New Globe poll shows dead heat in Senate race

A new Boston Globe poll shows the race between Senator Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren in a dead heat, with ample opportunity for both candidates to win the nation’s most expensive Senate race eight days from now.

The survey indicates Brown holds a razor-thin 45 percent to 43 percent lead over Warren among likely voters, well within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points. Brown’s lead evaporates, with 47 percent for each candidate, when voters who are undecided are asked which candidate they are leaning toward.

The poll is a reversal from a September Globe survey that showed Warren ahead 43 percent to 38 percent, as well as several other recent polls that have found Warren with a slight lead. The shift underscores the belief long held by both sides that the race, active for more than a year, would be competitive until the end.

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The poll comes a day ahead of what is supposed to be the candidates’ fourth and final debate, scheduled for Tuesday evening. Debate sponsors, a media consortium including the Globe, have not made a decision whether to postpone or cancel the debate, as the full effects of Hurricane Sandy on the region are not yet known.

The poll suggests Brown may be pulling off a difficult feat in politics, retaining his personal popularity among voters, even as he continues a relentless attack on his opponent.

Brown, a Republican in an overwhelmingly Democratic state, may also be benefiting from a slight uptick in support for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney among Massachusetts voters. The poll shows that Obama leads Romney 52 percent to 38 percent, a substantial margin, but down significantly from last month, when Obama held a 27 point lead over Romney in Massachusetts.

That finding suggests Obama’s thinner lead could be having a spillover effect in the Senate race, because even a small trim in his margin of victory would make things easier for Brown, who needs support from hundreds of thousands of Obama voters to defeat Warren, a Democrat.

If the gap at the top of the ticket is indeed shrinking, that would be good news for Brown. He has had some success with Obama voters, but they still support Warren in overwhelming numbers. Brown drew 12 percent of likely Obama voters, compared with 73 percent for Warren.

The poll of 583 likely voters was conducted from Wednesday through Sunday by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center.

In recent days, several political handicappers at the national level had begun to give Warren the advantage. The Washington Post’s political blog and the right-leaning Rasmussen Reports both moved the race last week from “tossup” to “leans Democrat,” while the Rothenberg Political Report moved it from “pure tossup” to “tossup/tilt Democrat.” The New York Times’ FiveThirtyEight blog calls the seat “safe Democratic.”

They based those ratings in part on the fact that Warren led in 11 of 14 public polls taken in September and October, by between 2 and 6 percentage points.

The Globe’s poll showed both Brown and Warren remain popular among voters.

Among those surveyed, 54 percent said they viewed Brown favorably, compared with 37 percent who viewed him unfavorably. That’s slightly off from last month, when the split was 53 favorable and 33 unfavorable.

But Warren’s popularity has suffered more than Brown’s amid an onslaught of attack ads over her legal work for corporate clients. She was viewed favorably by 49 percent of respondents, compared with 42 percent who viewed her unfavorably. That’s down significantly from last month, when 53 percent offered a favorable opinion and only 36 percent said they viewed her unfavorably.

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