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As economic worry grows, Healey solidifies large lead in governor’s race, new poll finds

Maura Healey shakes the hand of Northampton City Council President Jim Nash while campaigning in Western Mass.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

With three weeks until Election Day, Massachusetts voters appear poised to lift Democrat Maura Healey into the governor’s office at a time when their confidence is slipping both in the economy and their own ability to navigate it, a new poll found.

Healey, the state’s two-term attorney general, leads Republican Geoff Diehl 56 percent to 33 percent among likely voters in the Suffolk University/Boston Globe/NBC10 Boston/Telemundo poll. Her lead is bolstered by advantages among virtually every demographic group outside enrolled Republicans, who unanimously said they’re backing Diehl, a Donald Trump-endorsed conservative and former state lawmaker.

Healey’s strength has been a constant across Suffolk polls this summer, but voters’ perception of the economy has moved — most recently down. Nearly 55 percent said they believe it has lurched into recession or a depression, a 5-percentage-point jump from just a month ago when it appeared economic anxiety was easing.

And more than half of the 500 likely voters polled said they are concerned about their personal financial situation.

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“I’m over here paycheck to paycheck. It’s frustrating,” said Kendra Barth, a 34-year-old truck driver and mother of two who said she moved back in with her parents because she couldn’t keep pace with the cost of housing.

Barth, of Fall River, said she intends to vote for Healey because she’s drawn to the idea of electing a woman governor for the first time and to Healey’s campaign promise of driving down costs for residents. “I can’t afford this, and she is saying she is going to help with the cost of living,” Barth said.

Among voters who said they were very or somewhat concerned about their financial situation, Healey also leads Diehl, 47 percent to 43 percent.

Elsewhere on the Nov. 8 ballot, much remains similar to last month, the poll found. Voters said they intend to vote “yes” by wide margins on a pair of ballot measures that would raise taxes on the state’s wealthiest and keep a law that allows undocumented residents to apply for driver’s licenses.

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Democrats running for attorney general, secretary of state, and treasurer all hold leads of at least 20 percentage points over their closest opponent. The race for the open state auditor’s seat is somewhat closer: Democrat Diana DiZoglio leads Republican Anthony Amore 40 percent to 25 percent within a five-person field, with 24 percent of likely voters undecided.

Governor Charlie Baker, who is not seeking reelection, also continues to garner the approval of roughly 7 of 10 voters for the job he’s doing, a lofty appraisal that matches where the Republican was 100 days into the job, and cements his status as one of the most durably popular statewide elected officials in the modern era.

In the race to succeed him, the poll found little drama ahead of Healey and Diehl’s second and final scheduled debate on Thursday.

The vast majority of those backing Healey — more than 74 percent — said their vote is for Healey, rather than against Diehl. Some voters interviewed by the Globe also pointed to abortion rights as a key divide, even in a state where they are codified into state law. Diehl, of Whitman, has said he is “pro-life” and in support of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the constitutional right to an abortion. Healey, of the South End, has cast herself as a defender of abortion rights.

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Sarah, a 41-year-old unenrolled voter who intends to vote for Healey, said she’s “rarely had my passions stirred” at the ballot box by issues such as abortion rights. But this year is different.

“For me, it’s more about good government,” said the Newton resident, who works in health care and declined to give her last name. “Good government doesn’t try to take us back 60 years.”

As voting by mail has begun statewide, Diehl’s avenues to cut into the polling deficit also appear to be closing. Healey’s lead among unenrolled voters, the state’s largest bloc, grew slightly since a Suffolk poll last month, from 9 percentage points to 11 percentage points, and Healey continues to hold a wide lead among women (65 percent to 27 percent).

A third candidate, Libertarian Kevin Reed, polled with 4 percent of support overall.

“This race is about [Healey], and it’s really not about anyone else,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center. “Nothing has broken against her too much. This race seems to be headed toward a 22- to a 25-point win.”

Healey is also largely viewed favorably — 56 percent, compared to 31 percent who view her unfavorably — topping that of other leading Democratic figures, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is up for reelection in 2024.

“That’s the kind of appeal that’s tough to beat in this race and would make her a unique commodity nationally,” Paleologos said of Healey. “My prediction is that she will be an A-list speaker at the Democratic National Convention in 2024.”

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Other ballot measures also appear to have wide support. More than 58 percent of those polled said they intend to vote for a constitutional amendment imposing a 4 percent surtax on annual earnings above $1 million, compared to 37 percent who said they plan to vote against the so-called millionaires tax.

That’s a nearly identical margin to ones in July and September, despite competing ballot question committees pouring a combined $23 million into the race to try to sway voters. The committee opposing the measure, fueled by donations from business leaders, has sought to fan doubts, arguing, in part, that the measure could also apply to small business owners or homeowners who finally decide to sell their company or home.

They’ve also argued that, despite a mandate that the proceeds be spent on education or transportation, there is no guarantee it would increase spending on schools or roads because lawmakers could simply shift other existing revenue elsewhere.

But how much that’s sticking is unclear. Josh Cohen, 47, of Lowell said he is inclined to vote for the measure, arguing there is “never a shortage of need,” nor does he view the surcharge as a significant hit to those “making that kind of money.”

“The impact on their lifestyle is negligible,” said Cohen, an unenrolled voter, “where the funding for that can do some powerful things.”

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Roughly 56 percent of likely voters also said they plan to vote to keep a newly passed law that allows undocumented residents to apply for driver’s licenses, with 39 percent saying they will vote to repeal it. That’s a wider margin of support than a month ago, when 49 percent of voters polled by Suffolk said they intended to vote yes on the question.

In other races, Andrea Campbell, a Democrat and former Boston city councilor, leads Republican Jay McMahon, a Buzzards Bay attorney, 50 percent to 30 percent among likely voters in the race for attorney general.

Secretary of State William F. Galvin, a Brighton Democrat, also appears on a glide path to a historic eighth term in office. He polled with 52 percent of support, more than double that of Republican Rayla Campbell (25 percent).

Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg, a Brookline Democrat seeking a third term, leads her opponent, Libertarian Cristina Crawford, 48 percent to 21 percent.

The live interview poll, conducted Thursday through Sunday, carried a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4.4 percentage points.


Matt Stout can be reached at matt.stout@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mattpstout.