BOSTON (CBS) - A new WBZ/UMass Amherst poll shows the 2014 race for governor is locked in a dead heat as voters prepare to choose a successor to Gov. Deval Patrick.
Republican nominee Charlie Baker and Democratic nominee Martha Coakley each drew 42% of support in the survey of 591 likely voters, which was conducted from October 20th to the 27th. When voters who said they were leaning one way or the other are added, Coakley takes a narrow lead, 47% to 44%. The margin of error is 4.5%.
United Independent Party nominee Evan Falchuk drew three percent of likely voters. Independent candidates Scott Lively and Jeff McCormick received support from one percent each, with 11% of likely voters remaining undecided.
The results are virtually identical to those of a previous WBZ/UMass Amherst survey taken in late September/early October.
As they have all year, voters say the economy, taxes and jobs are the issues of most concern to them, and Baker is better trusted to handle them than Coakley by substantial margins. The poll shows Baker neutralizing the traditional advantage Democrats enjoy with female voters, leading among men by 16 points while Coakley wins women by just 14%. And a key part of the Coakley campaign strategy – coaxing reluctant Democrats to come home and vote their party on November 4th – appears endangered, with 41% of voters who backed Steve Grossman in the Democratic primary saying they now support Baker, who even grabs the votes of 27% of primary voters who supported Don Berwick.
Despite all those advantages, why hasn't Baker taken the lead?
"Part of it is just the structural disadvantage Republicans have in this state, not just in terms of not a lot of Republican identifiers, but also that there's a lack of a really strong organization," says Brian Schaffner, director of the UMass Amherst poll. Responses from leaners in the survey suggest that some of those disgruntled Democrats who backed Coakley opponents in September "might have a hard time actually pulling that lever for a Republican," says Schaffner.
But Coakley continues to struggle to win hearts and votes. Her favorability ratings have lagged well behind Baker's in other polls, and the WBZ/UMass Amherst poll shows that while only 31% of Coakley voters say their vote is motivated by anti-Baker sentiment, a whopping 46% of Baker supporters say they're voting against her rather than for him.
"She's still struggling with some of the issues she entered the campaign with, some Democrats still feeling she ran a bad campaign in 2010 and they want to express their dissatisfaction with that, others just not taking to her personality," says Schaffner.
In the down-ballot races, the Democrats hold strong double-digit leads. And on the statewide ballot questions, voters appear poised to repeal the law automatically hiking the gas tax when the Consumer Price Index rises (Question 1) with the "yes" position leading 48% to 38%; reject expansion of the bottle bill (Question 2) 60-37%; reject repal of the casino law (Question 3) 57-40%; and approve mandatory sick leave for workers (Question 4) 64-29%.
Tune in the MyTV38 at 8pm on election night and WBZ-TV at 10pm for election results and the findings of out exclusive WBZ/UMass Amherst exit poll.
You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.
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