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Student polling club looks at Sen. Kerry’s seat

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has a strong chance to win U.S. Senator John Kerry’s seat if he’s chosen to replace outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, according to a student polling club.

The Emerson College Polling Society will release its poll – anticipated to be the first to examine the likely special election – on Thursday, December 20.

The polling society is a student-run group and does not represent the views of Emerson College.

Kerry, the five-term Democratic U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, is widely speculated as President Obama’s pick to replace Clinton as Secretary of State, but Obama has not made an announcement publicly. If Kerry accepts the position, a special election would be held for his senate seat.

Patrick, a Democrat, would lead both Republican U.S. Senator Scott Brown (48% to 43%) and former Governor William Weld, a Republican (50% to 32%), according to the poll.

Brown recently lost his seat to Democrat Elizabeth Warren, who will be sworn into office next month.

However, according to the poll, if Brown runs for Kerry’s seat, he would beat Victoria Kennedy, widow of Democratic U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy, by 46 percent to 40 percent.

If Kerry vacates his seat, he will leave a 63 percent favorable rating and the support of nearly 59 percent of Massachusetts voters to become Secretary of State. Under the law, a special election to fill the seat must be held between 145 days and 160 days after the vacancy.

The poll also asks participants if they would vote for other recognizable political figures to replace Kerry, including Attorney General Martha Coakley, a Democrat; U.S. Representative Michael Capuano, a Democrat; former Republican State Representative Karen Polito; and Republican Jack E. Robinson, who lost a U.S. Senate race to Ted Kennedy in 2000.

The student pollsters used an automated data collection service to contact 10,000 Bay State homes between December 16 and 18 – taking answers from 1,053 people – on who they would vote for to replace Kerry. The margin of error is about 3 percent.

The polling society is a student-run group with assistance from an advisor, Spencer Kimball, scholar-in-residence in the Communication Studies Department, who is also a freelance political consultant.

“Going into the holidays, the poll gives people something to talk about,” Kimball said. “And it helps our students learn how public opinion is shaped.”

Kimball said the club uses the same methodology as the firm Public Policy Polling, which accurately predicted the 2012 presidential election in all nine battleground states and most others, according to Politico

For detailed information on the polling results, visit

Last week the polling society released its findings on the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder on soldiers. Next month the group will tackle a poll on gun control, an issue thrust into the national spotlight after the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

“Because of the shooting in Connecticut, we assume everyone believes we have to control gun violence, but we have to see if the public agrees or disagrees,” said Felix Chen ’14, a Communication Studies major and chief analyst of the polling club. “It’s really important to look at the whole picture than to just imagine what other people think.”


Polling club kids

Felix Chen '14 and Michael Dunlevy '14 of the Emerson student polling club.

Kimball said the student polling group was dormant the last few years, but became active again in recent months due to the presidential election.

“You don’t learn how to swim by reading a book,” Kimball said. “In order for our students to understand polling and how it impacts policy, you need to jump in and see how it’s done.”

“It’s a good skill to have coming out of college,” said Michael Dunlevy ’14, a Political Communication major and polling club member. “It’s a fine, concrete skill that can be applied after we graduate.”



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