New Poll Highlights the Disparate Approval Ratings for Massachusetts’ Two Senators

Elizabeth Warren registers much higher approval ratings than fellow Democrat Ed Markey, viewed as a better and more effective representative by two-to-one margin

AMHERST, Mass. – Senator Elizabeth Warren currently garners much stronger approval ratings among Massachusetts’ voters than fellow freshman Democratic Senator Edward Markey, according to a new UMass Poll released today by the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Overall, Warren seems to be viewed much more favorably than Markey, based on an online survey of 500 registered Massachusetts voters conducted by YouGov America under the direction of the UMass Poll from March 31 to April 6. She enjoys higher job performance ratings, and is viewed as a better and more effective representative by a two-to-one margin.

Nearly half of all Massachusetts voters strongly or somewhat approve of Warren’s job performance thus far (47 percent), compared to only 35 percent indicating approval of Markey. One-third of respondents to the poll were either unsure or neither approve or disapprove of Markey’s performance, while only 18 percent expressed the same uncertainty toward Warren.

When asked which of the two senators does a better job representing Massachusetts and who is more effective in Congress, two-thirds of voters replied in favor of Warren for each.

“It truly is a tale of two senators, with Senator Warren both better known and better liked than Senator Markey,” said Brian Schaffner, director of the UMass Poll.

“Senator Warren’s efforts to tackle national issues such as the minimum wage and student loan debt as well as her increasing national fundraising efforts have not diminished her standing among citizens of the Commonwealth,” said Tatishe Nteta, associate director of the UMass Poll. “Rather, our results suggest that her growing national profile has only bolstered an already positive assessment of her tenure in the Senate.”

When asked to compare Warren and Markey on a variety of traits, Warren consistently came out ahead. She was viewed as more competent, having more integrity, more leadership ability, was more accessible and more empathetic. Warren had an especially large advantage over Markey in leadership (47-19) and empathy (45-11).

“After serving Massachusetts for 36 years in the House and for one year as the state’s senator, the relatively low appraisal of Markey’s leadership is somewhat surprising,” said Nteta. “However, given the dearth of high profile Republican challengers for Markey’s seat in 2014, he will likely have at least six more years to continue make his case to the state’s voters.”

The UMass Poll also asked voters about Markey’s decision to vote “present” on the September 2013 resolution to authorize President Obama to take military action in Syria if it became necessary. Fifty-six percent were opposed, including one-third who were strongly opposed. Just 31 percent supported Markey’s decision. Men were particularly opposed to Markey’s “present” vote, with 66 percent registering opposition compared to 46 percent of women.

“They are both freshman senators, but Markey is the old hand in Congress at a time when Congress is at a low point,” explained Raymond La Raja, associate director of the UMass Poll. “He doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt like Warren, and his wishy-washy vote on Syria certainly didn’t make him look like a bold new senator.”

“Male voters appear to have been particularly frustrated by Markey’s non-vote on the Syria resolution, perhaps indicating a preference for a senator who takes a strong stand one way or another,” said Schaffner.

Said Nteta: “In responding to criticism emanating from his ‘present’ vote, Senator Markey has said that he ‘wanted to make sure what we vote for on the Senate floor is something that reflects the values of the people of Massachusetts.’ The opposition to Markey’s vote expressed by the state’s residents indicates that he may not have his finger on the pulse of the Commonwealth.”

When asked to describe Warren in one word, Massachusetts voters most commonly used the words “liberal,” “liar,” “smart/intelligent” and “good.” Markey’s most common words were “liberal,” “old,” “good” and “OK.”

“Being effective in Congress does not necessarily mean one has to speak out on the national stage,” said La Raja. “Markey has a good reputation as a legislator. Warren still needs to prove herself there. Maybe it’s good for Massachusetts to have complementary senators—one very public to put issues on the national agenda and one insider to move legislation in Washington.”

Warren, the state’s senior senator, defeated incumbent Republican Senator Scott Brown in 2012 and is scheduled to be up for re-election in November 2018. Markey was elected in a special election in 2013 to fill the seat vacated by John Kerry, who had been nominated for secretary of state by President Barack Obama. He will face re-election this November.

Respondents of this poll were matched to a target sample of Massachusetts registered voters based on gender, age, race, education, party identification, ideology and political interest. YouGov then weighted the matched set of survey respondents to known characteristics of registered voters from the state of Massachusetts from the 2010 American Community Survey using propensity score weighting and then post stratified the weights to party registration statistics from October 2012. All analyses were produced using these weights, and the margin of error for the poll is 5.9 percent.