THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

New poll shows Brown faring well against possible challengers

By Michael Levenson
Globe Staff / April 7, 2011

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US Senator Scott Brown continues to enjoy strong favorability ratings and would defeat any of the Democrats, including Governor Deval Patrick, who have been mentioned as potential challengers, if the election were held today, according to a new Suffolk University/7News poll.

The poll indicates that former US representative Joseph P. Kennedy II would pose the strongest challenge to the Republican senator. In a hypothetical head-to-head race, Kennedy would receive 40 percent of the vote to Brown’s 45 percent. Kennedy, however, has indicated to leading Democrats that he has no interest in challenging Brown.

Brown would more easily defeat Patrick, by 52 percent to 37 percent; Victoria Reggie Kennedy, by 52 percent to 30 percent; and Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray by 51 to 23 percent. Though all three have been mentioned as potential candidates, Patrick, Murray, and Kennedy have said that they will not challenge Brown in 2012.

Brown would also beat US Representative Michael E. Capuano of Somerville, 52 percent to 26 percent; Representative Edward J. Markey of Malden, 53 percent to 26 percent; and Mayor Setti Warren of Newton, 52 percent to 9 percent.

Capuano, who lost in the Democratic Senate primary in 2009, is considering a run against Brown next year; Markey has not indicated an interest in the race; and Warren, although he has shown a strong interest in running, is virtually unknown. Seventy-eight percent of voters said they had never heard of Warren, a former aide to US Senator John F. Kerry.

The live telephone poll of 500 registered voters in Massachusetts has a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points and was conducted from April 3 to April 5.

It shows Brown to be in a strong but not invincible position as he heads into election season, said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center.

“The overarching find is that Scott Brown is still quite strong against any number of political names,’’ Paleologos said. “His lead has been surprisingly sizable and consistent when most of the experts thought by now he would be flailing. He clearly is showing staying power.’’

Democrats who have looked at similar polls have asserted that Brown shows some weakness because he barely gets a majority in head-to-head matchups.

In the Suffolk poll, more than half of respondents, 55 percent, said Brown deserves to be reelected, and 56 percent said they agreed that Brown has kept his promise to be an independent voice in the Senate.

Brown and Joseph Kennedy enjoyed the highest favorability ratings among the Massachusetts politicians in the poll.

Fifty-eight percent of voters said they had a favorable opinion of both men, compared with 52 percent for Patrick, 42 percent for Victoria Kennedy, 37 percent for Markey, and 29 percent for Capuano.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who won the 2008 Democratic presidential primary in Massachusetts, enjoyed a 74 percent favorability rating, higher than President Obama’s 57 percent rating.

Thirty-eight percent of voters agreed with the statement that “healthcare in Massachusetts is working,’’ compared with 49 percent who disagreed.

Although the question was vague, Paleologos said that finding could pose problems for former governor Mitt Romney, who has been dogged by criticism of the state’s universal health care law as he considers another run for president. Indeed, 54 percent of respondents said Romney’s role in health care would hurt his presidential campaign.

And voters do not seem too impressed with politicians going on book tours. While Brown has been promoting his memoir and Patrick is to begin promoting his later this month, 67 percent of voters said they were not interested in Brown’s life story, and 65 percent voiced the same opinion of Patrick’s life story.

Michael Levenson can be reached at mlevenson@globe.com.