A new poll released Sunday shows Massachusetts voter support for Republican Sen. Scott Brown and Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat, would be about even if they were the choices in the 2012 Senate race.
The UMass Lowell-Boston Herald poll showed Brown getting 41 percent of the vote and Warren receiving 38 percent, signaling a close race more than a year out.
But 37 percent of the respondents didn't know who Warren was, said Mike Mokrzycki, who conducted the poll.
"Now some of those voters who hadn't heard of Warren told us that they would vote for her anyway against Brown because there was, to some extent, party-line voting going on here," Mokrzycki said.
Warren, a consumer advocate, also was the strong favorite of the six Democratic candidates when pollsters surveyed potential Democratic primary voters, holding a more than 30-point lead over the other Democratic candidates.
Democrats have targeted Brown's seat since his surprising win over Democratic state Attorney General Martha Coakley after Sen. Edward Kennedy served for almost 50 years before he died of brain cancer in 2009.
Mokrzycki says Tuesday's debate will be key for the other candidates.
"Not to be too flip, but I think showing up will be a very important first step, judging by the low name recognition that we see in this poll," he said.
The poll surveyed 1,005 registered voters in Massachusetts by landline and cell phone from Sept. 22 through Sept. 28. The margin of error was 3.8 percentage points, higher for smaller samples such as potential Democratic primary voters.
In hypothetical presidential contests, President Obama got 62 percent support of the registered Massachusetts voters while 25 percent favored Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Between Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the poll results were 57 percent for Obama and 33 percent for Romney.
Princeton Survey Research Associates International and Braun Research Inc. carried out the survey for the newspaper and the university. The paper and UMass Lowell's Center for Public Opinion also will host a debate among the Democratic candidates Tuesday on campus.
The WBUR Newsroom and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
This program aired on October 3, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.