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Baker, Coakley in virtual dead heat, poll shows

The race for governor remains essentially a dead heat between Democratic Attorney General Martha Coakley and Republican Charlie Baker, according to a new poll by the University of Massachusetts Amherst and WBZ-TV.

One percentage point separates Coakley and Baker among likely voters, with 41 percent saying they would vote for Coakley and 40 percent for Baker were the election being held today, the poll shows. Coakley’s lead increases to 4 percentage points when voters “leaning” toward one candidate or the other are included in the tally. Both are well within the margin of error.

The three independent candidates for governor – Evan Falchuk of the United Independent Party, Jeff McCormick, and Scott Lively – each captured 2 percent of likely voters, including leaners.

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The poll surveyed 600 registered voters from September 26 to Oct. 2 and has a margin of error of 4.6 percent.

According to the results, 58 percent believe Coakley is the candidate who “cares about people like me.” There was a 50/50 split on which candidate – Coakley or Baker – takes clear positions on issues. And Baker, with 58 percent, was deemed most likely to go against his own party on issues.

The issue that voters ranked as most important was the economy, and it was the issue that voters said they most trusted Baker to handle, according to the poll results. Health care was the No. 2 issue, and the poll said it was what voters most trusted Coakley to handle.

Coakley was deemed the best representative for women, the middle class, the poor, immigrants, and labor unions, the poll said. Voters said Baker would do a better job representing independents and small business owners.

There were several key issues, according to the poll, on which voters did not know where the candidates stood. For example, only 12 percent know Baker supports a woman’s right to choose an abortion and only 14 percent of voters think Coakley supports tax cuts for businesses to kick-start job creation.

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Akilah Johnson can be reached at akilah.johnson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @akjohnson1922.