The latest WBUR poll of 504 likely voters (PDFs -- topline, crosstabs) finds a still-tight race between Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Scott Brown and his Democratic challenger, Elizabeth Warren, with Warren leading Brown by two points, 46 to 44 percent.
The survey, conducted Sept. 26-28 for WBUR by MassINC Polling Group, has a 4.4 percent margin of error.
The two candidates meet in their second debate Monday night in Lowell. The 40 percent polled who watched the first debate are split on who they feel won. Sixteen percent say Brown won, 14 percent say Warren did.
A National Race
One of the key factors playing in Warren's favor is voters' discomfort with the idea of Republicans taking control of the Senate. Only 29 percent of likely voters in our poll say they would prefer to see Republicans in control; 58 percent say they would prefer to see Democrats continue to run the Senate.
Dennis Baker, of Shrewsbury, a former Democratic state representative, is one of them. He was among the 1,300 people who braved the rain to take part in the Pancreatic Cancer Research Walk at Castle Island on Sunday. After, he took refuge under the porch at Sullivan's, his eyeglasses streaked with rain drops. Baker is one of those famous "Reagan Democrats." But he's with Warren now.
"And I think the major issue she's got going for her is we can't let the Republicans take over the Senate," Baker said. "That's critical, because I think the Republican Party has moved way far to the right, and I think it would be dangerous to have them in the Senate."
In WBUR's last Senate poll, more people believed Warren would "stand up for regular people when in the Senate." Forty-three percent of likely voters said that, compared to 39 percent in the latest poll. And Brown has seen a big jump among people who see him that way. Thirty-five percent of likely voters now consider Brown the candidate most likely to stand up for regular people, compared to 29 percent in WBUR's last poll.
Michael Federici of Medway, snacking and sipping coffee under the roof outside Sullivan's, is among them.
"I think he's true to what he stands for and the stuff he's fought for," Federici said. "And I don't think he's made a big deal about the middle class, like the Democrats are trying to pin everything on the millionaires, like they're the problem. And all of a sudden every Democrat is for the middle class, yet half of them don't even live in the middle class, so to me, it's kinda bull."
Personality Vs. Issues
More people agree with Warren on the key issues that matter to them than they do with Brown (45 to 39 percent), and more voters still believe Warren is the best candidate to stand up for women in the Senate (47 to 25 percent). But Brown continues to be the candidate people like more; 52 percent said they hold a favorable opinion of him.
Forty-seven percent of likely voters hold a favorable opinion of Warren. People like Gail Dubois from Pepperell.
"I think she's honest," Dubois said. "I think she's a fresh face. I think she'll do well by us."
Among the qualities people see in Brown is his willingness to compromise with Democrats. Three percent of voters say he compromises with Democrats too often, 34 percent say not often enough, and 48 percent say he compromises just about the right amount. That's why Holden resident Jim Wells likes Brown.
"I think we got too many people in the House and Senate right now that vote strictly straight-line party," Wells said. "I think Warren will vote straight-line Democrat. I think we need more people that can see both sides and vote against their party sometimes."
While Massachusetts voters pride themselves on splitting their vote, more likely voters see the prospect of sending an all-Democratic delegation to Washington as a "positive development" — 48 percent compared to the 38 percent who say al all-Democratic delegation would be a "negative development."
This program aired on October 1, 2012.