In the latest Suffolk University/7 News poll, Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., has opened a nine-point lead on his presumed rival, Democrat Elizabeth Warren. According to a news release issued Thursday by Suffolk University, Brown leads 49 percent to 40 percent, with 9 percent undecided and 2 percent preferring another candidate. The poll of 600 likely voters was conducted Feb. 11-15.
"Scott Brown's popularity and appeal are overpowering the efforts of Elizabeth Warren, who struggles to introduce herself to the larger pool of Massachusetts voters," said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston. The poll confirms his analysis. While Warren enjoyed solid support from her own party, only 28 percent of registered independents favored her, compared to 60 percent for Brown.
Earlier in the week, a WBUR Radio poll, conducted by MassINC, found the candidates in a virtual dead heat. The results, published Tuesday, indicated Warren led Brown 46 percent to 43 percent, with 11 percent undecided and 1 percent preferring other candidates.
Which poll is more accurate? Suffolk University has an excellent track record. It was the first poll to show Brown with a lead over Elizabeth Coakley in the January 2010 special election, held to replace the late Ted Kennedy. It found Brown with a four-point lead over Coakley with five days before the election. Brown won by five points.
But this latest poll is open to criticism. The Suffolk Poll asked respondents if they thought Warren had the "experience" to be a senator and followed by asking if Brown was a "leader" or a "follower" in the Senate. In a report on the Huffington Post, professional pollster Neil Newhouse, the official pollster for Brown and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, said the problems were similar to ones he had with a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll. The order of questions can bias results, "though not to the same degree" in the Suffolk poll, according to Newhouse.
Dramatic swings 10 months from an election are not unusual. Both candidates have time and resources to make their cases. Future polling will confirm Brown is starting to swing the race his way or reveal the Suffolk poll as an outlier. But whichever way you look at it, these latest results are good news for the incumbent senator.