With less than three weeks to go before Election Day, polls show Gov. Charlie Baker and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren maintaining sizable leads over their top opponents.
Warren is ahead of Republican Geoff Diehl by an average of 27 percentage points, while Baker is favored over Democrat Jay Gonzalez by an even larger average of 37 points.
Leads that large can’t happen without there being some voters who support both the Republican for governor and the Democrat for Senate. Nationally, it seems like partisans are hardening into separate tribes, reading and believing sinister things about the other camp from their respective media sources.
But here in Massachusetts, a sizable slice of voters are straddling the line on the two races topping November’s ticket. According to a WBUR poll in September, 3 in 10 likely voters say they support both Baker for governor and Warren for Senate.
(A larger share, 38 percent, favor Baker but not Warren; 26 percent support Warren but not Baker; and 6 percent support neither or are undecided.)
So who are these ticket-splitters? They look a lot like an important part of the Democratic base: older women. Three in 5 are female, half are registered Democrats, and 40 percent are over the age of 60. As it turns out, had Baker come to either of the Women’s Marches in Boston, he would have found a fair number of his own voters.
In other words, these Baker-Warren voters look more like those who are voting only for Warren and not Baker than those who support Baker but not Warren. That makes sense given the partisan makeup of each candidate’s support. Baker has long had crossover appeal, while Warren is more polarizing. Only 3 percent of ticket-splitters are registered Republicans, likely because of the GOP’s strong dislike of Warren.
These voters look more like Democrats, but their opinions fall somewhere between the parties. They act more like Democrats in their support for state ballot Questions 2 (campaign finance) and 3 (transgender accommodations), but they are closer to Baker voters in opposing Question 1 (nurse staffing levels). On energy policy, they are more likely than voters overall to support solar and wind power and to oppose coal, oil and nuclear. But there is little daylight between all voters and them on their ratings of the condition of the state’s infrastructure, or their belief that the state is not spending enough to maintain it.
Fully 90 percent of ticket-splitters have an unfavorable view of President Trump, and two-thirds think Warren, one of Trump's most vocal critics, has handled the president appropriately. But nearly as many (57 percent) think Baker has reacted appropriately as well. That suggests that Baker, though far more muted in his criticism of Trump than some Democrats might like him to be, has done enough to distance himself from Trump and the national GOP. Indeed, ticket-splitters are twice as likely to think Baker takes positions closer to the Democratic Party (40 percent) than the Republican Party (20 percent).
Most ticket-splitters say Gov. Charlie Baker's endorsement of Geoff Diehl makes no difference in their vote for governor.
After the GOP primary, Baker endorsed the state Republican ticket, including Warren challenger Geoff Diehl. Democrats have attempted to link Baker to Trump via Diehl, who was the Trump campaign’s state co-chair in 2016. But 56 percent of these ticket-splitters say Baker’s endorsement of Diehl makes no difference in their vote for governor (30 percent say it would make them less likely to vote for him).
Part of the challenge for Democrats hoping to capitalize on this issue is Diehl’s relative anonymity, as 54 percent of voters in the WBUR poll had never heard of him. That number was down to 29 percent in last week’s UMass Lowell poll, but Baker's lead in the governor's race was still quite large in that survey.
After Wednesday night’s debate, where Baker refused to say, at first, whether he himself would vote for Diehl, it’s possible that the endorsement issue could get new life and drive some of these Democratic ticket-splitters back to their party’s candidate.
But as of right now, it looks like a sizable share of the electorate will be splitting their votes between a Republican for governor and a Democrat for Senate.