The governor’s race remains in flux with less than four weeks until the election, a new Globe poll has found.
Democratic Attorney General Martha Coakley holds a five-point lead over Republican Charlie Baker, 39 percent to 34 percent, a significant shift from last week’s poll, when Baker held a three-point edge. That indicates a slowdown in any momentum Baker might have garnered since the Sept. 9 party primaries.
The swing in Coakley’s favor comes on the heels of her vigorous response to an outside group’s television ad depicting her as insufficiently protecting children in her role as the state’s top law enforcement officer. Coakley strongly denounced the ad, and her campaign deployed high-level surrogates, including Governor Deval Patrick, to join the chorus.
But the poll also shows that neither Coakley nor Baker has closed the sale, even among voters who call themselves supporters. With less than a month until the election, that leaves plenty of room for either candidate to pull ahead.
Twenty-eight percent of voters said they will “definitely” vote for Coakley, while 11 percent said they “probably will,” indicating that they are not yet convinced. Baker has locked down 22 percent of the electorate, with 12 percent saying they are probable Baker backers. Twenty percent of respondents said they did not know for whom they would vote.
“For a significant slice of the electorate, I think the election started last week,” as media coverage and campaign advertising picked up, said pollster John Della Volpe, who conducted the poll for the Globe. While it is common wisdom in politics that voters do not tune in until after Labor Day, the survey indicates a noticeable uptick in interest over the last week, he said.
“It’s somewhat surprising to me that at this stage both campaigns are failing to harness a quarter to a third of the people,” Della Volpe said.
Conducted between Oct. 5 and 7 among 400 likely voters in landline and cellphone interviews, the poll carries a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent for the full sample.
The three unenrolled candidates in the governor’s race continue to draw only marginal support. Evan Falchuk earned 3 percent of the vote, Jeffrey S. McCormick 2 percent, and Scott Lively 2 percent. Those numbers are essentially unchanged over the past several polls.
The relatively dramatic short-term change in fortunes between Coakley and Baker could be due in part to what the survey shows is Baker’s declining image in the eyes of the electorate. Asked whether they view him favorably, 46 percent said yes, a five-point drop from each of the two previous weeks. At the same time, Baker’s “unfavorables” spiked, from 23 percent last week to 31 percent this week — leaving him with a still healthy, if diminishing, split.
That tumble Della Volpe said, could be attributed to shrapnel Baker has taken because of the attack ad on Coakley. The ad was paid for by a super PAC run by longtime state GOP figures and funded in part by the Republican Governors Association, groups that are legally barred from coordinating with the Baker campaign.
The ad, which launched Oct. 1, describes an attorney general who failed to stand up for vulnerable children, linking Coakley to the spate of failures at the Department of Children and Families. A visibly angry Coakley responded at a press conference the next day, calling on Baker to request the ad’s removal from the airwaves.
Baker has demurred, saying he disagrees with the tone of the ad but insisting Coakley fell short in dealing with DCF.
Within days, a labor-backed super PAC aired an ad praising Coakley’s work on behalf of children. Her favorability rating, meanwhile, has topped 50 percent for the first time since August, when she was under fire before the Democratic primary. At the same time, her unfavorable marks have dropped 8 percentage points in two weeks.
‘It’s somewhat surprising to me that at this stage both campaigns are failing to harness a quarter to a third of the people.’
The poll also shows Baker with a heavy loss this week in his crucial advantage among independent voters. Last week’s 24-point edge among the largest bloc of the state’s electorate this week had winnowed to 10 points.
Baker’s favorable-unfavorable split among those voters has shrunk as well, from a 61 percent to a 13 percent spread last week, to 51 percent to 25 percent this week, according to the survey.
The poll has been conducted since late May, and has showed a stabilization in the electorate on the ballot referendum about the state’s casino law. Fifty-two percent of voters this week said they would vote against the repeal question, while 40 percent said they intended to vote in favor. Those responses are statistically unchanged from last week.