The results of a new statewide UMass Poll released June 6 shows Democratic U.S. Representative Edward Markey with a strong 11-point lead over Republican Gabriel Gomez among likely voters in advance of the Massachusetts special U.S. Senate election scheduled for June 25. Markey and Gomez are contesting the open Senate seat created by John Kerry’s appointment as Secretary of State.
Markey leads 51 percent to 40 percent among likely voters, and among registered voters Markey’s lead is 10 points (47 percent to 37 percent). With only 6 percent of likely voters identifying themselves as “undecided,” the directors of the poll see little opportunity for Gomez to close the gap on the longtime congressman from Malden.
“With just a couple of weeks left in this campaign, there appears to be little chance of another surprise like we had when Scott Brown upset Martha Coakley in 2010,” said Brian Schaffner, chair of the Political Science Department and director of the UMass Poll. “It is always difficult to predict turnout in a special election like this one, but no matter what assumptions we make about who is likely to vote, Markey holds a consistent lead in our poll.”
“Time is against Gomez,” added Ray La Raja, associate director of the UMass Poll. “Without a major gaffe by Markey soon, it is becoming very difficult to see a path to victory for Gomez.”
According to the poll results, while Markey holds just a narrow lead among men (46-43 percent), his lead among women is 19 points (56-37 percent). This gender gap is similar to that observed in Elizabeth Warren’s victory over Brown in 2012.
La Raja said, “Despite the relative moderation of Massachusetts Republicans, they will need to figure out how to close the gender gap that appears to be hurting them in statewide elections.”
Among independents, Gomez leads Markey by 17 points (50 percent-33 percent), but partisan voters remain committed to their respective candidates. Gomez captures 98 percent of GOP voters, while Markey gets 87 percent of Democratic voters, who outnumber Republican registrants by a two-to-one margin.
Although Gomez has portrayed himself as a moderate Republican, he loses self-described moderate voters by 16 points (53-37 percent).
“While Gomez is winning independents, it is far from enough to bring him even with Markey’s built-in advantages with a large base of Democratic voters in the state,” said La Raja. “This race is a sprint, with no major issues or scandals. Democrats will simply benefit from their structural advantages.”
In other results, Markey leads Gomez on all issues polled. Voters trust Markey over Gomez to handle the economy by 15 points (47 percent-32 percent), and they trust Markey more on national security by eight points (41 percent-33 percent), even though Gomez, a former Navy pilot and SEAL, claims this issue as his strength. On taxes, they favor the liberal Markey by 10 points (44 percent-34 percent).
Immigration and gun control have also been hot topics in this race. On immigration, voters favor Markey by nine points (41 percent-32 percent), and on gun control by a very wide margin of 22 points (50 percent-28 percent).
“Gomez has barely had time to introduce himself to voters so it is no surprise he is weak on most issues. And whatever time he had was spent wastefully trying to defend himself on the issue of abortion—a bad issue for him in Massachusetts—and his tax returns,” La Raja said.
Tatishe Nteta, associate director of the UMass Poll, added “Markey’s negative ads have successfully portrayed Gomez as out of step with the values of Massachusetts.”
The poll also found that only 75 percent of voters who supported Brown in the 2010 special election intend to support Gomez. The Republican candidate also does very poorly among those who didn’t vote in the 2010 special election, but are likely to do so this year. Of those who said they did not vote in 2010 but who are identified as likely voters on June 25, 82 percent say they are voting for Markey. Just 16 percent say they will vote for Gomez.
“Brown benefitted in the last special election from voters who wanted to ‘throw the bums out.’ Gomez misses the anger vote—these voters have fallen away,” said La Raja.
Maryann Barakso, associate director of the UMass Poll, said, “Although Gomez has attempted to follow Scott Brown’s prior success in Massachusetts by branding himself as part of a new element in the Republican, it appears he hasn’t convinced Massachusetts voters yet.”
In other results, when asked for one word to describe Markey, voters tend to choose “experienced.” They also emphasized “liberal” and “old.” For Gomez, people emphasized “Republican,” which suggests many do not know a lot about him. They also mention “honest” and “inexperienced,” which reveals his newness to the political arena.
“Massachusetts voters appear to know very little about the inexperienced Gomez, and they prefer Markey’s experience in this race,” said Schaffner.
The poll also found that Sen. Elizabeth Warren has a higher approval rating among Massachusetts voters than either President Obama or Gov. Deval Patrick. Thirty-one percent of voters “strongly approve” of Warren compared to 19 percent for both Obama and Patrick.
The Massachusetts Legislature has better approval ratings than the U.S. Congress. Among Massachusetts voters, the approval rating of Congress is just 12 percent compared to 40 percent for the Legislature.
The poll of 500 registered Massachusetts voters (357 likely voters) was conducted May 30 to June 4 by YouGov America under the direction of UMass Poll (www.umass.edu/poll). YouGov was rated as one of the most accurate pollsters of the 2012 election by Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com. The margin of error for the poll is 5.4 percent. The margin of error would be larger for subpopulations.