Poll: Plurality trusts Gov. Patrick on economy, majority picks him to win

Despite governing through one of the worst recessions in Massachusetts history and taking campaign hits for allegedly exacerbating a tough business climate, Gov. Deval Patrick wins higher marks from voters when asked which candidate for governor is more likely to improve the state economy, according to new poll results.

Although voters also believe he’s likeliest to raise taxes, 35 percent picked Patrick as the best choice to improve the Massachusetts economy, while 30 percent chose Republican Charles Baker, 10 percent chose Independent Tim Cahill and 2 percent picked Green Rainbow candidate Jill Stein. About 23 percent of respondents to a Suffolk University/WHDH poll were undecided on the question.

In addition, voters picked Patrick as most likely to create jobs, edging Baker 28-27, with Cahill winning 10 percent, Stein at 1 percent and 32 percent undecided.

Nearly half of the 500 registered voters surveyed from Thursday through Sunday believe Patrick is likelier to raise taxes than any of his rivals, with 7 percent selecting Baker, 5 percent picking Cahill, 4 percent choosing Green Rainbow candidate Jill Stein and 34 percent undecided.

The poll, which showed Patrick with a 41-34 advantage over Baker, carries a 4.4 percent margin of error. Cahill was favored by 14 percent, Stein by 4 percent and 6 percent were undecided.

Sixty-five percent of those surveyed said they plan to watch tonight’s televised gubernatorial debate. Patrick was picked to win the debate, with 25 percent of respondents expecting him to prevail, but 44 percent were undecided.

A majority of voters, 52 percent, say that regardless of their own choice for governor, they believe Patrick will win reelection to a second term, while just 28 percent say they think Baker will win and 6 percent go with Cahill.

Yet more than half of voters – 52 percent – found Massachusetts is heading in the wrong direction, while 37 percent believe the state is heading in the right direction and 12 percent are undecided.

About a third of voters said they trusted Patrick more than his rivals, while 21 percent picked Baker, 12 percent picked Cahill, 4 percent picked Stein and 28 percent were undecided.

The poll found that if Cahill dropped out of the race, Patrick would glean 35 percent of his supporters while Baker would draw 46 percent. Thirteen percent were undecided. Cahill has said he intends to stay in the race and dismissed polls that have consistently shown him running a distant third.

Cahill proved most popular when asked which candidate would be a second choice, if a voter’s first choice appeared unlikely to win. He garnered 37 percent of voters’ second choice votes, while Patrick drew 16 percent and Baker drew 15 percent.

In other races, Democrat Steve Grossman outpolled Republican Karyn Polito 39-28 in the race for Treasurer with 33 percent of voters undecided. Democrat Suzanne Bump and Republican Mary Connaughton are locked in a tight race, with Bump leading 29-27 and 41 percent undecided.

The poll shows a tight race for state auditor, Democratic nominee Suzanne Bump (29 percent) led Republican Mary Connaughton (27 percent) and Green-Rainbow candidate Nathanael Fortune (3 percent), with 41 percent undecided.

Other poll findings:

16 percent of voters have never heard of Baker, while 26 are undecided about him. Among voters who have heard of both Patrick and Baker, the race is a dead heat, 39-38, with Baker up by a point.

Patrick dominates Baker among women, leading 43-31, while the two are in a statistical tie among men.

A question to slash the state sales tax to 3 percent from 6.25 percent won the backing of 51 percent of voters, compared to 42 percent who opposed it. A ballot question to repeal the state sales tax on alcohol was opposed by 49 percent of voters, with 44 percent in support.

U.S. Sen. Scott Brown again outscores other Massachusetts political figures in favorability ratings, with 58 percent of voters holding a favorable opinion and 27 percent viewing him unfavorably. Second to Brown, President Barack Obama wins 55 percent favorability and 38 percent rate him unfavorably. U.S. Sen. John Kerry wins 50 percent favorability, with 38 percent of voters who rate him unfavorable.