A new poll suggests women are souring on Republican Gabriel Gomez in the Massachusetts U.S. Senate race.
The survey, which gives U.S. Rep. Edward Markey an overall lead of 47-39 on Gomez, is the third conducted by Democratic-affiliated Public Policy Polling.
But Markey's edge with women has expanded more significantly — from 10 to 16 points — in the last month.
And women voters have a far lower opinion of Gomez than they did just five weeks ago, according to the PPP surveys.
In a May 1-2 poll, just after Gomez won the GOP primary, 41 percent of women said they had a favorable opinion of the Republican, compared to 24 percent who said they had an unfavorable opinion.
That 17-point advantage shrunk to a 10-point edge in a May 13-15 poll. And in the new PPP survey of 560 likely voters, conducted June 3-4, only 35 percent of women had a favorable view of Gomez, compared to 44 percent who had an unfavorable view — a deficit of nine points.
That's a 26-point swing, in total.
"Gabriel Gomez has revealed himself to be a right-wing ideologue who supports dangerous limits on a woman's right to choose, and would vote to confirm pro-life justices for the Supreme Court who would overturn Roe v. Wade, so it comes as no surprise that women across the Commonwealth are seeing Gomez for who he really is — a pro-life Republican who can't be trusted to protect women's rights," said Markey campaign spokesman Andrew Zucker, in a statement.
The Gomez campaign declined to comment.
Steve Koczela, president of MassINC Polling Group, which conducts surveys for WBUR, said Gomez's declining fortunes among women recall the fate of former Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Scott Brown.
In a September 2011 WBUR poll, Brown had an 18-point edge on the favorable-unfavorable question among women. By the final WBUR poll in his race against Democrat Elizabeth Warren, he faced a three point deficit. He went on to lose.
Markey's women-friendly message
Markey's gains among women may indicate that his steady focus on abortion and gun control is paying dividends, Koczela said.
A March WBUR poll of likely voters in the U.S. Senate general election asked respondents what issues are "very important" to them in deciding how to vote. Eighty-five percent of both men and women said "jobs and the economy" are very important.
But when it came to abortion, 54 percent of women said the issue is "very important" compared to 36 percent of men. The split on gun control was 66-56.
A separate February WBUR poll of registered voters found 59 percent of women think Massachusetts gun laws should be "more strict," compared to 40 percent of men.
Abortion and gun control were both front and center Wednesday night in the first of three televised debates in the special election to replace former U.S. Sen. John Kerry.
Markey said he would not vote to confirm a Supreme Court justice who would overturn Roe v. Wade. Gomez, who describes himself as pro-life but says he would not make the issue a priority, indicated he would have no abortion "litmus test" when it comes to confirming justices.
Markey also took pains to point out that he favors bans on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines, while Gomez does not.
Women have been a key swing vote in recent Massachusetts elections, Koczela said.
In a U.S. Senate special election in 2010, Democrat Martha Coakley won women by just three points, according to a post-election survey commissioned by The Washington Post. Brown, her Republican opponent, racked up a 14-point lead among men and scored an upset victory.
Later that year, women voted for Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick over Republican challenger Charlie Baker by a 24-point margin, according to a post-election MassINC poll, propelling the incumbent to re-election.
And last fall, exit polls show, Warren rode an 18-point edge among women to a victory over then-U.S. Sen. Brown.
Men were more consistent over that period, favoring the Republican in the three races by margins of 14, 13 and 6 points, respectively.
The new PPP survey suggests that men have remained similarly steady in the current U.S. Senate race. Gomez's 4-point lead among men in the first PPP poll shrunk only slightly to a 1-point edge in the new poll.
Bad news for Gomez on independents
The survey also found that Gomez's standing among independents — a crucial constituency for Republicans running in Massachusetts — has declined. A 16-point edge in the first PPP poll has turned into a 1-point deficit.
The result is consistent with another recent survey, from New England College, which had Gomez leading Markey by just three points among independents.
Republicans can take some solace in this: Despite Gomez's slipping standing among women and independents, and a sizable financial edge for Markey, the race is still relatively close.
The new, automated PPP poll was commissioned by the League of Conservation Voters, which is backing Markey in the race. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percent.
This article was originally published on June 06, 2013.
This program aired on June 6, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.