Massachusetts Democrats tried to clear the field for Rep. Edward Markey in the special election to succeed Secretary of State John Kerry in the Senate, but a new poll released Friday shows Markey with only a slight lead over Rep. Stephen Lynch in the Democratic primary.
The WBUR-FM poll, conducted earlier this week by the Boston-based MassINC Polling Group, shows Markey leading Lynch among likely primary voters, 38 percent to 31 percent. Four percent prefer another candidate, and 26 percent remain undecided. The margin of error for likely primary voters is relatively high -- plus-or-minus 6.4 percentage points -- and Markey's lead falls within that margin.
Though the race is close among all likely primary voters, Markey holds a wider lead among registered Democrats, 42 percent to 25 percent. But Massachusetts allows voters enrolled in neither party to participate in the primary, and Lynch leads among independents who say they will vote in the Democratic contest, 38 percent to 34 percent.
Lynch has argued that Republican former Sen. Scott Brown's decision not to seek the GOP nomination boosts his chance against Markey because it frees up some independents who may have supported Brown to cast a ballot in the Democratic primary. Markey has a more liberal voting record and is the favorite of the state's progressive activists, but Lynch is banking on his appeal to working-class voters and more moderate Democrats.
Lynch fares slightly better than Markey in the poll's general election match-ups. He leads a generic Republican by 16 percentage points (39-23), while Markey outpaces an unnamed GOP candidate by 10 points (38-28). Matched up against GOP state Rep. Dan Winslow, Lynch leads by 24 (44-20) and Markey leads by 19 (43-24). The poll did not test the pair of Democrats in match-ups against former Navy SEAL Gabriel Gomez, the other Republican who has joined the race. Without Brown on the ballot, Republicans aren't expected to win control of the seat.
The poll was conducted Feb. 11-13, surveying 498 registered voters, including 236 likely Democratic primary voters. The margin of error for the overall survey is plus-or-minus 4.4 percentage points.