WBUR Poll: Brown, Warren Running Neck And Neck In Senate Race

BOSTON — A new WBUR poll shows U.S. Sen. Scott Brown and Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren running neck and neck. Forty-six percent of people polled said they would vote for Warren compared to 43 percent for Brown. The three-point lead is within the margin of error.

Political newcomer Warren surprised the establishment when she raised millions of dollars in both of the last two quarters. She’s used that money to buy TV ads, and based on conversations with voters, the ads seem to be working.

“I just feel more comfortable with her because I know she’s going to fight for what I want,” said
Belmont Democrat Lucille Duddy. Duddy knows everything she does about Warren from watching those television spots.

Pollster Steve Koczela said of Warren, “She’s gotten her name out there. Now many more people have a view of her and she’s translated that into higher support than she had before.”

Koczela leads the polling group at the independent think-tank MassINC. He conducted the poll for WBUR.

“[Warren] really came out of the gate fast and there was some question as to whether or not she was going to be able to maintain the momentum that she started out with,” he said. “And what this poll has shown is that she has been able to maintain that momentum.”

However, about a third of voters polled don’t know who she is or don’t have an opinion of her. And Brown is popular. Fifty percent of the voters polled think favorably of him, compared to 39 percent* who say the same about Warren.

At a time when the middle class feels under siege, much of this Senate race has been about who is more “middle class.” And, according to Koczela, Brown is winning that competition.

“He has managed to put a little bit of daylight between himself and his opponent as far who is actually from the middle class,” Koczela said.

Soheil Husain, a 35-year-old surgeon from Andover, said he considers Brown to be the middle-class candidate in the race. Husain is an independent who votes for Democrats more often than Republicans, but is leaning toward voting for Brown. Like many of the people we polled — 28 percent of them — Husain said Brown has the middle-class roots.

“But to be honest, I don’t know that for sure,” Husain said. “I don’t know exactly what his parents’ incomes were. His whole persona, driving around in a truck, helps that image.”

Brown has spoken widely and written a memoir about his struggles growing up the son of a single mom. He got government-subsidized lunch at school. He said he studied at Tufts University on a basketball scholarship.

In the meantime, Warren describes her family during her childhood “hanging onto the middle class by its fingernails.” In her stump speeches and on television, she said her mother had to work after Warren’s father had a heart attack and got demoted to a lesser-paying job. She said she went to college on a debate scholarship. But only 17 percent of voters we polled said Warren came from a middle-class home.

Another 27 percent of the voters said both candidates did.

Voters’ perceptions of the candidates are complicated by the fact that both of them have done well for themselves financially as adults. Warren’s Cambridge house is worth between $1 and $5 million, and she earned more than $500,000 in 2010. Brown owns a Wrentham home and three rental properties worth between $1 million and $2.3 million. He got a $700,000 advance on his autobiography.

“I think it’s probably less important to me where they are now,” Husain said. “If they made a fortune, good for them, but it would be beneficial if at some time they lived without having that fortune. Just so they knew how the other side lived.”

When we asked voters who would better represent the needs of regular people, Brown led Warren 33 to 30 percent. Twenty-five percent said they would do the job equally well.

“I think they both are a lot like me,” said Sherry Loiselle, a 50-year-old secretary in Chelmsford.

Loiselle is an independent and plans to vote for Brown, but is interested in Warren’s ideas.

The fact that Brown is a Republican, in an otherwise completely Democratic congressional delegation, appears to help him, especially among independents. Fifty-three percent of independents polled say it would be a negative development if the delegation became completely Democratic.

Another issue that might affect this race is health care. On Wednesday, we’ll report on whether Massachusetts voters want their U.S. senator to support or repeal President Obama’s health care law.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said Warren’s favorability rating was 41 percent. Her favorability rating was polled at 39 percent.

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  • History Doc

    It’s vital to test the potential impact of Obama at the top of the ticket  on the candidate’s appeal.

    • Peter W.

      I agree it’s valuable, but i’m not sure it’s “vital” (sorry to be splitting hairs). Mass. voters will be quite aware of this race when they go to the polls (as this survey shows, many already are), and I think they will view it as separate from the Presidential race. Republicans will come out for Scott Brown regardless of who is top-of-ticket for them, and precious few Democrats are pro-Warren but anti-Obama (or vice versa).

  • Peter W.

    I think the most interesting stat is among independents: Brown’s Net Favorable Score (percentage who say “favorable” minus the percentage who say “unfavorable”) is an impressive +35 while Warren’s is a relatively poor -7… a whopping 42 point difference. Given the enormous push for Warren, this is quite remarkable. By no means does it spell doom for Warren, but it is a striking feature of this poll.

  • Anonymous

    This poll was conducted on February 2 – 4.  On February 2, the Homeland Security committee passed the anti- congressional insider trading bill.  In most of the Massachusetts media, this was described as “Brown’s” bill.

    In fact, the basic outline of the bill was the House bill that Louise Slaughter introduced and fought for – with little success – since 2006.  Both Senators Gillibrand and Brown sponsored alternative – though extremely similar – versions of the House bill. They were both referred to the Homeland Security Committee, which held hearings and wrote another version of the bill. The lead sponsor of that bill which was Joe Lieberman, the chair of the committee.   That did not stop Brown from accosting the President demanding that the President get Reid to give “his” bill a vote – after the President had strongly asked the Congress to get him a bill in his SOTU.  

    In addition, the Brown/Warren pact against the third party ads likely helped Brown’s image.

    So, this survey was taken during a time period when the news was as positive as it could be for Scott Brown – and he is still behind.  Not to mention, this is so even though there are many who say they do not know much about Warren.

    I really look forward to the NEXT poll after Brown did 3 things yesterday that I would guess put him at odds with the state.

    1) He is a co-sponsor of the Blunt amendment that would legislate that any employer could refuse to cover birth control.  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/post/birth-control-as-wedge-issue-against-gop-ctd/2012/02/13/gIQAlQbdBR_blog.html

    2) He signed on as a co-sponsor to a Constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget that would leave the country unable to rapidly respond to a war or crisis.  http://www.masslive.com/politics/index.ssf/2012/02/sen_scott_brown_calls_for_fisc.html

    3) He came out against raising taxes on the wealthy as part of  the Obama budget. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/post/birth-control-as-wedge-issue-against-gop-ctd/2012/02/13/gIQAlQbdBR_blog.html

    I would bet that all of these will hurt him with the independents that he is doing somewhat well with here.   This poll may be his high water mark of the year.

  • Vic

    I am a Warren person who is not liking that favorable/unfavorable ratio.  It does not bode well for her because is saying that a signficant number of people who are rating her do not like her which makes voting for her difficult.  I can’t read the crosstabs to maybe understand this better but will keep trying. 

    • Rcadalso

      I will make another donation to Warren. I like her very much!

  • ET

    The problems of the country, and the
    planet, will not be addressed as long as voters are using issues like
    whether or not a candidate drives a pickup truck as voting criteria.

    It would be useful to include some more significant information on the
    candidates in your news pieces – their positions on a few critical
    For instance:
    What is their position on Global Warming / Climate Change and what, if anything, do they think should be done about it?
    What energy policy do they recommend for the US?

    What is their position on regulation of the financial industry?
    What is their position on the federal budget?
    What is their position on taxes?
    What role do they believe corporations should have in American politics?

    There are real issues at stake in this election, and real differences
    between the candidates, and it would be great if you could use your
    stories to help shed light on them. Thanks karenc for your posting.

    • EricaS

      “What is their position on Global Warming / Climate Change and what, if anything, do they think should be done about it?”

      Apparently you haven’t heard the news on this fallacy.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RF6I3L2NQUJOMOAUWHIJELRSIE Daniel

        dear god. ericaS, it’s head-in-the-sand, dunning-kruger emboldened voters who gave us Brown in the first place.

      • andy

        The only fallacy is that people cannnot be bothered to look at the data which show that anthropogenic climate change is not a liberal conspiracy, but a scientific reality.  Get a clue.

        • ET

          EricaS:I don’t so much follow the news on the topic as look at the data.  Here’s two articles that might be of interest:

          Temperature trends – 9 of the 10 warmest years since 1880 are since 2000, and the 10th was in 1998:  

          The current situation informed by Paleoclimate data.  Greenhouse gasses
          and temperature – evidence of the relationship over the long term.  
          It’s the scariest thing I’ve read:   

        • kathy
          • Anonymous

            Good God!  Denialists cling to any “skeptic scientist” without doing any background checks on them!

            “German electric utility executive Fritz
            Vahrenholt is co-author (along with geologist Sebastian Lüning) of a book
            expressing “skepticism” regarding the human contribution to global warming,
            which predictably has been trumpeted
            by the usual climate denial enablers. Why should we particularly care what
            Vahrenholt thinks about climate science? That is something of a mystery – he
            has a PhD in chemistry and has worked in the energy sector for Shell Oil and
            wind turbine maker RePower. Vahrenholt and Lüning both currently work for RWE
            Innogy, Germany’s second-largest energy company (Vahrenholt as a manager,
            Lüning as a scientist in its oil and gas division).

            Vahrenholt admits he has no expertise in climate
            science, but apparently his status as “Germany’s Top Environmentalist” (a title
            which Vahrenholt appears to have been awarded just recently by anti-climate think tanks and
            denialists) and his climate “skepticism” are sufficient for some people to
            take his climate claims seriously.

            In an interview
            with Der Spiegel, Vahrenholt discusses why he chose to write a book rather
            than attempting to conduct and publish scientific research.

            SPIEGEL: You make concrete
            statements on how much human activity contributes to climatic events and how
            much of a role natural factors play. Why don’t you publish your prognoses in a
            professional journal?
            Vahrenholt: Because I don’t
            engage in my own climate research. Besides, I don’t have a supercomputer in my
            basement. For the most part, my co-author, geologist Sebastian Lüning, and I
            merely summarize what scientists have published in professional journals — just
            as the IPCC does.

            However, as we will soon see, the difference
            between Vahrenholt and the IPCC is that the latter
            accurately summarizes the body scientific literature,
            while the former misrepresents his sources and only listens to a few select
            “skeptic” scientists.”


      • Anonymous

        There is no fallacy.  The news that is calling Global Warming a fallacy is called farce.  Please, try to catch up with those of us who are in touch with reality.  Climate change is real, your argument isn’t.

  • 33rd President

    Interesting data in the crosstabs: on favorability, 16% in western and central MA and 32% in southeastern MA have never heard of Warren. This confirms reports on the ground, that Warren is avoiding big chunks of the state, especially rural towns and Bristol, Plymouth and Worcester counties. Also of note, on the question “knows how to get the economy moving again,” Brown beats Warren 33% to 24% in western and central MA and by an even bigger spread 33%-18% in southeastern MA. Warren seems comfortable talking about consumer protection and financial regulation but she better bone up on the other domestic issues soon.

  • Andy

    I think the moment Brown and Warren debate each other, it will be clear that Scott Brown is inarticulate and clueless.  I have heard him speak and he has trouble stringing a coherent sentence together.  Given that Brown supports the bill to allow any employer to deny contraceptives in their insurance plan, you have to ask what this guy is thinking?  Is this the sort of person we want in the Senate?

  • Guessi

    How anybody vote for this lunatic Warren? She is a severe commie and if people watch the wild talking points she made over her resentment of individuals freedom. She is a immersion in Stalinist rules. Very nasty woman.

  • http://twitter.com/randomhookup R Hookup

    Tufts is an NCAA Division III school, so they can’t offer scholarships. Brown may have received scholarships and other support to attend Tufts, but it wasn’t tied to his playing basketball.

  • Jim

    I think Scott Brown has tried to be reasonable and moderate in his approach. I agree with some things he”s done and disagree with others. The main problem is that he’s a Republican in a Democratic state. As a junior member of the Senate he’s not going to be able to vote the way his conscience might dictate. He has to tow the line of his caucus on key votes or he gets nothing. Mitch McConnell and Eric Cantor tell him how to vote. We have to be mindful of that when we vote, in addition to sending an individual to the Senate, we’re also casting a vote that affects the balance in power in the Senate as a whole. To push that in the direction of the “do nothing” party would be a big mistake.

    On the positive side I think Warren has a lot to offer. The work she did on the development of the new financial consumer protection agency is very impressive. I think she understands the role of private enterprise in this capitalist system but has a good sense for what’s fair and just. Left unchecked any industry will tend to push the limits of legality in order to make more profit. It’s sometimes easier to do that than to develop new and better products. I think Warren’s voice in the Senate would

    • Marilynr37

      We need someone with some expertise to fix what’s wrong in Washington DC. Once we have someone talking about the things our politicians should have been talking about a long time ago, then we have some hope and potential that things will improve for the regular economy. Without someone like Warren in Congress, everything is rigged for big corporations, financial institutions, and insurance companies, who have the money to buy the votes of our Congressmen. With about 37,000 lobbyists protecting special interests in Washington, its about time that the middle class/working class has someone representing their interests.

    • Md1mb2

      Really?  Brown has out of the party line on a few occassions and Warren claims that the OWS kids are hers.

  • katie

    I think that mrs. warren is as true as can be. she knows what the people are looking for

    • Anonymous

      Not sure why this reply was posted here too as I did it only for Marilynr37.

      Please disregard. 


  • X-Ray

    One wonders why most of Warren’s contributions come from out-of-state (CA & NY) sources while Brown’s money is mostly in-state. Does this indicate that the far-left is worried?

    • Marilynr37

      Did you know that Scott Brown raised most of his money from “out of state” when he ran and won in the special election in 2010? I don’t remember hearing complaints from republicans, then.

      • Anonymous

        That’s not actually true unless you want to qualify that with the percentages.  It’s looks like 54 to 46 for out-of-state for Brown in 2010.

        But over 60% is out-of-state for Warren, with a good portion coming from California first, then NY & NJ.

        To me it looks like the Democratic party is running scared and wants that’s seat back no matter what.

    • Anonymous

      It’s a good point. I’m out of state and have thought of supporting Warren, not because of some mobilization effort rooted in fear, but because I like what she has to say. Unless she’s pulling an elaborate shine on the public, she seems to actually care about the average person and seems intelligent and willful enough to do it right.

      So I can only speak for myself. I don’t know about all the other folks out there.

  • Ajb1956

    This guy is a moron. But Republicans have been allowing morons to run their party for far to long.

    • Anonymous

      Maybe you should learn more about him first before making blind comments with no fact backing them.

      Scott Brown is one of the few Senators or House Reps who sends out a newsletter approximately each month.  He details all the good and bad that has happened.  

      He’s probably the most middle of the road Republicans and willing to work with the Democrats, even when the Republicans are on his back.

      His background started even lower than Warren states hers was.  A lot of his youth was spent in situation you wouldn’t want any kid in.

      Just saying, check your facts before judging someone just because the ‘R’ is next to their name.

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