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WBUR Poll: Coakley Has Early Advantage in Governor’s Race

Attorney General Martha Coakley greets patrons at Morin's Diner, in Attleboro, Mass., on Sept. 16, 2013, the day she officially launched her campaign for governor. (Steven Senne/AP)

Attorney General Martha Coakley greets patrons at Morin’s Diner, in Attleboro, Mass., on Sept. 16, 2013, the day she officially launched her campaign for governor. (Steven Senne/AP)

A new WBUR Poll finds Massachusetts gubernatorial hopeful, Democrat Martha Coakley, enjoying an early 39-29 lead over Republican front-runner Charlie Baker. She is the only Democrat leading Baker in the crowded 2014 field, according to a survey of 504 registered voters, conducted by the non-partisan The MassINC Polling Group for WBUR from January 16-19. The remaining Democratic candidates for governor in the 2014 Massachusetts general election trail Baker between 10 and 23 points.

Coakley ranked as the best known candidate at this early stage, and the best liked. She garnered broad favorables and high name recognition, with 53% of the survey participants holding a favorable view of her, compared to 28% unfavorable. Voters are also starting to see Baker favorably, after he disappeared from voters’ minds for several years after his last run. Of the survey respondents, 32% expressed a favorable view of Baker compared to only 14% with an unfavorable view.

“For both Baker and Coakley, their early numbers look good,” said Steve Koczela, president, The MassINC Polling Group. “The question is, as voters tune in and pay closer attention, will they like these candidates’ new messages or will they remember what they didn’t like about them the last time around?”

Both Coakley (2010 Senate) and Baker (2010 Governor) have previously been their party’s nominee for statewide office. Among the other candidates, Democrat Steve Grossman garnered a 22% favorable viewpoint, while all others declared in the race at this point, appear to have barely dented the public consciousness.

According to Koczela’s analysis, Coakley’s lead is built on strong support from women voters, particularly those over age 50. Women have played a pivotal role in recent statewide elections, swinging against Martha Coakley in her matchup with Scott Brown in the 2010 election for US Senate. Overall, the poll shows Coakley with a 17-point edge over Baker among women, far better than her 3-point margin among women in 2010.

“With other Democratic contenders waiting in the wings, the pressure is higher on Martha Coakley to maintain her strong favorables to keep her supporters from looking around for other candidates,” said Koczela.

The poll also explored opinions surrounding approval and performance ratings for current Governor Deval Patrick and the proposed casino developments in the state. For the complete WBUR Poll, including topline findings and crosstab results, see the WBUR story page. 

About the WBUR Poll: Results are based on a survey of 504 likely voters in the 2014 general election in Massachusetts. The poll was conducted January 16-19, 2014. Live telephone interviews were conducted via both landline and cell phone, using conventional registration-based sampling procedures. The margin of sampling error for the full sample is +/- 4.4 percent with a 95 percent level of confidence. The poll was sponsored by WBUR, Boston’s NPR News Station and conducted by MassINC Polling Group.

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