Primary polling shows Markey ahead as Sept. 1 approaches

A UMass poll suggests that Markey leads over Kennedy in the Senate race, however Markey says “only the paranoid survive in politics” 

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(Courtesy of Ed Markey/Facebook)

By Rebeca Pereira, Collegian Correspondent

In the heated race for the Massachusetts Senate, a seat contested by incumbent Senator Edward Markey and Congressman Joe Kennedy III, a UMass Amherst/WCVB poll projects a strong lead for Markey over his challenger. The race was last polled in February, when the contest was considered neck-and-neck favoring the senator only marginally, a lead that has since widened to 15 percentage points.

The septuagenarian incumbent recently launched “The Green New Dealmaker,” an ad that went viral overnight accruing more than three million views on Twitter, and he has become a fan-favorite among younger progressive voters, a trend the poll reflects.

While a 54 percent majority of respondents said they thought Kennedy would do a better job of representing young people, Markey polled a staggering 50 percentage points higher among young respondents between 18 and 29 years old, forming his broadest coalition of voters.

Timothy Scalona, a Markey campaign fellow and member of UMass for Markey, a group that organizes weekly phonebanks and relational organizing initiatives to rally students around the incumbent, says that he sees himself in Senator Markey’s humble beginnings.

A student from a low-income background, Scalona remarks that “when Markey talks policy, it feels like more than a talking point.”

On page four of the UMass/WCVB poll to is a word cloud representing respondent’s descriptions of Kennedy. One of the more conspicuous adjectives used was “entitled.”

“The Markeyverse”, the self-given name of pro-Markey Twitter accounts, attest to the Senator’s Bernie-like appeal among a younger swath of his constituency. Commandeered by students whose routines were lulled to a halt by the coronavirus pandemic, these accounts have cropped up in every corner.

While unaffiliated with the Markey campaign, the seemingly unregulated Markeyverse has become a point of contention.

Its posts, which range from innocuous memes to vitriolic aggression, have been subject to rebuke on and off the debate stage. During NBC10 Boston’s July debate, Kennedy accused Markey’s base of “bullying” his supporters, and, in a press conference Monday, Kennedy delivered searing criticism of Markey’s record and digital strategy saying “[Markey] has served in times of tremendous consequence. And he has gotten it wrong– over and over. So, he attacks my family.”

In an email to Markey Campaign Manager John Walsh, Kennedy Campaign Manager Nick Clemons called for “a personal and public statement” from Markey “instructing his followers to immediately end the attacks on Joe’s supporters.” Walsh’s response, which garnered almost four times as many likes than the original post by Politico reporter Stephanie Murray in a show of resounding agreement, expressed disappointment in the Kennedy camp’s “[choice] to end this campaign with crocodile tears.”

Despite his challenger’s retorts, recent online imbroglios, and his seemingly comfortable lead in the polls, Markey presses onward, commenting in an interview with journalist Adam Bass, a student at Wheaton College and co-host of the podcast “The Cod Cabin,” that “we’re doing well. We have a lot of momentum, but only the paranoid survive in politics.”

Voters– 149,000 of whom have already voted in the September 1st primary as of Tuesday, Aug. 18th– have also noted their reservations about riding the “pollercoaster,” and some have expressed skepticism of the August poll pointing to its seven-percentage-point margin of error and 362-respondent sample size, metrics considered anomalous to many observers.

Jessy Han, co-host of “The Cod Cabin,” laid bare his chief concerns on Twitter commenting that “a sample size of 362 is way too small to capture the diverse viewpoints of Massachusetts by race, gender, region, education, etc.,” likening the incomplete sampling to “looking into a cloudy crystal ball.”

 

 

Still, Tatishe Nteta, polling director for the UMass/WCVB poll, stands firm in the efficacy of his poll. Reaffirming his confidence in its results, Nteta says “a majority of the Commonwealth’s likely Democratic voters have thrown their support behind [the] incumbent,” saying further that the senator has “roared back to take a double-digit lead over Rep. Kennedy.”

YouGov pollsters interviewed 563 respondents who were pared down to a 500-person sample, composed exclusively of registered Massachusetts voters, 362 of whom indicated they would likely vote in the Democratic Senate Primary. The stunted sample size widens the poll’s margin of error, nearly double the three to four percentage point benchmark.

The figure that’s drawn the most scrutiny: Markey leads Kennedy by 15 percentage points. With leaners, respondents who indicated no strong preference for either candidate, Senator Markey would win 51 percent of the vote to Kennedy’s 36 percent if the election were held today. In contrast, a SurveyUSA/ Priorities for Progress poll released Monday shows Markey leading Kennedy by a slim two-percentage-point margin, garnering 44 percent of projected votes to Kennedy’s 42 percent, a much narrower lead than the UMass Amherst/WCVB poll projects.

However, on the issue of race relations, Markey’s two-point lead over Kennedy flips. Thirty-nine percent of respondents said they trusted Kennedy more to lead on race relations, the only issue where he polled higher than his opponent.

Trusted to lead on the economy, healthcare, taxes, education, transportation and the COVID-19 crisis by at least a 10 point margin, Markey’s blemished racial justice record opposing busing to integrate Boston schools in the 70s and voting against stripping Bob Jones University, a fundamentalist Christian college that infamously banned interracial dating, of its tax exemption in 1981 has cost him public confidence nearly forty years later.

Kennedy, who has received endorsements from a number of prominent Black leaders including Martin Luther King III, the late congressman John Lewis and Framingham Mayor and local leader Yvonne Spicer, has also sought to amplify Senator Markey’s alleged mishandling of an excessive-force case from neighboring New York state. The fatal shooting of Danroy “DJ” Henry, a Black 20-year-old college student, by white police officer Aaron Hess gained renewed attention following the release of a video suggesting Senator Markey had been insensitive to the victim’s grieving parents when they had attempted to marshal support from Massachusetts’s congressional delegation on behalf of their son.

In the video, Danroy Henry Sr. said he felt dismissed, adding that the senator had used the word “colored” during their conversation about his son’s death. “We felt like the only thing [he] offered us was lunch that time,” he said.

Prompted by resurfacing critiques, Markey, who met with Henry Sr. and his wife and, in 2014, signed a letter urging federal prosecutors to pursue a review of the case, penned a letter to US Attorney General William Barr and New York Attorney General Letitia James on August 4 insisting that DJ’s case be re-examined “to ensure that justice is done for the Henry family.”

Each candidate’s record on justice on all fronts has been dissected and re-litigated, probed and defended at length. Much like Nteta and his confidence in his methodology, Scalona, whose work as a Markey campaign fellow also draws to close as the race nears its end, maintains that “regardless of the outcome, we have won the ideological fight.”

 

Rebeca Pereira is a Collegian correspondent and can be reached at [email protected].