WBUR Poll Gives Markey Slight Edge Over Lynch

BOSTON — A new WBUR poll (PDFs – topline, crosstabs) finds a competitive race between the two Democratic congressmen running in Massachusetts’ special U.S. Senate election.

The poll, conducted by the MassINC Polling Group, finds that 38 percent of likely Democratic primary voters say they would vote for U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, of Malden, while 31 percent say they would vote for U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch, of South Boston.

WBUR U.S. Senate Poll (Feb. 15)

The telephone survey of 498 registered voters was conducted Monday through Wednesday, and it has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

The Important Unenrolleds

If Lynch wants to win the Democratic primary, he needs to persuade people like Michael Legere, of Cambridge.

“So I know a lot of the Democrats are typically left-wing, so that’s why I voted for Scott Brown, because at least Scott Brown is not necessarily radical left. So I prefer someone — Republican or Democrat –someone that can reach across the aisle,” Legere said as he walked toward Faneuil Hall at lunchtime Thursday.

As a registered voter unenrolled with any party, Legere can vote in either the Democratic or the Republican primary. He doesn’t know yet which primary he’ll vote in.

“Depends on who I like more,” Legere said. “I don’t vote along party lines; I vote for who I like best.”

Legere said he was hoping the Republican Brown would run. MassINC pollster Steve Koczela found a lot of people feel that way.

“Right now, 62 percent of the people that we asked, of the voters of Massachusetts, say that … they’d like to see him run for office again at some point in the future,” Koczela said.

But Brown is not running in this race. And Koczela found that the more independent voters Lynch can draw into the Democratic primary, the better his chances are of beating Markey.

“One of the interesting things about the Democratic primary is it could actually be affected by the Republican primary, and what I mean by that is that where unenrolled voters vote on primary day actually will affect the Democratic primary,” Koczela said. “Right now, Steve Lynch actually does slightly better, I mean within the margin of error, but slightly better among unenrolled voters, and much better than he does among registered Democrats, where Markey has a pretty significant lead.”

Forty-two percent of Democrats say they would vote for Markey, to 25 percent for Lynch. But among independents who say they are likely to vote in the Democratic primary, 38 percent say they would vote for Lynch, compared to 34 percent for Markey.

“If more unenrolled voters are available to vote in the Democratic primary, that would be a good thing for Lynch,” Koczela said. “But if two or more Republicans do manage to actually gather 10,000 signatures and force a Republican primary, then some of those unenrolled voters could easily go and vote in the Republican primary, which would be good for Markey.”

The Candidates’ Introductory Work

The primary is in two months. But Koczela found that 27 percent of the people he polled had never heard of Lynch, and 25 percent had never heard of Markey.

“So it’s definitely true that there’s a lot of people who don’t know the candidates yet,” he said.

Even fewer people know the Republican candidates.

The poll only asked about Norfolk state Rep. Dan Winslow, Cohasset private equity investor Gabriel Gomez and Gloucester state Sen. Bruce Tarr (this was before Tarr announced he’s not running, which he did Thursday evening). And the poll found that most people don’t know who any of them are yet.

- Update at 6 p.m.: Koczela joins All Things Considered for more on the poll:

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  • Peter Lemieux

    In 2010 there were slightly under 670,000 votes cast in the 2009 Democratic primary special election from a total of about four million registered voters. Republicans cast about 165,000 ballots that year. That’s a turnout rate of 20%. So in this sample of about 500 registered, only about 100 of them will be voting in the primaries. If we factor in the higher levels of political interest people who take polls display, perhaps that figure might reach 200.

    However, the screener you ask about primary participation is strangely worded and doesn’t force respondents to evaluate their actual likelihood of voting. Instead you ask “For this special election, would you be more likely to vote in a Democrat primary election, Republican primary election, or neither?” That doesn’t ask the person if they think they will vote or not and, indeed, fully 74% of your sample chooses one or the other primary. Even worse, you don’t ask people if they voted in the 2009 primary, or even if they voted in November! So we have no way of identifying the people who will actually determine the outcomes in the primaries.

    Since turnout is the most important factor influencing the outcome of special elections, you should be paying a lot more attention to identifying likely primary voters and less attention to telling us useless horse-race data from people who aren’t likely to be voting on April 30th.

  • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

    what are there differences in terms of policy goals?

    • karenstowe

      Markey is much more of a left wing lunatic then Lynch.

      • nhdogmom

        “lunatic”…I think not.

  • http://www.facebook.com/catherine.shaw.9235 Catherine Shaw

    One must assume that a competent polling firm would ask only 4 out of 4 voters in a poll for a special election. Clearly a special election has a lower voter participation that either a mid-term or presidential cycle but voting history is readily available when it comes to who will be called for polling purposes.

    But more important to the issue at hand is predicting where the non-affliated voter will land — or as you in MA call them: the unenrolleds. Determining how these people will vote is actually very simple: For each precinct, you take the registered Democrats and add them to the registered Republicans and determine what percentage each are of that total. So if your precinct has 3000 voters of which 1600 are Dems; 400 are Republicans and 1000 non-affliated and 3rd party registrants, then your numbers would be 80% owed to the democrat and 20% owed to the republican of ALL who turnout to vote within the precinct. (Needless to say, this can change given turnout of each party–but typically turnout is pretty close to overall registration–unless it is a Primary like the 2008 cycle where D’s outperformed R’s by 10 points.)
    So in the case of Legere above, to know how he will vote one only needs to know the percentage of D’s to R’s in his neighborhood to get a pretty fair reading on his voting patterns. While independents (non-affliated or unenrolled voters) love to think they’re independent, they’re actually less-engaged closet partisans whose voting behavior (when they actually do vote) mirrors that of their neighbors–including whether they swing or not.

  • Not4Markey

    I’m from Malden and not voting for Markey. I don’t recall him ever doing anything for us. The only thing I do remember about him is when I was about 10 years old I had an assignment to ask a politician a question during Memorial Day weekend. I saw him at the Malden parade and so I approached him and asked him if I could ask him a question for school, to which he replied, call my office next week. This was over 35 years ago and I have never forgotten his response. I have never voted for him and never will.

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