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Democrat Martha Coakley leads Republican Charlie Baker by a slim 3 points (42-39) in the Massachusetts governor's race, according to a new WBUR weekly tracking poll.
"It has been stable, but the way it's been stable I think is pretty interesting," said Steve Koczela, president of The MassINC Polling Group, which conducts surveys for WBUR.
Coakley is struggling with the traditional base; currently, it looks like only about two-thirds of registered Democrats are supporting her, but, in an unconventional way, she's making up that lost ground with unenrolled voters.
The WBUR poll also asked a series of questions about the economy, and they offer some insights into the governor's race.
"When people hear about the economy or they say the economy in general is a high priority, they mean slightly different things," Koczela said. "Some people are saying the state economy matters, and other people are saying my neighborhood economy matters."
The WBUR survey finds economic growth is not the No. 1 priority for everyone. In fact, the idea of economic gains distributed more evenly, even if it means slower economic growth overall, is more popular (49-37) than the idea of achieving as much growth as possible.
And the poll suggests that desire feeds into Coakley's campaign. Her supporters tend to want gains more equitably distributed, while Baker supporters tend to prioritize economic growth, even if it means some groups gain more than others.
The new poll also confirms that none of the independent candidates are gaining much traction. Evan Falchuk and Jeff McCormick are each capturing 2 percent of the vote, while Scott Lively is at 1 percent.
Thirteen percent of voters remain undecided.
This week's WBUR survey finds respondents strongly against repealing the casino law, 54-36. Last week, the WBUR poll showed a 5-point margin for the "no to repeal" side.
"I don't really know what's causing the volatility," Koczela said. "The same polls conducted over subsequent weeks have shown pretty significant swings."
But Koczela said it's worth noting that throughout the campaign, most polls have consistently shown the "no" side leading.
Another interesting nugget from this latest poll is the ballot question about the state's gas tax. Forty-five percent of likely voters said they would vote "no" — meaning they would make no change to the current law that automatically increases the gas tax along with the Consumer Price Index, or inflation. Forty percent said they would vote to repeal the law.
Koczela said he thinks people are confused about the meaning of the "yes" and "no" votes.
"Republicans and Democrats are offering similar responses in terms of 'yes' versus 'no,' " he said. "So, often you'll think Democrats would be more accepting of taxes, Republicans would be more opposed to taxes. But when you look at the percent that are supporting or opposing this particular ballot question, there's not that big gap that you would expect."
The telephone survey of 500 likely voters was conducted Oct. 8-11. It has a margin of error of 4.4 percent.
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