NPR Poll: Lynch Now Close in Mass.

Rep. Lynch | Rep. Markey

The MassINC Polling Group (Feb. 11-13; 498 registered Massachusetts voters) surveying for WBUR Public Radio in Boston, the New England region’s largest NPR affiliate, reveals a major tightening of the special US Senate Democratic primary contest between Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA-8) and Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA-5).

Contrasting with a Public Policy Polling survey conducted Jan. 29-30 of 404 registered Massachusetts Democratic voters that showed Markey crushing Lynch 52-19 percent, the new MassINC study projects the Boston congressman pulling to within just seven points of the front-runner, trailing only 31-38 percent.

The MassINC poll has some structural flaws, i.e. the Democratic primary sampling universe’s size is not disclosed but must fall within a range of 270 to 304 respondents, most likely around the 284 figure. This is very low for a statewide primary survey, thus making their final conclusions less reliable.

Still, the MassINC findings do seem more plausible than the previous PPP study that staked Markey to a 33-point lead, a spread that seemed excessive so early in the process. Based upon the MassINC results it is reasonable to assume that Markey, despite being in the House for 36 years, is still only regionally known. Therefore, it is easy to surmise that his name identification is lower in central and western Massachusetts, as well in the southern part of the state. On the other hand, though Lynch has been in Congress some 25 fewer years than Rep. Markey, the former represents the central Boston district and that makes him well-known in the state’s dominant media market.

Pertaining to a question asked of the entire registered voter sampling universe, MassINC shows that the both Markey and Lynch, in fact, have similar statewide name identification and favorability ratings. According to the data, 74 percent of the respondents at least recognize Markey’s name versus 71 percent who claim at least some familiarity with Lynch. Markey’s favorability index is 29:19 percent, while Lynch posts a similar, and slightly better, 29:12 percent.

Both Democratic congressmen also fare well, and again in similar fashion, when paired opposite a generic Republican nominee and state Rep. Dan Winslow, the only GOP contender who had announced his candidacy when this poll went into the field. Forty-eight percent of the MassINC sampling universe associate themselves with the Democrats, versus 26 percent who self-identify as Republicans. The Democratic Party registered a 53:31 percent positive to negative favorability ratio. By contrast, the Republican Party was upside down at 32:47 percent.

Against the eventual “Republican Party’s candidate”, Markey scores a 38-28 percent edge. When Lynch is identified as the Democratic standard bearer, the margin changes to an improved 39-23 percent. When state legislator Winslow is named as the Republican nominee, Markey leads him 43-24 percent, while Rep. Lynch holds a similar 44-20 percent advantage.

Markey begins the official campaign with the greater financial war chest, reporting $3.05 million cash-on-hand at the end of calendar year 2012 compared to $760,206 for Lynch at the same point in time.

The process to replace former Massachusetts senator and current Secretary of State John Kerry begins with the special primary election scheduled for April 30. The special general vote is June 25. Since Massachusetts law requires the governor, in this case Democrat Deval Patrick, to name an interim senator for the special election period his former gubernatorial chief of staff, Mo Cowan, was tabbed for this particular role. Sen. Cowan is not a candidate for election and will serve until the eventual special election winner is certified. This means the state will have a new senator around the fourth of July. Since the seat is in-cycle in 2014, the new member will then seek a full six-year term in the regular election.

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