What The Polls Say For The Primary: Coakley, Baker Lead; Uncertainty Everywhere Else

Tomorrow is Primary Day in Massachusetts. As the Bay State political establishment descends into get-out-the-vote chaos, what are the numbers telling us? While polls in the governor’s race are all pointing in one direction, uncertainty reigns pretty much everywhere else. Disparate results and high numbers of undecided voters in various down ballot races should give pause to anyone seeking to project the winner based on recent polls.

Governor: Coakley Maintains Lead In Democratic Primary

The latest WBUR tracking poll — with results culled today — shows Martha Coakley maintaining her lead over rivals Steve Grossman and Don Berwick in the Democratic race for governor. Coakley holds a 41-20 lead over Grossman, just 3 points closer than her 24-point margin last week. Both Coakley and Grossman ceded some support to Berwick this week, whose support rose from 6 percent last week to 12 percent in this poll.

Coakley's 21-point lead over Grossman is consistent with most other recent polls. Last weeks' WBUR tracking poll had the race at 24 points. A standalone poll of Democratic primary voters by The Boston Globe put the margin at 20 points, and at 22 points when undecided voters were asked which way they leaned. The Globe's tracking poll has had the margin in the 20s since mid-July. The HuffPost Pollster average, which has not yet been updated to include today's results, puts Coakley up 20 points:


Over the summer, there was some evidence of a narrowing race, with higher-information and more-frequent voters gravitating toward Grossman. This week, the treasurer's favorables continued to trend upward. But with the last few hours of the contest ticking away, time appears to have run out.

Berwick has also struggled to break through. Until this week, more than half of voters had either never heard of him or had too little information to form an opinion about him. This week, Berwick's favorable rating jumped from 19 percent to 32 percent.

But for both Grossman and Berwick, these last-minute shifts appear to be too little, too late. Based on Martha Coakley’s lead in all of the public polling conducted during the campaign, she appears to be in a very strong position headed into tomorrow’s voting.

This round of the WBUR tracking poll was conducted from Sept. 2-7 among 234 Democratic primary voters. The margin of error for this group is 6.4 percent.

Governor: Baker Holds Wide Lead

On the Republican side, Charlie Baker holds a strong lead over Mark Fisher, based on last week's WBUR tracking poll, as well as other polling on the race. The Republican primary electorate is a relatively moderate bunch, looking more for a manager than a partisan true believer. Throughout the season, Baker has led Fisher by a wide margin, a dynamic which shows no evidence of having changed.

Moulton Vs. Tierney — A Squeaker In The 6th District?

In what may turn out to be tomorrow’s most interesting primary, several polls were released over the last few days in the apparently competitive 6th Congressional District Democratic contest. The Emerson College Polling Society student organization released a poll showing U.S. Rep. John Tierney slightly ahead of challenger Seth Moulton, 47-44. Public Policy Polling shows Moulton with a 47-45 edge, in a poll they conducted on behalf of a pro-Moulton organization, Forward Massachusetts. Both organizations use interactive voice response polling technology, meaning those without landlines are unable to participate.

The results for both polls are within the realm of random statistical variation. So if they are an accurate snapshot of the race, it is a true toss-up.

Attorney General: Polls Mixed. Will Women Propel Maura Healey?

In the Democratic primary for attorney general, the latest Boston Globe poll shows Maura Healey jumping to a 15-point lead over Warren Tolman. August polls had shown her even with Tolman, or even down slightly. Globe pollster John Della Volpe offered his take on the reason for the upheaval.

Nonetheless, in a race such as this, anything could still happen. Polling in primaries as a whole is well known for producing larger errors than polling in general elections. In a down ballot race in a low turnout primary, this could be even more true.

Lieutenant Governor: Time To Choose, And Choose They Will

The most recent polling showed most voters still have not made up their minds. At the same time, relatively few voters will leave this line on the ballot blank. So a lot of voters will make their decision at the last possible moment.

To the extent there is agreement, the last few polls have given a lead of between 1 and 14 points for Steve Kerrigan.

However, what historical evidence there is gives little reason for confidence in the polls on primaries for lieutenant governor. In 2006, the polls taken just before Primary Day called the wrong winner, and missed the margin by 15 and 22 points. With this in mind, it is very possible the margin at the end of the night tomorrow will differ widely from the polls.

Democratic Treasurer: Little Consistency, Lots Of Uncertainty

There is little consistency in the polls for treasurer and large numbers of undecided voters. In the last three polls, between 50 and 64 percent had yet to make up their mind, and the margins ranged from Finegold up 6 to Goldberg up 12. Here too, the polls offer little insight into what to expect.

9th District: No Republican Primary Polls

There are four Republicans on the ballot tomorrow in the 9th Congressional District primary, but there has been no polling in the contest.

Steve Koczela is the lead writer for Poll Vault and president of The MassINC Polling Group.

-- Here are the topline results for the WBUR gubernatorial tracking poll:

-- Here are the crosstabs for the WBUR gubernatorial tracking poll:


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