BOSTON — She may be an undeclared candidate, but potential Democratic U.S. Senate contender Elizabeth Warren appears to be gaining support among Massachusetts voters. A WBUR Poll (PDF) released Tuesday puts the Harvard law professor the closest of four Democrats to incumbent Republican Sen. Scott Brown.
When paired in a hypothetical contest, 44 percent of 500 likely voters said they’d vote for Brown, compared to 35 percent who said they would vote for Elizabeth Warren. In similar hypothetical match-ups, Brown topped City Year co-founder Alan Khazei (45 percent to 30 percent), activist Bob Massie (45 percent to 29 percent) and Newton Mayor Setti Warren (no relation to Elizabeth) (46 percent to 28 percent).
Across all head-to-head contests, between 20 percent and 27 percent of voters were undecided or had no candidate preference.
The poll did not include three other declared Democrats because they did not meet a threshold in previous polls. Those other three are: Wayland state Rep. Tom Conroy, engineer Herb Robinson and lawyer Marisa DeFranco.
None of the Democrats had either the favorability rating or the name recognition of Brown, who swept the 2010 special election to take the seat long held by the late Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. Brown had a 54 percent favorable rating and 25 percent unfavorable rating. Elizabeth Warren followed behind with a 17 percent favorable rating and 13 percent unfavorable rating. Just 5 percent of voters surveyed had never heard of Brown, compared to 44 percent who had never heard of Elizabeth Warren.
“[Brown] actually still is viewed favorably by a considerable number of voters, but [Elizabeth] Warren is, especially for someone who just appeared on the scene and hasn’t even formally begun her campaign yet, really making a strong showing at this point,” said Steve Koczela, president of the MassINC Polling Group, which conducted the survey.
The poll also asked voters about what issues Congress should focus on over the next several years, and an overwhelming majority said the economy and creating jobs. The next issues were putting Social Security and Medicare on solid financial footing and ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The voters questioned are considered a representative sample of those who will likely cast ballots in the Massachusetts U.S. Senate contest next year: 52 percent were independent or unenrolled voters, 36 percent were registered Democrats and 12 percent were registered Republicans.
The telephone poll, conducted Aug. 30 to Sept. 1, has a margin of error of 4.4 percent.