Elizabeth Warren, emerging from what many consider the roughest patch yet in her Senate campaign, has pulled into a virtual tie with US Senator Scott Brown, according to a new Suffolk University/7News poll.
Warren, the presumptive Democratic nominee, has the support of 47 percent of likely voters in Massachusetts, compared to 48 percent for Brown, a dead heat in a poll with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
That is a significant shift from the last Suffolk poll in February when Warren, a consumer advocate and Harvard Law School professor, trailed Brown, a Wrentham Republican, 49 percent to 40 percent.
Just 5 percent of voters were undecided in the current poll, down from 9 percent in February, leaving both campaigns to fight over a sliver of the electorate.
The statewide survey of 600 likely voters will no doubt come as a relief to Democrats who were worried that Warren’s campaign had been badly damaged by questions about whether she had used assertions of Native American ancestry to benefit her career.
The poll, conducted between May 20 and May 22, will also help Warren fend off criticism from political insiders who complained that she had bungled her response to the issue by not confronting it more directly.
The poll indicated that although 73 percent of likely voters were aware of the controversy surrounding Warren’s heritage, 69 percent said it was not a significant story.
Forty-nine percent said they believe Warren is telling the truth about being part Native American, compared to 28 percent who said they believe she is not being honest and 23 percent who said they were not sure.
Meanwhile, 45 percent said they believe Warren did not benefit by listing herself as Native American in a law school directory, while 41 percent said she had benefited.
The controversy could flare again in the fall but, for now, voters do not appear to be punishing Warren for it, said Suffolk’s pollster, David Paleologos.
“I’m not saying there was no damage from the Native American thing, but if you zoom out to see what the net effect was, it was minimal,” he said. “It’s considered a nonstory.”
Warren’s favorability rating has risen 8 points since February, to 43 percent, although her unfavorable rating has also increased 5 points, to 33 percent, perhaps reflecting Brown’s attempts to portray her as an elitist.
Brown, who has worked hard to burnish his everyman image, is viewed more positively than Warren.
Fifty-eight percent of voters said they view him favorably, up 6 points from February, while 28 percent said they view him unfavorably.
Warren’s effort to portray Brown as beholden to major financial interests does not appear to be resonating. Only a third of voters said they believe a vote for Brown is a vote for Wall Street, compared to 55 percent who said they did not believe that.
The incumbent could benefit from a finding that 56 percent of voters said they believe there is value to having one Republican and one Democrat representing Massachusetts in the Senate.
Warren, meanwhile, could benefit from President Obama’s strong standing in Massachusetts, and the surge of Democrats he could bring to the polls in November.
In the presidential race, Obama crushed former governor Mitt Romney by 25 points, 59 percent to 34 percent in Massachusetts, a reflection of how far Romney has fallen out of favor in the state he once governed.Michael Levenson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mlevenson.