New Suffolk Poll Gets it Wrong Again

What's up with the polls?

In the final statewide Suffolk University/7News Poll of Massachusetts likely voters before the Nov. 2 election, Democratic incumbent Deval Patrick (46 percent) leads Republican Charlie Baker (39 percent) by 7 points in the race for governor, with only 5 days until the election. Independent candidate Tim Cahill has 9 percent, while Green-Rainbow candidate Jill Stein has just 2 percent. Only 5 percent of likely voters remain undecided.

Seriously, in the middle of this economic environment, is it conceivable that a governor who has met none of his promise or promises, facing a well-financed, very attractive Republican, could be running away with the race in a year in which his voters are depressed and the other side is in pain waiting for Tuesday, and the opportunity to vote, to come?

“There have been shifts under the surface even though Deval Patrick continues to lead,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center. “Since our last poll, Baker gained ground among younger voters but lost some among middle-age voters; Baker improved in Suffolk County but lost some of his lead in southeastern Mass; and Baker gained further among men, but lost further among women.”

Baker’s decision to publicly endorse embattled Republican nominee Jeff Perry may account for the drop in support from both women and southeastern Mass. since the last Suffolk poll.

The challenge for the pollsters is figuring out which 45 or 50 voters out of every hundred are actually going to vote. From what I gather, the pollsters are locked into formulas that just aren't working in this year in which all the energy is on one side.

Despite lagging far behind in the polls, Independent Tim Cahill is on track to break the record for the most votes cast for an Independent candidate for governor in Massachusetts, which was set by Christy Mihos in the 2006 gubernatorial contest with 7 percent of the vote.

Cahill could be hurting Charlie, although thusfar it's been unclear that he's taking much more from Baker than from Patrick. But I'll be very surprised if Tim doesn't lose half of his poll support come election day.

Here are the latest numbers from the Baker campaign. While trusting campaign polls comes with obvious problems, these numbers match my sense of reality much better than the others.

1.      The race is an absolute dead heat between Baker and Patrick.
Both Charlie Baker and Deval Patrick are tied with 40% of the vote, with Cahill receiving 10% of the vote and Stein 3%.
2.      Among higher interest voters, Baker has a lead.
Among the 76% of our sample who rate their interest in the election between 8-10 on a 1-10 scale, Charlie has a 45%-39%-8%-2% lead over his opponents.  In fact, this is the same kind of intensity disparity we saw during the Scott Brown/Martha Coakley race – just as we saw higher intensity for Scott’s candidacy give him an edge on Election Day, the same should be true for Charlie.
This mirrors the Globe’s recent poll:
“The survey found that 43 percent of likely Democratic voters are depressed about the election, while 76 percent of the Republicans are excited.” – Boston Globe, October 24, 2010
3.      Undecided voters are not big Deval Patrick fans.
While just 6% of voters in the state say they are still undecided, it’s pretty clear that they are unlikely to end up in Deval Patrick’s camp – by a wide 68%-16% margin, these voters believe Deval Patrick hasn’t done a good enough job to be re-elected.
4.      Charlie has a more positive image at this point.
At this point in the race, Charlie Baker is the only candidate with a positive image in the state:
Charlie Baker              48% favorable – 37% unfavorable      Margin - +11
Deval Patrick              48% favorable – 50% unfavorable      Margin -  -2

"At the end of the day," as Charlie would say - no one knows what will happen on Tuesday. Which makes this a very exciting, and agonizing, election.