MassInc/WBUR Poll: Known-Knowns Favor Democrats

Last week’s MassInc /WBUR poll (toplines here, crosstabs here) seemed to confirm the conventional wisdom that Congressman Ed Markey leads Congressman Steve Lynch among Democrats, and former US Attorney Michael Sullivan leads Rep. Dan Winslow and businessman Gabriel Gomez on the Republican side. Either Democrat would beat any Republican if the election was held last week. No surprises, but there are some little nuggets in the poll.

For one thing, Republicans and Independents were asked if they approve or disapprove of the way Republicans in Congress are handling their job. Those groups did approve but only by 47%-43%. Republicans actually disapproved and Unenrolleds were slightly more approving. Not a ringing call to battle there. Thirty one percent of Republicans and Unenrolleds said congressional Republicans compromise with President Obama too often, but 21% said not often enough and 30% said the Republicans have got it just right. That doesn’t sound like the makings of a January 2010 type rebellion.

A Republican must win Unenrolleds handily and in all the head-to-head matchups each Republican loses badly to either Lynch or Markey among Unenrolleds. Of course the Republicans are much less well known, but there isn’t a lot of time here.

The top four issues are jobs and economy, federal budget deficit, gun control, and cutting taxes. The GOP ought to own two of those at least.

Thirty-two percent think abortion should always be legal and 41% say it should be legal in most cases. Just in case you were wondering what a Markey vs. Sullivan race might look like.

If you scroll the MassInc/WBUR cross tabs you see signs of hope for the GOP, older white males, for instance, or high school educated or less.  But that leaves women, the young, minority voters, pro-choicers (if Sullivan gets the nomination), college educated and above, and a host of other demographic cross slices. The survey did not ask an income question and it is always interesting to see the contrast between low-income, who vote heavily Democratic, and lower educated, who can be lured away at times by the Republicans. (Scott Brown in 2010, but not 2012).

The poll suggests a daunting task for the Republicans and gives comfort to the Democrats, who remember Scott Brown so shouldn’t take too much comfort. They still need to face the known unknowns such as possible low Democratic turnout in a special election, how the Republican candidate defines himself when the spotlight turns on, and of course the unknown-unknowns that we don’t know we don’t know.

But from a known-knowns perspective, it looks good for the Democrats.

About Maurice T. Cunningham

Maurice T. Cunningham is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. He teaches courses in American government including Massachusetts Politics, The American Presidency, Catholics in Political Life, The Political Thought of Abraham Lincoln, American Political Thought, and Public Policy. His book Maximization, Whatever the Cost: Race, Redistricting and the Department of Justice examines the role of the DOJ in requiring states to maximize minority voting districts in the Nineties. He has published articles dealing with the role of the Catholic Church in Massachusetts politics and on party politics in the state. His research interests focus upon the changing political culture of Massachusetts.
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