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Bellwethers Show Markey Besting Lynch in Special Democratic Primary for U.S. Senate

Suffolk University Political Research Center Surveys Show GOP Primary Coming Down to Gomez and Sullivan, with Advantage to Gomez.

U.S. Rep. Edward Markey is crushing fellow Congressman Stephen Lynch in three key Democratic bellwethers, according to a Suffolk University/7NEWS (WHDH-Boston) bellwether poll of tightly screened Democratic voters in Sandwich, Swampscott, and Newburyport. In Swampscott Markey led Lynch 55 percent to 37 percent; in Newburyport, Markey led 59 percent to 35 percent; and in Sandwich Markey led 65 percent to 30 percent.

“Despite recent polling showing this race close and perceptions that the momentum has moved to Lynch following the last two debates, these findings point out the opposite – that Ed Markey has a distinct advantage as the primary approaches,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston. “Voter turnout ultimately will determine the outcome. However, given what we know now, Lynch would have to carry his home district by an unprecedented margin and also compete aggressively in Markey’s home district to offset Markey’s distinct advantage.”

A bellwether is an area of a state that closely mirrors a statewide electoral outcome based on similar election types, previous elections and other data. Suffolk University’s bellwether model has been used since 2002 and is 83 percent accurate in predicting outcomes. However, it is not designed to predict margin of victory. All bellwether analyses carry a margin of error similar to a statewide poll. In past occurrences where three bellwethers were selected and all three identified the same winner, the bellwether model has been 100 percent accurate in predicting the outright winner.

Democratic Primary

In the 2009 special Democratic Senate Primary, these three towns – Newburyport, Sandwich, and Swampscott – exactly reflected the statewide order of finish (1-2-3) and were within 3 percentage points of the statewide votes for winner Martha Coakley, Mike Capuano, and Alan Khazei.

The following shows how these three towns compared to the statewide vote in the 2009 special Democratic Primary for U.S. Senate:

  • Statewide: Coakley 47 percent, Capuano 28 percent, Khazei 13 percent
  • Newburyport: Coakley 47 percent, Capuano 28 percent, Khazei 16 percent
  • Sandwich: Coakley 47 percent, Capuano 25 percent, Khazei 15 percent
  • Swampscott: Coakley 49 percent, Capuano 26 percent, Khazei 15 percent

Republican Primary

The Republican Primary could be much closer than the Democratic, depending on turnout. Two areas were selected as bellwethers: Boston and Shrewsbury. Dan Winslow is polling third in both bellwethers, suggesting a possible early exit on Tuesday night. In Boston, Sullivan initially led Gomez 38 percent to 34 percent but when “leaners” were added, it became a dead heat at 41 percent each, with late-breaking momentum to Gomez. In Shrewsbury, Gomez led 48 percent to Sullivan’s 24 percent, with Winslow receiving 14 percent.

“This is a key geographical finding, because it suggests that Gomez may be able to withstand Sullivan’s voter strength in big cities like Boston by running up larger margins in suburban areas and small towns like Shrewsbury,” said Paleologos. “Ironically the Winslow voters could swing this primary by rotating en masse to one or the other of the front-runners at the last minute. To be safe, both Gomez and Sullivan may want to have their recount teams ready. The turnout will be low, and so could the margin of victory for either Republican, although Gomez may be slightly better positioned.”

The following shows how results in Boston and Shrewsbury compared to the statewide vote when Scott Brown and Jack E. Robinson were on the ballot in the December 2009 special Republican Primary for U.S. Senate:

  • Statewide: Brown 89 percent, Robinson 11 percent
  • Boston: Brown 86 percent, Robinson 13 percent
  • Shrewsbury: Brown 88 percent, Robinson 11 percent


Using voter lists of the most reliable Democratic and Republican primary voters from each bellwether, the bellwether IDs were designed using a tight screen to filter out voters who weren't certain to vote or who couldn't name when the special election would be held. The field was conducted Thursday, April 25, through Sunday, April 28. The margin of error is +/- 5.65 percent at a 95 percent level of confidence for each area. Bellwethers are designed to predict outcomes, not margins. Results are posted on the Suffolk University Political Research Center website. For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310 or by email.