Globe Poll Has Charlie Baker, Martha Coakley Neck and Neck in Governor’s Race

In this June 14, 2014 photo, Democrat gubernatorial hopeful Martha Coakley speaks at the state Democratic Convention in Worcester, Mass. Coakley is seeking his party's nomination in the Sept. 9 primary election. (AP Photo Stephan Savoia)
Democrat gubernatorial hopeful Martha Coakley is a polarizing figure among voters.
Stephan Savoia/AP

The Massachusetts governor’s race is locked in a statistical tie in The Boston Globe’s most recent poll, and Democratic frontrunner Martha Coakley’s polarization among voters is one of the key reasons why.

In a hypothetical general governor’s race, Republican frontrunner Charlie Baker took 38% of the vote to Coakley’s 37%, the latest Globe poll found. That statistical tie – the poll has a margin of error of four percentage points – is a big jump for Baker from the last Globe poll on Aug. 10-12 and Aug. 17-19, which had Coakley seven percentage points ahead.

You can see Coakley’s lead evaporate over the past few months in this nifty Globe infographic.

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The poll is a bit premature given that both candidates still have to win their respective primaries on Sept. 9 before they advance to the general election matchup. Baker is dominating Tea Party candidate Mark Fisher in the Republican primary, ahead 70 percent to 11 percent in a Suffolk University/Boston Herald poll earlier this week. In the Democratic primary, Coakley received 46 percent of the vote, well ahead of state treasurer Steve Grossman’s 24 percent and Donald Berwick’s 10 percent, according to the Globe poll.

One of the key reasons for Baker’s rise is that Coakley lacks consistent support among her base of Democrats, the full poll results suggest [PDF]. Should Coakley beat candidate Steve Grossman in the Democratic primary (as polls suggest), 48 percent of Grossman supporters told the Globe poll that they would then vote for Baker, the Republican. On the other hand, if Grossman were to beat Coakley (again, highly unlikely), just 18 percent of Coakley supporters would vote for Baker.

In this Aug. 4, 2014 photo, Massachusetts Republican gubernatorial hopeful Charlie Baker speaks in Peabody, Mass. Baker is seeking his party's nomination in the Sept. 9 primary. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Republican Charlie Baker could capitalize on anti-Coakley Democrats in the governor’s race.
Elise Amendola/AP

Those numbers show a real distaste for voting for Coakley among Grossman supporters, even more than a Globe poll two weeks ago suggested. Coakley’s supporters don’t seem to mind Grossman; Grossman’s supporters would rather vote Republican than for Coakley.

Similarly, Coakley’s polarization can be seen in her favorable and unfavorable numbers. 51 percent of voters see her as favorable, while 40 percent see her as unfavorable. Just nine percent of people either can’t rate her or don’t recognize her name. That means a full 91 percent of those polled have an opinion on Coakley.

Compare that to Baker’s ratings, which have him at 47 percent favorable and just 22 percent unfavorable. A much larger total of 31 percent can’t rate or don’t recognize him.

The lesson: Massachusetts voters seem to have already made up their minds on Coakley. And that makes her ability to change voters’ minds through ads or campaign messaging more difficult.