Elizabeth Warren Maintains Narrow Lead Over Scott Brown in Massachusetts Senate Race

October 9, 2012

AMHERST, Mass. – A new political poll conducted by University of Massachusetts Amherst political scientists finds that Elizabeth Warren is holding a narrow 48 to 46 percent lead over Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Scott Brown among likely voters in the race for Senate in Massachusetts. This lead is within the 5 percent margin of error. Warren has a six-point 49 to 43 percent lead among registered voters, the poll says.
The two candidates will hold a televised debate Oct. 10 at Symphony Hall in Springfield in what has become one of the most closely watched U.S. Senate races in the country and one that could determine control of the Senate next year. The UMass poll, an Internet poll conducted by YouGov America, was conducted Oct. 2-8 with a sample of 500 registered voters in Massachusetts.
The UMass Poll is directed by Brian Schaffner along with associate directors Ray La Raja, Tatishe Nteta and Maryann Barakso, all UMass Amherst political scientists.
“In the wake of two debates and a barrage of negative political advertisements, Warren has maintained a narrow lead over Brown among likely voters,” Nteta says. “These results do not bode well for the incumbent Brown whose support among registered voters is well below 50 percent with less than four weeks until Election Day.  Given the small percentage of ‘undecideds’ in the contest, Brown faces a difficult, but not insurmountable, path to reelection.”
Brown has an 11-point lead (52 to 41 percent) among independents and is viewed by voters as more likely to work with leaders from the Democratic Party (43 to 33 percent). Women favor Warren by nine points (51 to 42 percent) and she leads with low-income voters earning less than $40,000 (54 to 40 percent), according to the poll.
 “The so-called 47 percent could be Brown’s Achilles heel,” La Raja says. “He’s way down with voters in the lower half of income. And he still has a yawning gap with women voters. He may want to make a pitch to these voters during the Springfield debate.”
Brown is also viewed as more likeable than Warren, but he is also seen as running a more negative campaign than Warren, the poll says. Brown performed better on a variety of personal traits compared to Warren. Voters thought Brown was more honest (38 to 30 percent), more experienced (47 to 22 percent) and more likeable (41 to 28 percent). The candidates were nearly tied when it came to who was more knowledgeable (35 percent for Brown, 32 percent for Warren).
Brown is perceived as having run the more negative campaign with 45 percent of voters saying Brown was running the more negative campaign so far compared to just 26 percent who thought it was Warren’s campaign that was more negative.
“Even though voters perceive Brown to be running a more negative campaign, he continues to win the personality battle against Warren,” Nteta says. “Brown’s attacks on Warren’s Native American ancestry and her relative lack of experience have been effective in leading voters to question Warren’s trustworthiness and her preparedness for the office without adversely affecting his popularity in the state.”
“When asked for one word to describe Warren, the word ‘liar’ appears more frequently than any other word, which was not even mentioned in the previous UMass Amherst poll nearly one year ago,” La Raja says. “The next most common word is ‘smart’. For Brown, the words ‘moderate’ and ‘honest’ remain the top two choices of respondents as they did one year ago.”
“Warren still faces a tough race despite a gender gap in her favor, given that voters give Brown the advantage in key areas, including likeability and trustworthiness,” Barakso says.
La Raja also notes, “The Massachusetts Senate race is not a mirror image of the presidential race. By a fairly wide margin, President Obama remains more popular among un-enrolled Massachusetts voters than Elizabeth Warren, while Mitt Romney is easily eclipsed by Scott Brown among this same group. In a fairly liberal state, it suggests that Brown has done a good job insulating himself from Romney and the national Republican Party.”
The poll also finds that some voters are concerned about more than what this race means for Massachusetts. Nearly 15 percent of Brown’s supporters would at least consider not voting for him if they knew his election would mean Republicans controlled the U.S. Senate.
Schaffner says the poll is committed to studying public opinion in Massachusetts and the United States to inform policy making in the Commonwealth and beyond. The survey was conducted by YouGov America (http://yougov.com ). The margin of error for analyses of Massachusetts adults is 5 percent. The margin of error for registered voters is 5.4 percent. The margin of error would be larger for subpopulations.
Contact: Ray La Raja, 413/545-6182, cell, 413/230-0138, laraja@polsci.umass.edu
                Tatishe Nteta, 413/545-3546, cell, 510/289-3432, nteta@polsci.umass.edu

Download the complete poll results and methodology [pdf]