Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Massachusetts Senate Polls Show Tight Race

In Polling, Senate on May 10, 2013 at 10:45 am

On the heels of Public Policy Polling surveying the Massachusetts Senate special general election that showed Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA-5) holding only a slim four-point, 44-40 percent, lead over private equity investor and former Navy SEAL Gabriel Gomez (R), MassINC and Suffolk University quickly released their data.

Though neither show the race as close as PPP, the MassINC poll lands in the same range as Public Policy Polling, while Suffolk gives Markey a double-digit lead. Over the course of the past two elections, PPP has proven to be the more reliable pollster than either of these other survey research entities, however.

The MassINC poll (May 5-6; 497 registered Massachusetts voters) conducted for WBUR-TV, the Boston region’s PBS affiliate, gives Markey only a 41-35 percent lead among those who stated a defined choice. When “leaners” are added, the Markey advantage increases to 46-38 percent.

Regionally, Gomez claims a big 47-28 percent (51-31 percent adding leaners) advantage in the western and central part of the state. Markey is up 41-40 percent in the area defined as the “outer suburbs,” the region beginning at the northeastern corner of the state on the New Hampshire border and swinging around the western end of Boston before wrapping its way back to the Atlantic Ocean south of the city. But, that slight edge is countered by a one-point 35-34 percent Gomez lead in the southeast, the territory including the cities of Brockton and Fall River, and then continuing all through the hook-shaped Cape Cod peninsula. Markey has a commanding 59-20 percent split in Boston and the city’s inner suburbs.

The Suffolk University poll (May 4-7; 500 likely Massachusetts voters) produces a much different result, forecasting Markey to have a substantial 52-35 percent advantage. The 17-point gap between the two is obviously far greater than PPP’s four-point margin and WBUR’s six-point spread.

According to MassINC’s Steve Koczela, some of the difference between his firm’s results and those of Suffolk U can be explained in the sample draw. MassINC uses past voter history to classify potential respondents into the most likely voting category. Suffolk, on the other hand, includes a person in the polling sample only if the individual can name the specific special election date in unaided fashion. Both polls had virtually the same sized sampling universe, but it is possible that the Suffolk sample screen is too tight and not fully representative of the electorate, nor is it an accurate projection of the state of the vote at the present time.

The likely conclusion from the three polls, all taken within the same time reference, is that Markey is leading, but that the race is relatively close. It is now becoming likely that the special general election will become more competitive than anyone had predicted at the beginning of the campaign. Though the voter history trends cut completely against Gomez and the Republicans, the party label, at least as it concerns his candidacy, appears less important.

The remaining six and one-half weeks remaining before the June 25 special vote should now attract a great deal of attention. It’s too early to begin projecting a stunning upset, but the underpinnings of the Republican challenger performing well are certainly coming into fruition.

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