Two polls last week showed the race almost within in the margin of error, so the well-regarded Suffolk poll is — at least for the moment — an outlier. On the other hand, it seems to fit a little better with what we know of the Massachusetts electorate and the candidates:
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Edward Markey begins the early general election polling with a wide lead over Republican challenger Gabriel Gomez, according to a Suffolk University/7NEWS (WHDH-Boston) statewide poll of screened likely voters. Markey polled 52 percent, Gomez 35 percent, Twelve Visions Party Richard Heos had 1 percent, 11 percent were undecided, and 1 percent refused a response.
This is the first statewide poll conducted which includes all of the listed candidates for U.S. Senate certified for the official Massachusetts ballot. …
Markey held a 53 percent favorable rating to 30 percent unfavorable rating, while Gomez was viewed favorably by 38 percent, unfavorably by 23 percent, with a significant 32 percent indicating that they had heard of him but were undecided.
A whopping 86 percent had never heard of Heos or were undecided about him.
Markey’s criticism of Gomez for refusing to take the “People’s Pledge” limiting outside campaign spending has traction and is viewed as an important campaign issue. Some 71 percent of likely voters said it was a very or somewhat important campaign issue. Sixteen percent said that it was not very or not at all important and 12 percent didn’t know anything about the “People’s Pledge.”
Since this seems to be such an outlier in comparison to the two earlier polls, it’s worth taking a look at the methodology. Suffolk, which is generally considered to be reasonably independent, used a sample of 500 likely voters, which is certainly acceptable for state-level polling. Emerson (Markey +6) used 797 likely voters, a stronger sample but not huge, either. PPP (Markey +4) surveyed 1,539 likely voters — and PPP is usually seen as something other than a disinterested observer.
Other questions on Suffolk make it appear a little more reasonable, though. Scott Brown, who served as Senator until unseated by Elizabeth Warren, has a 52/40 favorability rating in this poll. Only 35% were disappointed that he didn’t run in this election, however. On the issue of splitting the seats, the Suffolk sample was equally split, with 46% seeing a benefit from having a Senator from each party and 46% disagreeing. It doesn’t appear to be a runaway Democratic split; the D/R/I of 36/11/53 is in the ballpark of November’s 39/17/45.
Still, this has the smallest sample, which means it’s the most likely of the three to be an outlier. With about six weeks left, we may still see some other polling in the race, and will get a better idea of whether Gomez can pull off a Scott Brownesque upset. However, bear in mind that the well-seasoned Edward Markey is very unlikely to be Martha Coakleyesque, or even Elizabeth Warrenesque as a campaigner.