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Patrick outpaces two rivals in new poll

Democrat surges to a 21-point lead as vote nears

Heading into the final days of the campaign, Deval Patrick has opened up a commanding lead in the Democratic race for governor, far outpacing his closest challenger, Christopher Gabrieli, and leaving Thomas F. Reilly a distant third, according to a new poll conducted for The Boston Globe and CBS4-TV.

Forty-six percent of those surveyed supported Patrick, 25 percent backed Gabrieli, and 18 percent were for Reilly in the poll of 523 likely voters in Tuesday's primary election. Only 6 percent said they were undecided, while 4 percent expressed support for other candidates in next Tuesday's election. The survey was taken Sept. 12-15 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percent.

The survey found voters shifted to Patrick in the last few weeks, despite the millions of dollars that Gabrieli and Reilly have spent on television advertising since late August. A Globe poll, taken Aug. 18-23, showed that the three were in a virtual dead heat, with Patrick at 31 percent, Gabrieli 30 percent, and Reilly 27 percent. In March, a similar poll gave Reilly a strong lead in the race.

Patrick took support from both of his rivals in the intervening weeks, though Reilly seems to have suffered the greatest, according to Andrew E. Smith, the director of the University of New Hampshire's Survey Center, which conducted the poll.

Smith said that Patrick has succeeded in building his support beyond his base of liberal, upper income, well-educated voters that made up the initial core of his coalition. Patrick, who began the race 18 months ago as a political novice who was virtually unknown to voters, now leads in almost all the categories of the primary electorate, the survey shows.

``Patrick has broadened his support across the board," Smith said.

He said Reilly, the state's two-term attorney general, and Gabrieli, a wealthy venture capitalist, lost ground partly because some of the moderate and conservative voters -- a group Smith says are less politically involved and less motivated to vote in a Democratic primary -- have decided not to participate in the election. Support for Reilly and Gabrieli is rooted among moderates and conservative Democrats and independents.

In contrast to the contest for the gubernatorial nomination, the three-way primary race for lieutenant governor appears to be wide open. Deborah Goldberg, the former chairwoman of the Brookline Board of Selectmen, received 26 percent support in the survey; Tim Murray, the mayor of Worcester, 20 percent; and business consultant Andrea Silbert, 18 percent. Twenty-seven percent are undecided.

But among those who say they will definitely vote, the race tightens. Goldberg and Murray both get 27 percent, and Silbert gets 16 percent. The margin of error for those 300 likely voters in the sample is about 5.5 percent.

In the only other Democratic contest, Secretary of State William F. Galvin, seeking his fourth term, is far out in front of his challenger, voting rights lawyer John Bonifaz, getting 45 percent support from the respondents. Bonifaz received only 7 percent, while 38 percent are undecided.

In the race for governor, voters seem to be making their decisions because they generally like the candidates or their overall philosophies, rather than basing the decision on the candidates' stances on specific policies. While all three candidates have different views on rolling back the income tax rate from 5.3 percent to 5 percent -- the most hotly debated issue in the race -- only 11 percent cited the issue as the reason for supporting their candidate.

The current survey found 70 percent of the Democratic primary view Patrick favorably, 9 percent unfavorably. The poll three weeks ago found Patrick with a 51 percent favorable, 10 percent unfavorable rating.

The voters' view of Reilly has dropped dramatically in the last weeks. Forty-two percent of those surveyed viewed Reilly favorably, down from 52 percent in the Globe's August poll. His unfavorable rating jumped from 24 percent to 38 percent. Most analysts, including his closest advisers, attribute Reilly's free-fall to his poor debate performance on Sept. 7, when he went on the attack against both Gabrieli and Patrick.

But the second televised debate, held Wednesday, in the middle of the four-day survey, did not seem to hurt Patrick, even though he was seen as defensive under questioning by Reilly and Gabrieli.

The poll also found that Reilly's strategy of drawing on union support does not appear to have worked. In a small sample of 88 respondents, Patrick holds a 3-to-1 margin over Reilly among those identifying themselves as living in union households. Reilly, who has portrayed himself as a champion of working middle class voters running against two multimillionaires, receives his strongest support from older voters, those with lower levels of income and lower levels of education, according to the survey.

Patrick gets his strongest support from liberals and those with incomes of $100,000 a year or more, those with postgraduate educations, and those with no religious preference. He is especially strong among respondents who say they are most interested in the race and those who say they will definitely vote on Tuesday.

But Patrick's broader appeal is evident in the views of Sonja Bryant of Waltham, a 51-year-old hospital worker and a registered Democrat. She said that Patrick's positions on issues such as housing, crime, education, and affirmative action appeal to her. ``He will be do something about the causes that affect my family, some of his causes are my causes," said Bryant, a survey respondent who agreed to be interviewed after the poll.

Bryant, an African-American woman who describes herself as a liberal, said she was impressed with Patrick's ability to rise from a poor childhood to jobs as a top Clinton administration official and later a corporate executive. ``If you're able to do that with from where you came from, you can do something for the state," she said.

Gabrieli, despite spending over $2 million in ads in the last three weeks, has actually dropped slightly since the August poll. The recent survey gives him a 59 percent favorable rating, up four percentage points from August, but his unfavorable rating rose from 14 percent to 17 percent. He drew slightly more support from those who identify themselves as conservatives, but trailed Patrick among moderates, a targeted group that Gabrieli was hoping to use as a base for victory. Gabrieli also is trailing Patrick by a significant margin among independents, another primary voting bloc that he is counting on to carry.

Gabrieli has portrayed himself as bi partisan and results oriented. ``I don't think he is one of the insiders," said Joe Rosseau, a survey respondent and partially retired state worker from Methuen, explaining why he is supporting Gabrieli.

Rosseau, a 63-year-old registered independent who describes himself as a conservative, said he considered Patrick ``seriously" but worries that he would not get state spending under control. He rejected Reilly because he felt had not done enough to investigate the Big Dig problems.

Rosseau says he is more concerned about the state controlling spending that an immediate income tax cut. Indeed, only 15 percent of those surveyed favor Reilly's position for an immediate rollback, while 48 percent support Gabrieli's plan for a phased in cutback. Patrick's position of keeping the tax at 5.3 percent gets support from 30 percent of the respondents.

Gabrieli's hope for overtaking Patrick may lie with those who say they are most likely to change their minds, the survey findings show. Greg Gullotti of Waltham, self-employed antiques dealer, said he has been divided over whether to vote for Patrick or Gabrieli, but is moving toward Gabrieli.

``I'm leaning in his direction, because he appears to have the sense of self-convictions and has a personality that he would not be swayed by the stress and potential political ramifications of any given situation," said Gullotti, a registered independent who said he generally votes for Democrats. ``He strikes me as a fair and even keeled administrator."

But Gullotti, 37, said he is also drawn to Patrick, but finds off-putting what many say is his strength as a candidate. ``He is a fresh face, with a fairly good track record," he said. ``And he is certainly charismatic and energetic, but that is finally what is turning me against him," Gullotti said. ``The more support Deval Patrick gets, the more he is talking like a politician."

Patrick was considered by the likely primary voters to be the strongest candidate for the Democrats to run against the Republican s' choice, Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey. Some 40 percent in the survey say he has the best chance of winning in November, while 22 percent name Gabrieli, and 19 percent, Reilly.

The August survey found that 37 percent of voters believed Reilly would be the strongest Democrat, with Patrick and Reilly trailing.

Also running in the general election are independent Christy Mihos and Green Rainbow Party candidate Grace Ross.

Asked which of the candidates cares most about ``people like you," 38 percent of those questioned chose Patrick, 23 percent said Reilly, and 20 percent said Gabrieli. Asked which candidate had the best television ads, 36 percent chose Gabrieli, 26 percent said Patrick and 12 percent said Reilly.

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