Poll: Ed Markey Takes Double-Digit Lead in Primary Race Against Joe Kennedy

Representative Joe Kennedy III (D-MA), left, and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), center left, sq
Meredith Nierman/WGBH via AP, Pool

A poll released Wednesday revealed Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) leading his challenger, Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA), by double digits in the Massachusetts Democrat primary race taking place in just over two weeks.

The University of Massachusetts Amherst/WCVB poll, conducted July 31–August 7, showed the incumbent senator ahead of Kennedy by 15 points, 51 percent to 36 percent, a nearly inverse result to when Kennedy first indicated he was running about one year ago and a Change Research poll found he was 17 percent more favorable than Markey.

Notably, the poll showed a massive gap among the youngest age range of respondents, 18–29 years old, with 71 percent favoring Markey compared to 21 percent favoring Kennedy. Among those ages 55 and older, Markey was only five points ahead, 47 percent to 42 percent. “Markey, the older candidate, seems to be pulling a Bernie Sanders with younger voters,” Raymond La Raja, associate director of the poll, observed.

In line with this analysis, “Squad” member Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), who coauthored the Green New Deal with the 74-year-old Markey, has been one of his most public endorsers, with the Markey campaign releasing a TV ad starring the young congresswoman last month. As the Boston Globe noted, Markey “can’t go long without mentioning the progressive icon.”

Following the latest polling data, Ocasio-Cortez wrote on social media, “Let’s GO! Massachusetts, we need to turn this into VOTES,” noting the two reasons to vote for him were his progressivism and “classic” accent:

Kennedy, 39 years old and rising to prominence via a family of powerful political figures, has faced criticism for needlessly challenging Markey, with sitting members of the Senate discouraging “intraparty fighting” early on and recommending he “wait” to run. Now, he has forgone his House seat while also potentially losing his Senate primary race, marking what would be a tremendous loss for the young challenger given he would be the first Kennedy to lose an election in Massachusetts.

Further telling of shifting public sentiment was a word cloud built into the latest poll: Words most descriptive of Kennedy included “young,” “Kennedy,” “entitled,” “ambitious,” and “opportunist,” while Markey’s most significant words included “old,” “progressive,” “experienced,” “liberal,” and “good.”

The primary race takes place September 1; however, mail-in voting is already underway via the new mass mail voting legislation state lawmakers passed in July after claiming it would curb the spread of the Chinese coronavirus.

The poll was facilitated by YouGov, which interviewed 500 Massachusetts registered voters, and had a 5.9 percent margin of error.


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