Suffolk University/Boston Globe Senate Poll Shows Strong Kennedy Advantage vs. Markey

Undeclared candidate has higher favorable rate than other Mass, politicians

Biden and Warren are neck and neck, with others far behind

Congressman Joe Kennedy leads Sen. Ed Markey in a prospective Democratic primary matchup, according to a Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll of likely Massachusetts Democratic primary voters taken last week.

Since 1988, reelection rates for U.S. senators have ranged between 79 percent and 96 percent, yet in a hypothetical five-way primary, Kennedy (35 percent) led the incumbent Markey (26 percent), followed by Steve Pemberton and Shannon Liss-Riordan, who were tied at 1 percent. A sizable 36 percent were undecided.  When just two names were presented to likely voters, Kennedy widened his lead to 42 percent over Markey’s 28 percent, with 29 percent undecided.

“The poll tells us that the incumbent-challenger calculus has changed in this instance,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston. “Usually, the incumbent leads, and the challenger has to convince the remaining undecided voters that he or she could do a better job. Here, it’s the opposite: Challenger Kennedy leads, and now Markey has to convince the remaining undecided voters why he should stay.”

While Kennedy has not declared a candidacy, he had the highest favorability (73 percent favorable – 6 percent unfavorable) of all the names presented to respondents, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (69 percent favorable – 21 percent unfavorable), Gov. Charlie Baker (61 percent favorable – 19 percent unfavorable), and Markey (59 percent favorable – 16 percent unfavorable).

In a June poll that didn’t mention Kennedy, Markey (44 percent) led Liss-Riordan (5 percent) and Steve Pemberton (5 percent) with 45 percent undecided.

Kennedy name

When voters were asked how they react to the Kennedy name, 64 percent indicated positively, 7 percent negatively, and 27 percent said they don’t have a feeling one way or the other.


When the incumbent and prospective challenger were compared on issues, Kennedy was seen as a better fighter for Democratic priorities (43 percent to Markey’s 25 percent), a better adversary against President Trump (45 percent – 23 percent), and the more liberal of the two (42 percent – 24 percent)

Between 66 percent and 68 percent of respondents said that the respective ages of the congressman and senator made no difference in how they will vote. However, 26 percent of voters said Kennedy’s age and relatively recent election to Congress made them more likely to vote for him versus 5 percent who said less likely. Markey’s age and longevity in Washington produced the opposite effect, with 8 percent indicating that made them more likely to vote for him and 21 percent saying less likely.

Warren & Biden

Respondents moved Warren (24 percent) into a statistical tie with former Vice President Biden (26 percent), followed by Bernie Sanders (8 percent), Pete Buttigieg (5 percent), Kamala Harris (3 percent), and Tulsi Gabbard (2 percent). The other candidates received 1 percent or less, while 25 percent of likely Democratic primary voters were undecided. Warren improved significantly from a June poll that had her at 10 percent to Biden’s 22 percent, with many other candidates closely bunched within the margin of error around Warren.

Health care

As Democratic candidates discuss U.S. health care options, 57 percent of likely Massachusetts Democratic voters said that the solution is to build upon the Affordable Care Act and implement reforms, while 32 percent said the current system should be scrapped and replaced with Medicare-for-All.


The statewide Suffolk University survey was conducted through live interviews of cell phone and land line users. All respondents indicated that they were registered voters in Massachusetts and planned to vote in the state Democratic primary in September 2020. The survey of 500 voters was conducted Sept. 3 – Sept. 5. The margin of error is +/- 4.4 percentage points at a 95 percent level of confidence. Results are posted on the Suffolk University Political Research Center website. For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310, [email protected].

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