WBUR Poll: Baker-Coakley ‘Essentially A Tossup’

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Republican Charlie Baker, left, and Democrat Martha Coakley. (AP's Stephan Savoia, WBUR's Jesse Costa)
Republican Charlie Baker, left, and Democrat Martha Coakley. (AP's Stephan Savoia, WBUR's Jesse Costa)

The race for governor of Massachusetts is essentially a dead heat, according to a slew of new polls published this week.

The new WBUR weekly tracking survey, released Wednesday morning, shows Democrat Martha Coakley leading Republican Charlie Baker by a slim 3-point margin, 44-41. Eleven percent of voters remain undecided, and 4 percent support one of three independent candidates — Evan Falchuk, Jeff McCormick, Scott Lively.

A Boston Herald/Suffolk University poll gave Coakley a 1-point edge. A Boston Globe/Social Sphere survey showed Baker in the lead by 2 points. Other polls have seen similar results:

“When you look at the totality of the polls, it’s very clear that it’s essentially now a toss-up,” said Steve Koczela, president of The MassINC Polling Group, which conducts WBUR surveys.

The new WBUR poll implies the comfortable lead Coakley held before the primary has essentially evaporated. Last week, the WBUR poll showed her leading Baker by 10 points.

“For the Coakley campaign, the task is to stop the bleeding,” Koczela said. “You see more people taking an unfavorable view of Martha Coakley now — that’s gotta be concerning.”

The latest WBUR survey indicates 38 percent of poll respondents have an unfavorable opinion of the attorney general. That sentiment has increased by 8 points in just one month.

Koczela said this ought to make the Coakley campaign nervous, because Baker’s unpopularity isn’t climbing as fast.

“As his name ID has grown, people have grown to like him more and more,” he said. “You see Charlie Baker’s support growing.”

In fact, one WBUR poll respondent, Denise Vaudrin, a 57-year-old real estate agent from Springfield, epitomizes that dynamic.

“You know what’s so funny is that I was with [Coakley] in the beginning, and then the more I heard her talking … I just thought, she’s just not in touch with the way I feel,” Vaudrin said.

Vaudrin is an unenrolled voter — a key demographic for Baker’s success. “Charlie Baker talked about Springfield and what Springfield needs,” she said. “I just kept listening to Charlie Baker talking and felt better about what he was saying.”

Vaudrin represents another point of concern for the Coakley campaign: The margins she needs to hold are slipping.

The new WBUR poll shows Coakley’s edge among women dropped 9 points in just one week — from a 24-point lead to a 15-point lead.

Poll respondent Olivia Ferrante, a retired teacher from Revere, is an unenrolled voter who says she’ll vote for Baker in November. “We seem to do pretty well financially when it was the case of a Republican governor and a Democratic Legislature,” she said.

The WBUR poll shows Baker is shrinking the gender gap despite a tough week of negative media headlines about his woes with women.

Baker needs to perform well with women and independents to win, and he seems to be chipping away at both demographics.

But, despite Baker’s gains, Koczela said Coakley has some key components in her favor. “She’s still tied because there’s a lot of momentum to vote Democrat in Massachusetts,” he said.

And, indeed, the WBUR survey shows signs of that Democratic Party loyalty.

Elizabeth Cameron from Carlisle, a 46-year-old voice-over artist who responded to the WBUR poll, said she’s jaded with both political parties, but she’s absolutely fed up with the Republican Party and its devotion to corporate interests. She said she’s planning to vote for Coakley in November, though her decision is less about Coakley the candidate, and more a protest against the Republican Party.

“Unless the Democrat has committed criminal behavior, I will put my support toward Democrats because I’m so disgusted by the Republican Party,” Cameron said.

But the WBUR survey shows cracks in the Democratic Party’s faithfulness: 20 percent of registered Democrats say they will vote for Baker.

The trend lines are not in Coakley’s favor, but, with just a little more than a month until Election Day, Koczela says it’s difficult to tell which way this will go.

“What she doesn’t know, what nobody knows, is are we in the middle of the slope? Or are we at the bottom of the hill?” he asked. “You know, are things going to continue to slide or is this as far down as things are going to go?”

The Coakley campaign will hope it’s the latter.

The WBUR poll is based on a survey of 503 likely voters. It was conducted from Sept. 24-27 and has a margin of error of 4.4 percent.

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