Markey-Kennedy Deadlocked …
Or are They?

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 25, 2020 — While the Nevada Caucus counting drags on and tabulations will at some point determine just how many delegates Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), former Vice President Joe Biden, and ex-Mayor Pete Buttigieg receive from the state – currently, it appears that Sanders will win somewhere between 19 and 23 bound delegate votes, while Biden and Buttigieg should both earn bound votes in the high single digits – a new US Senate poll is proving more curious today.

The University of Massachusetts at Lowell has recently become a prolific pollster, releasing several research studies from various Democratic presidential primary states, and now they have tested their own home state electorate.

The survey (Feb. 12-19; 450 likely Massachusetts Democratic primary voters and self-identified Independents who say they will vote in the Democratic primary) sees potentially as many as five presidential candidates receiving delegates – Massachusetts has 91 first-ballot delegate votes – from Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) drawing 21 and 20 percent support, respectively, with ex-Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Vice President Joe Biden, and New York’s Michael Bloomberg recording preference factors of 15, 14, and 12 percent. This means all could potentially exceed the 15 percent threshold to qualify for delegates on Super Tuesday.

The more interesting part of their poll, however, covers the US Senate Democratic primary, which features a fierce intra-party battle between Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-Newton). The poll is noteworthy because the ballot test and the underlying questions tell a different story.

The ballot test yields a straight-up tie. According to UMass Lowell, Kennedy would lead the incumbent, 35-34 percent. This split is under the “leaned party ID” category, which means the respondents were pushed to make a decision. On the “unleaned party ID” question, both men scored the same percentage.

The segmentation crosstabs provide some telling information. The gender gap gives Rep. Kennedy a 40-30 percent split among men, while women break 37-32 percent for Sen. Markey. Younger voters (aged 18-44) actually move to the older candidate, Sen. Markey, 37-25 percent. Older voters, perhaps because of the Kennedy family name in Massachusetts, support the young congressman in a 40-33 percent division.

Education factor yields a large difference between the two candidates. Those holding a four-year college degree or higher back Sen. Markey, 43-32 percent. Those without a college degree break for Rep. Kennedy, 39-22 percent. Very little difference, however, occurs through race. White voters give Markey a slight edge, 37-36 percent, while voters of color tick toward Kennedy, 32-29 percent.

Interestingly, though the Kennedy family has been recognized as liberal icons for decades, the self-described liberal respondents in this poll break decidedly for Markey, 44-31 percent. Conversely, self-identified moderates go for Kennedy, 41-27 percent, while the few conservatives overwhelmingly back the Congressman, 60-4.

Later in the questionnaire, some eye-opening information comes forth that gives us an underlying feel as to where the race may actually be headed, at least in the early going. The UML pollsters asked which candidate would do the better job on a series of issue questions, and Rep. Kennedy surprisingly scores the better number, by a significant margin, in every instance.

In terms of who best would stand up to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Kennedy scores the advantage, 37-29; which man do they agree with on more issues: Kennedy, 33-26; who would fight harder for women: Kennedy, 36-22; who will fight harder for people of color: Kennedy, 36-18; who will fight harder for the environment: Kennedy, 34-29; and who would fight harder for people like you: Kennedy, 36-23 percent.

The fact that Rep. Kennedy even outpaces Sen. Markey on the environment, when the latter man has been a significant national leader on climate change for 20 years, tells us that this electorate is leaning toward the congressman in stronger numbers than the pure ballot test suggests.

The race won’t be decided until Sept. 1, so this campaign has much time to develop. This survey, however, provides us a clue that an incumbent upset could be in the forecast.

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