Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Edward Markey begins the early general election polling with a wide lead over Republican challenger Gabriel Gomez, according to a Suffolk University/7NEWS (WHDH-Boston) statewide poll of screened likely voters. Markey polled 52 percent, Gomez 35 percent, Twelve Visions Party Richard Heos had 1 percent, 11 percent were undecided, and 1 percent refused a response.

This is the first statewide poll conducted which includes all of the listed candidates for U.S. Senate certified for the official Massachusetts ballot.

“Ed Markey begins this race where he left off with his win in the Democratic Primary: exceeding expectations,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston. “The early perception immediately after the party primaries was that Markey was vulnerable. These findings suggest the opposite of a close race – that Ed Markey begins the sprint to June with a large lead over his Republican opponent who voters are unsure about.”

Markey held a 53 percent favorable rating to 30 percent unfavorable rating, while Gomez was viewed favorably by 38 percent, unfavorably by 23 percent, with a significant 32 percent indicating that they had heard of him but were undecided.

A whopping 86 percent had never heard of Heos or were undecided about him. 

Markey’s criticism of Gomez for refusing to take the “People’s Pledge” limiting outside campaign spending has traction and is viewed as an important campaign issue. Some 71 percent of likely voters said it was a very or somewhat important campaign issue. Sixteen percent said that it was not very or not at all important and 12 percent didn’t know anything about the “People’s Pledge.”

When asked if Ed Markey will be an independent voice or toe the party line, 58 percent indicated toe the party line and 29 percent said Markey would be an independent voice.

“Sending a Democrat to the U.S. Senate who will toe the party line is seen as a positive contribution to the conversation in the D.C. legislative agenda. President Obama continues to have coattails in Massachusetts and that is helping Markey.”

President Obama was viewed favorably by 67 percent and had a job approval number of 63 percent.

Economy

Likely voters indicated that the economy/jobs (45 percent) is the number one issue facing the next U.S. senator, with all other issues polling in single digits. Although 59 percent of likely voters said that Massachusetts was on the right track, only 29 percent said that the recession was over while 61 percent said that the recession was not over.

A super majority (77 percent) approve raising the minimum wage from eight dollars to ten dollars per hour. Only 16 percent disapproved, with 7 percent undecided.

Scott Brown

Former U.S. Senator Scott Brown was viewed favorably by 52 percent of likely voters and unfavorably by 40 percent. And when voters were asked if they were disappointed that Brown declined to run in this special election, just 35 percent said yes and 63 percent weren’t disappointed.

Balance and Perception

When asked if there was a benefit to sending one Democrat and one Republican to the U.S. Senate the state was deadlocked with 46 percent agreeing and 46 percent disagreeing. This finding was consistent with the 2012 polling of the same question when Brown was challenged by then Democratic nominee Elizabeth Warren. Markey is winning the perception game as well. When voters were asked, despite their personal preferences, who they thought would ultimately be elected to the U.S. Senate 76 percent indicated Markey and 17 percent Gomez.

Boston Bombing

Suffolk University/7NEWS will post responses to a series of questions about the Boston Marathon bombings and related issues at 10 p.m. Thursday, May 9.

History

In the special Senate general election of January 2010, the Suffolk poll predicted a 4 point win for Republican Scott Brown over Democrat Martha Coakley. Brown won by 4.7 percent. In the 2010 general election for Governor, the Suffolk poll predicted a 7 point win for incumbent Democratic Governor Deval Patrick over Republican Charlie Baker. Patrick won by 6.3. In November of 2012, the Suffolk poll predicted a 7 point win for Democrat Elizabeth Warren over incumbent Republican Senator Scott Brown in the race for U.S. Senate. Warren won by 7.4 percent.

Methodology

Using a split sample of landline and cell phone numbers, the Suffolk poll used a tight screen to filter out voters who weren't certain to vote or who couldn't name when the special general election would be held. The field of 500 likely voters was conducted Saturday, May 4 through Tuesday, May 7. The margin of error is +/- 4.4 percent at a 95 percent level of confidence for each area. Results are posted on the Suffolk University Political Research Center website. For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310, dpaleologos@suffolk.edu.