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Pollster: Warren Cutting Into Brown’s Lead Among Independent Voters

Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, left, and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren wave to the audience prior to a debate sponsored by the Boston Herald at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell, Mass., Monday, Oct. 1, 2012. (AP)

Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, left, and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren wave to the audience prior to a debate sponsored by the Boston Herald at UMass Lowell, Monday, Oct. 1. (AP)

BOSTON — A new WBUR poll shows Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren back out in front of Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown in the race for the U.S. Senate.

According to the poll, conducted by MassINC Polling Group on Oct. 21-22, Warren leads brown by five points, 48 to 43 percent.

A poll from earlier this month showed Brown up by four points.

With election day less than two weeks away, this is still anyone’s race.

Steven Koczela, president of the MassINC Polling Group, joined WBUR’s Bob Oakes on Morning Edition to talk about the latest poll details, including the roll of independent voters, the leading issues and the effect of the presidential election on Massachusetts voters.

Bob Oakes: Of the 516 likely voters that you polled this weekend, what did you hear? What explains this new five-point lead for Warren over Brown?

Steven Koczela: Well, the main group that I’d focus on in this poll is unenrolled voters. As we’ve talked about before, Brown almost certainly is going to win unenrolled voters; you know, a Republican who’s competitive statewide almost certainly does win unenrolled voters.

Has to.

Has to, right. The big question is: Can he drive the sort of huge margin that he needs in order to overcome the registration and this advantage that he starts off with?

And what’s happened in that group of unenrolled voters, then?

Well, he is winning. He has, depending on whether you look with leaners or without leaners, a good 13- or 14-point lead in that group, but again it’s got to be 25 or 30 in order for him to pull ahead.

So, Warren is cutting into the support that any Republican needs in that group order to do well or, I should say, to win in Massachusetts.

Right, she’s cutting into it especially relative considering what he was able to do in his run against Martha Coakley in 2010. I mean, there he ran up something like a 30-point margin and that’s, again, what he needs to do this time to be successful.

All right, let’s talk about what you found in terms of perceptions of candidates when you talked to the people that you polled. Two areas stand out: More voters think that Warren would stand up for regular people in the Senate while more say that Brown knows how to get the economy moving again. How have those perceptions changed over the course of the polls you’ve been doing for WBUR?

Well there’s been movement in each one of those issues. I mean, when we first polled those two issues back in February, we found relatively even perceptions on who would be more likely to stand up for you in the Senate and we found Brown with about the same lead that he has now as far as knowing how to get the economy moving. Since that time, Brown has maintained his lead on the economy, but Warren has actually pulled ahead in terms of the perception that she’ll stand up for regular people when in the Senate. That’s interesting because even though Brown leads on the issue that everybody says is their number one issue.

Jobs and the economy?

Right, when you just ask them what the No. 1 issue is, that’s the one, but when you look at what actually relates the most to how people decide to vote, in terms of how that actually relates the most to how people decide to vote, it turns out that it’s who’s going to stand up for you when you’re in the Senate and who agrees with you on key issues.

It also seems to indicate that Warren’s campaign message, the one she’s been using for months and months and months, that [she’ll] stand up for you in the middle class, might, in fact, now be working.

Right, not only that but it actually turns out to be the one that really is resonating as for as driving votes. You know, it’s not just that she’s improving her own perception on that issue, it’s that that issue turns out to be what matters.

You conducted this survey between the second and third presidential debates. What’s the topline finding among these Massachusetts voters in terms of the presidential race?

Well it’s not quite as wide of a margin as we found before, I mean, three of four weeks ago we were seeing margins in the 28-30 point range, I mean it’s now 20 points…

You mean President Obama over Mitt Romney in Massachusetts…

Correct, in Massachusetts. So it’s still not gonna be competitive, it’s still not going to be contested, but after that first presidential debate, it narrowed from that very large margin that we were seeing down to something more around the 18-20 point range.

Alright, and the last WBUR poll before Election Day is out..?

Next week.

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