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Tierney has surprising lead over Tisei

Poll indicates third candidate may be having an effect

BY: Jack Sullivan


A new poll shows that while US Rep. John Tierney and his Republican challenger Richard Tisei are holding their own among partisan voters, Tierney leads the race by 7 percentage points thanks to the support of unenrolled voters in the closely watched Sixth Congressional District.

With the money that has poured in from outside groups so far and the legal problems that Tierney has had to fight, the lead by the embattled Democratic incumbent is surprising on some level. But his lead also indicates that Libertarian Daniel Fishman, who is polling in single digits, could be having an effect on the race.

The WBUR poll of 401 likely voters in the district, conducted by the MassINC Polling Group between Sept. 8 and Sept. 10, shows the Tierney advantage is still within the 4.9 percent margin of error but the results have a 95 percent level of confidence.

The results show that Tierney leads Tisei 39-32 among voters who have made up their mind. That number goes to 46-34 when respondents who said they were undecided declared which candidate they are leaning toward in the November election.

But the poll also shows that Fishman receives 6 percent of the support of those who have made up their minds and 7 percent including “leaners.” While the single digits would not normally have an impact, it could be the difference, if Tisei succeeds in closing the gap, between Tisei winning or losing.

The poll shows Tierney running strong among women, leading 48-16 among women under 50 years old and 47-27 among older female voters. He has a slight three point lead among men age 18 to 49, but Tisei holds a strong advantage among men over 50, leading by a margin of 55-26. Again, Fishman becomes a factor, drawing 10 percent including “leaners” among men of all ages. Tisei has a healthy lead among high school graduates without any college but is essentially tied with Tierney among those with some college but no degree and Tierney has a 20-point-plus margin among college graduates and those with advanced degrees.

Tierney has been dogged by his family problems, with his wife and brother-in-law pleading guilty to charges stemming from an illegal Internet offshore gambling enterprise. About 57 percent of voters said they had heard “a great deal” or “a fair amount” about the legal issues. Tierney is viewed favorably by 35 percent of those surveyed but has an unfavorability level of 30 percent, with 21 percent undecided. Among this group, Tisei holds a 47-41 edge, suggesting the issue may be an effective one for Tisei and outside groups running ads to support him.

Tisei has been unable to take advantage of Tierney’s family issues despite the fact he was a longtime state representative and senator from Wakefield and the 2010 GOP candidate for lieutenant governor. Tisei has a 29-13 favorable-unfavorable rating among voters but a whopping 51 percent are either undecided or never heard of him. By contrast, 32 percent of voters are either undecided or never heard of Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan. The poll shows Ryan has a higher unfavorable level – 34 percent – than favorable – 32 percent – in the district.

Tierney, in part, appears to be helped by the popularity of President Obama, who remains strong in Massachusetts. The poll shows Obama leading former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the district by a margin of 47-37, with 13 percent undecided. Democratic voters strongly favor the president while Republican voters, far outnumbered in the district and the survey, overwhelmingly favor Romney. But Obama leads among independents, who make up 56 percent of the voters surveyed, by a 43-36 margin with 17 percent undecided.

The poll shows Tierney getting 66 percent of those planning to vote for Obama while Tisei, who has been touting himself as a moderate who can work across the aisle, gets just 9 percent of the Obama vote, with 23 percent undecided. Tisei leads among likely Romney voters 67-14 with 11 percent undecided and Fishman drawing 7 percent.

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