Weekly Poll

Baker edges ahead of Coakley

Martha Coakley dragged down by national trends

Republican Charlie Baker (left) holds a slender lead of 2 percentage points over Coakley, 40 percent to 38 percent, in a new Globe poll.
Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff
Republican Charlie Baker (left) holds a slender lead of 2 percentage points over Coakley, 40 percent to 38 percent, in a new Globe poll.

As White House Democrats prepare to stump in Massachusetts for Attorney General Martha Coakley in the governor’s race, a new Globe poll shows that national political conditions may be hobbling her chances for victory.

Republican Charlie Baker holds a slender lead of 2 percentage points over Coakley, 40 percent to 38 percent, an inversion of last week’s survey, in which Coakley was ahead by 3 percentage points. Among voters who said they will “definitely vote,” Baker enjoys an advantage of 41 percent to 37 percent.

That dynamic hints that Baker could benefit from a low-interest election, a possibility Coakley is looking to avoid by trying to fire up Democratic voters.


“The smaller the turnout, the better Baker will do,” said pollster John Della Volpe, chief executive of SocialSphere Inc., which conducted the survey for the Globe.

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Coakley may be suffering from the souring national mood toward her party’s leader, President Obama. Even in predominantly Democratic Massachusetts, more voters, 48 percent, disapprove of the president’s job performance, than approve, 46 percent.

Both Vice President Joe Biden and Michelle Obama are scheduled to raise money in Massachusetts next week, Obama on behalf of Coakley and the Democrats’ coordinated campaign.

Worrisome for Coakley’s campaign are trendlines that show voters increasingly are seeing her in a negative light, perhaps a function of outside group advertisements looking to paint her as disconnected and lacking a plan for the state. Before the Sept. 9 primary, 51 percent of voters viewed her favorably. In this week’s poll, 46 percent saw her favorably, 44 percent unfavorably.

“What the independent expenditures have done, they’ve really kind of blunted the Coakley campaign from telling their story,” said Della Volpe. “When you look at the last couple of weeks, people look more unfavorably at her than they do favorably.”


“The two campaigns are very slowly moving in opposite direction,” he said.

But Baker can hardly expect to draw strength from voters’ appraisal of national Republicans. Congressional Republicans score a 15 percent approval rating, with 73 percent disapproving, according to the poll. Linking Massachusetts Republicans to the national GOP, as Elizabeth Warren did against Scott Brown in their 2012 Senate race, has consistently proved a winning strategy for Democrats here.

Conducted Sept. 21 to Sept. 23 among 400 likely voters via landline and cellphone interviews, the poll’s margin of error is 4.9 percentage points for the full sample.

Eighteen percent of voters said they were undecided. But the race’s unenrolled candidates continue to show limited support. Jeffrey S. McCormick and Evan Falchuk both received 2 percent, while Scott Lively drew 1 percent.

Coakley’s wide lead among female voters, a 46 percent share compared to Baker’s 31 percent and essentially unchanged from last week, has been one of the campaign’s defining fundamentals. Democrats on Wednesday sought to exploit Baker’s reference to a female reporter as “sweetheart” to further widen that advantage.


In the battleground of unenrolled voters, who account for the majority of the state’s electorate, Coakley is “underwater,” with 38 percent seeing her favorably and 52 percent unfavorably. Baker, on the other hand, earns a 59 percent favorability rating among those voters, and a 17 percent unfavorability. Among unenrolled voters, Baker leads, 45 percent to 23 percent.

President Obama’s performance rating in Massachusetts is 48% unfavorable to 46% favorable. Still, congressional Republicans score only a 15% approval rating.

Those voters hold a sharply jaundiced view of how Obama is handling the presidency, 38 percent viewing his performance positively and 54 percent negatively.

Among all voters, Obama enjoys a narrow margin of approval for his handling of the economy and health care. But just 31 percent think he has handled foreign policy and immigration well, with 56 percent disapproving of his work on both issues.

Less than one in five voters believe the Affordable Care Act, which was modeled on an earlier Massachusetts law, should be kept as is. While 35 percent believe it should be repealed, the largest bloc, 41 percent, want to keep the law but with modifications. Among undecided voters, 50 percent want to make adjustments to the existing law, and 29 percent want to abolished outright.

National Democrats earned the trust of respondents over Republicans on health care, by a 25-point margin, the economy and immigration — both by a 9-point split. But Republicans, by 1 point, were favored on foreign policy.

The state that has churned out three presidential nominees since the 1988 election — Michael Dukakis, John F. Kerry, and Mitt Romney — decidedly does not want its brightest national star to seek the White House in 2016. Asked whether Warren should run for president in two years, 69 percent said no. Eight percent said she should, but only if former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton does not run, while 14 percent said she should run regardless of Clinton’s plans.

Warren has consistently said she does not plan to run in 2016.

Asked about a referendum on the November ballot on whether the state should repeal the law sanctioning casino gambling, 48 percent said they preferred to preserve the current law, while 44 percent said it should be replaced. That marks a stark departure from last week’s data, when 55 percent said they wanted to keep the law, and 36 percent favored repeal.

The state’s Gaming Commission voted last week to award a license for a $1.6 billion gambling palace in Everett to Wynn Resorts.


Topline results (PDF)

Crosstabs (PDF)

Jim O’Sullivan can be reached at Jim.OSullivan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JOSreports.