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Poll says Brown, Warren would be locked in close race

First primary debate tomorrow

By Noah Bierman
Globe Staff / October 3, 2011

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Elizabeth Warren holds a commanding lead over her rivals for the Democratic Senate nomination and would be in a dead heat with Republican Scott Brown in next November’s general election, according to a poll released last night.

Warren, a Harvard professor who recently left the Obama administration, would get 36 percent of the vote among Democratic primary voters while none of her five opponents would get more than 5 percent, according to the poll, conducted by University of Massachusetts Lowell and The Boston Herald. The poll of 1,000 registered voters said Brown would lead Warren by 41 percent to 38 percent, which is within the margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percent.

Warren’s early strength in the poll is surprising, considering that 37 percent of respondents said they had not heard of her. The poll suggests Warren’s message to middle-class voters may be an effective campaign strategy, as 48 percent of voters said Brown is not doing enough for the economic interests of the middle class.

Warren helped President Obama design a consumer protection agency, but left when he declined to nominate her to lead it because of Republican objections.

The poll, one of the first to test Warren’s strength in the primary since she entered the race last month, was conducted in advance of the first primary debate, scheduled for tomorrow evening at UMass Lowell.

Only Democratic voters were surveyed about whom they would choose in the primary. Thomas P. Conroy, a state representative from Wayland, was chosen by 5 percent of the likely primary voters surveyed; Marisa DeFranco, an immigration attorney, was chosen by 4 percent.

Receiving 3 percent were Alan Khazei, the cofounder of a national service program; Bob Massie, a former candidate for lieutenant governor; and Setti Warren, the Newton mayor who dropped out of the race last week. Herb Robinson, a software engineer from Newton, received 1 percent.

Thirty-two percent of Democratic respondents said they do not know who they would choose next year.

Overall, Brown was viewed favorably by 52 percent of respondents and unfavorably by 29 percent. He has been working on a message of bipartisanship to overcome the advantage Democrats hold in the state.

The poll suggests the Republican-led House of Representatives is unpopular in the state, and Obama, despite bad poll numbers nationally, would win handily against potential Republican rivals.

In a theoretical matchup against Governor Rick Perry of Texas, he won, 62-25. Against Mitt Romney, he won, 57-33.

Noah Bierman can be reached at nbierman@globe.com.