2012 Exit Poll Results: MA Exit Poll Shows Large Gender Gap in Brown-Warren
Senate Race

November 6, 2012

Brian Schaffner

Contact Phone: 

Exit Poll Toplines: http://www.umass.edu/poll/pdfs/20121106_Data.pdf

AMHERST, Mass. – UMass Poll’s exit poll from today’s Massachusetts election shows that the gender gap helped bolster Elizabeth Warren in a competitive race against incumbent Senator Scott Brown. The poll shows that women voters preferred Warren to Brown by a margin of 20% (60% compared for Warren compared to 40% for Brown), while men appeared to split evenly between the two candidates. Brown was also faced with an electorate that looked much different than the one that elected him to office in 2010.

The election was clearly influenced by a campaign that focused significantly on women’s issues. “The female vote was an important one this election,” says Maryann Barakso, Associate Professor of Political Science and Associate Director of UMass Poll. “Despite Brown’s substantial efforts to appeal to women voters during the campaign, Warren enjoyed a significant advantage among women.”

While the economy was rated as a very important issue by 84% voters, 51% said that the issue of abortion was very important for their vote, while 61% reported that equal pay was very important. “Voters who saw these women’s issues as very important voted for Warren by a large margin over Brown,” noted Barakso.  Moreover, the electorate in general felt that that Warren would represent women very well in office when compared to Brown (49% to 26%).  “In the final months of the campaign, we saw increasingly more attention to women’s issues, and this only served to benefit the challenger,” says Barakso.

Beyond these issues, 74% of voters cited taxes as very important this election; those voters preferred Brown by a 53% to 47% margin.

The 2012 election rallied a different and larger base of voter than in the January 2010 Special Election for the seat. While voters who said they supported Brown in 2010 mostly stuck with their candidate this year, 21% of the electorate did not vote in the 2010 Special Election, and that group voted overwhelmingly for Warren (60% to 40% for Brown).

“The Brown campaign knew they would be tested this election if for no other reason than the electorate gets bigger and more diverse in a presidential election year,” says Brian Schaffner, Chair of the Department of Political Science and Director of the UMass Poll. “In a different year with a different electorate, Brown may have had an easier time keeping his seat.”

In the closing days of the campaign, Warren appealed to the prospect of a Republican-controlled Senate to drive voters away from Brown, while the Brown campaign urged voters to support the “person rather than the party.” When asked whether their vote for Senator was more “in support of the candidate I wanted to win the election” or “the party I wanted to control the Senate” 72% said they supported the candidate but 26% voted based on party control of the Senate. When voters stated they were concerned about partisan control of the Senate, they overwhelmingly supported Warren, 74% to 26%.


Two Massachusetts ballot issues attracted attention during the campaign. The legalization of medical marijuana was widely supported by Massachusetts voters. A majority of both men and women supported this legislation, and it was more popular among voters aged 18 to 29 (with only 39% of voters over age 65 in favor).

The “death with dignity” ballot issue was hotly contested during the final weeks of the campaign. In the end, women more likely to be opposed to the measure than men, with over half of them voting “no.”

The UMass Poll exit poll interviewed 1179 voters leaving the polls at over a dozen precincts across the state. The margin of error for analyses of Massachusetts voters is 3 percent.

For additional information about the Exit Poll and continued election coverage, follow UMass Poll on Twitter @UMassPoll.

Before 10:00 PM:
• Brian Schaffner: 202-329-9297
• Maryann Barakso: 413-259-5155
• Tatishe Nteta: 510-289-3432
• Raymond La Raja: 413-545-6182
• Melinda Tarsi: 203-240-1342

After 10:00 PM:
• Melinda Tarsi: 203-240-1342

Download the complete poll results [pdf]