WBUR Poll Gives Markey Slight Edge Over Lynch

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A new WBUR poll (PDFs – topline, crosstabs) finds a competitive race between the two Democratic congressmen running in Massachusetts' special U.S. Senate election.

The poll, conducted by the MassINC Polling Group, finds that 38 percent of likely Democratic primary voters say they would vote for U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, of Malden, while 31 percent say they would vote for U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch, of South Boston.

WBUR U.S. Senate Poll (Feb. 15)

The telephone survey of 498 registered voters was conducted Monday through Wednesday, and it has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

The Important Unenrolleds

If Lynch wants to win the Democratic primary, he needs to persuade people like Michael Legere, of Cambridge.

"So I know a lot of the Democrats are typically left-wing, so that's why I voted for Scott Brown, because at least Scott Brown is not necessarily radical left. So I prefer someone — Republican or Democrat --someone that can reach across the aisle," Legere said as he walked toward Faneuil Hall at lunchtime Thursday.

As a registered voter unenrolled with any party, Legere can vote in either the Democratic or the Republican primary. He doesn't know yet which primary he'll vote in.

"Depends on who I like more," Legere said. "I don't vote along party lines; I vote for who I like best."

[sidebar title="Other Selected WBUR Poll Data Points:" width="305" align="right"]

Selected Favorability Ratings (%s):
- Scott Brown - 58/27 favorability/unfavorability
- Steve Lynch - 29/12
- Ed Markey - 29/19
- Republican Party - 32/47
- Democratic Party - 53/31
- The NRA- 32/45

Gov. Deval Patrick's Budget Plan:
- Strongly support - 15%
- Somewhat support - 27%
- Somewhat oppose - 20%
- Strongly oppose - 30%

Mass. Gun Laws Should Be More/Less Strict?:
- More strict - 53%
- Less strict - 5%
- Kept about the same - 36%

-- Conducted Feb. 11-13 - See Topline & Crosstabs --

Legere said he was hoping the Republican Brown would run. MassINC pollster Steve Koczela found a lot of people feel that way.

"Right now, 62 percent of the people that we asked, of the voters of Massachusetts, say that ... they'd like to see him run for office again at some point in the future," Koczela said.

But Brown is not running in this race. And Koczela found that the more independent voters Lynch can draw into the Democratic primary, the better his chances are of beating Markey.

"One of the interesting things about the Democratic primary is it could actually be affected by the Republican primary, and what I mean by that is that where unenrolled voters vote on primary day actually will affect the Democratic primary," Koczela said. "Right now, Steve Lynch actually does slightly better, I mean within the margin of error, but slightly better among unenrolled voters, and much better than he does among registered Democrats, where Markey has a pretty significant lead."

Forty-two percent of Democrats say they would vote for Markey, to 25 percent for Lynch. But among independents who say they are likely to vote in the Democratic primary, 38 percent say they would vote for Lynch, compared to 34 percent for Markey.

"If more unenrolled voters are available to vote in the Democratic primary, that would be a good thing for Lynch," Koczela said. "But if two or more Republicans do manage to actually gather 10,000 signatures and force a Republican primary, then some of those unenrolled voters could easily go and vote in the Republican primary, which would be good for Markey."

The Candidates' Introductory Work

The primary is in two months. But Koczela found that 27 percent of the people he polled had never heard of Lynch, and 25 percent had never heard of Markey.

"So it's definitely true that there's a lot of people who don't know the candidates yet," he said.

Even fewer people know the Republican candidates.

The poll only asked about Norfolk state Rep. Dan Winslow, Cohasset private equity investor Gabriel Gomez and Gloucester state Sen. Bruce Tarr (this was before Tarr announced he's not running, which he did Thursday evening). And the poll found that most people don't know who any of them are yet.

- Update at 6 p.m.: Koczela joins All Things Considered for more on the poll:

This program aired on February 15, 2013.

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Fred Thys Reporter
Fred Thys reported on politics and higher education for WBUR.



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