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The Massachusetts U.S. Senate race is among the most watched of the 2012 election cycle – and probably the most polled. The most recent Rasmussen poll released April 9 shows a one-point difference between Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren (46%) and her Republican opponent U.S. Sen. Scott Brown (45%). Eight percent are undecided. Given the prominence and tightness of the race, The Atlas Project looks at the poll’s crosstabs and county census data to better pinpoint where Warren is doing well and where she has room to improve before Election Day.
For progressives, the good news is Warren’s outstanding performance among key Democratic constituencies: women, African Americans and youth voters. The gender gap is now a 20-plus-point chasm. Warren is beating Brown by 56% to 35% among women. (Unfortunately, Brown is doing same among men, attaining 56% support to Warren’s 36%.) African Americans prefer Warren 82% to 18%. Voters aged 18-39 support Warren 53% to 32%.
What’s better is that Warren has time to build on this support by connecting with more voters – and ultimately pull away from her rival.
For one, Warren can improve her standing among older voters by sharpening her message of preserving Social Security and Medicare. Among seniors, she draws 44% of the vote, while Brown garners 52%. Bay State counties with high percentages of voters ages 65 and over tend to be concentrated in two regions: Western Massachusetts and the Cape and Islands. In 2008, Western Massachusetts – comprised of Berkshire, Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden counties – contained 12% of the vote share. Obama carried this area with 67% of the vote. In the 2010 special election Senate race, Democrat Martha Coakley received 53.9% of the region’s vote. Notably, Berkshire County has one of the highest percentages of seniors in the state at 18.6%. In Franklin, 15.2% of the county’s population consists of senior citizens. Among Hampden’s residents, 14.2% are seniors.
The Cape and Island region – consisting of Nantucket, Dukes, Barnstable and Plymouth counties – was 12.9% of the vote share in 2008. Obama won this region with 54.7% of the vote. In 2010, Coakley lost the Cape and Islands with 39% of the vote. Barnstable contains the highest percentage of seniors in a county at 25%. In Dukes County, senior citizens make up 16.3% of the population.
Warren can also make gains among middle-income voters, where the poll finds her support surprisingly tepid. Warren draws just 35% from voters earning $40,000 to $60,000 a year. (Brown captures 51% support.) Among voters who say their incomes are between $60,000 and $75,000 a year, Warren receives 40%. (Brown attains 54%.) The exception to the middle-income trend is Warren’s 52% support among voters in the $75,000 to $100,000 income bracket. (Brown is at 43%.)
It may be best for progressives to concentrate on the Massachusetts counties that have median household incomes well below the state’s median of $64,509. Here, Warren’s specific policy proposals that seek to lift people out of economic hardship may play especially well. On the very bottom of the state’s economic ladder are Hampden County at $47,724 and Berkshire County at $48,907. Franklin County’s median household income is not far ahead at $52,002. As mentioned, these three counties have some of the state’s highest percentages of senior citizens.
Overall, Warren does best among low-income voters and those most concerned about their pocketbooks. She reaches 74% support among voters whose incomes are between $20,000 and $40,000 a year. In the poll, people were also asked whether they considered their financial health to be excellent, good, fair or poor, and Warren captures 53% among voters who say their finances are poor. (Brown’s support stands at 40%.) She may have another opening to make gains among the voters who rate their finances as fair. In this category, she receives 49% support, while Brown takes 53%.
– See more at Atlas Project.