican voters since the election, or they are giving her a honeymoon of sorts early in her term," Vercellotti said.

Warren’s job approval numbers also are highest in the parts of the state where she demonstrated her greatest political strength in November: Western Massachusetts and the Boston area. Sixty percent of voters in the four counties in Western Massachusetts – Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire – approve of the job she is doing, while 17 percent of voters in the region disapprove. Her job approval margin in Boston and surrounding suburbs is 54 percent approve to 26 percent disapprove. Warren’s job approval numbers are under water only in the central part of the state, where 32 percent approve and 34 percent disapprove of the job she is doing.

Voters also were more likely to hold a favorable than an unfavorable impression of Warren, and her favorability numbers have improved since the fall campaign. Fifty-six percent of voters view Warren favorably and 36 percent view her unfavorably in the latest survey, compared to a favorable-unfavorable rating of 49 to 39 percent in a Polling Institute survey conducted Oct. 26 through Nov. 1, 2012. Warren’s narrowest favorable-unfavorable gap came in a survey the Polling Institute conducted with its media partners Sept. 28 through Oct. 4, when 46 percent of registered voters held a favorable view and 40 percent held an unfavorable view. Warren’s best numbers during the fall campaign came in a Sept. 6 – 13, 2012 survey, when 54 percent of voters viewed her favorably and 28 percent viewed her unfavorably.

"With the clashes of the fall campaign now receding from view, Warren’s favorability numbers are improving,” Vercellotti said. “Whether she can maintain this momentum, of course, only time will tell."

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.