The Latest Polling In MA: Who's Ahead?

A Suffolk University/7 News polls is making headlines this morning, showing Republican Scott Brown ahead by 4 percentage points ahead of Democrat Martha Coakley in the Massachusetts Senate race.

It's a good picture for Brown, overall: not only does he lead, he actually beats Coakley in favorability, too: Brown's favorable/unfavorable split was 57/19 (with 19 percent undecided), while Coakley's was 49/41 (with 10 percent undecided). He also, by this time, appears to have made up most of the name recognition deficit that he brought into the race as a little-known state legislator: according to Suffolk, only five percent of respondents hadn't heard of him. In a Suffolk poll conducted Nov. 4-8, 49 percent hadn't heard of him.

The poll was taken Jan 11-13; so let's compare it to another poll that came out yesterday, conducted by Research 2000 on behalf of Massachusetts political blog Blue Mass Group. That poll, conducted Jan. 12-13, showed Coakley leading by eight percentage points.

Both were done by respected polling firms that use live interviewers; both surveyed 500 likely Massachusetts voters.

Another one to think about: a poll conducted by survey/research firm CrossTarget on behalf of conservative web network Pajamas Media shows Brown ahead by a whopping 15.4 percentage points.

It's generally better practice to compare polls done by the same firm, though, so it's probably more useful to hold today's Suffolk poll up to the same firm's early November findings.

It should be no surprise that the race has gotten much, much closer--it wasn't on anyone's radar as a tight contest until last month--but favorability tells its own narrative, suggesting that the amped-up Brown campaign has taken its toll on Coakley's image.

In November, Coakley led by 31 percentage points, and her favorable/unfavorable split was 57/21, with 15 percent undecided. Since Brown's campaign has gained momentum along with outside money and interest, Coakley's favorability rating has gone down eight percentage points, while her unfavorable rating has gone up 20 percentage points. In November, this wasn't really viewed as a contest, and voters probably hadn't done as much critical thinking about their candidates as they are now, closer to election day, but the numbers show that Brown's campaign has had an effect. Since no one had really heard of Brown in November, he didn't have much of a favorable rating to compare: his split back then was a positive, but tiny, 15/8.