Poll: Scott Brown opens up 9-point lead over Elizabeth Warren

A new poll of the Massachusetts U.S. Senate race shows incumbent Sen. Scott Brown with a 9-point lead over Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren, a strong showing for the senator in what is expected to be among the most hotly contested 2012 races.

Brown was the choice of 49 percent of respondents, versus only 40 percent for the Harvard professor who served as a consumer protection adviser for President Obama, according to the poll from Suffolk University/7News.

That represents a dramatic swing from a December UMass Lowell/Boston Herald poll that had Warren up by 7 percent. A WBUR poll earlier this month showed Warren with a 3 percent edge.

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It's not clear if the poll — a phone survey of 600 likely voters — was an aberration, or demonstrated a substantial movement toward Brown in the race. The race has been relatively muted in recent weeks, with the only controversy created by Brown's decision to support a Senate amendment that would have allowed insurers and employers to deny coverage for medical services — including birth control — they find morally objectionable. 

“I am shocked that Sen. Brown jumped in to support such an extreme measure,” Warren told The Washington Post Tuesday. “This is an all new attack on healthcare. Any insurance company could leave anyone without healthcare, just when they need it most.”

The poll also found high favorability ratings for Brown. More than half of respondents — 52 percent — said they viewed the senator favorably, while 28 percent said their opinion was unfavorable. For Warren, 35 percent held a favorable opinion, while 28 percent viewed her unfavorably. 

Asked directly if Brown deserved reelection, 45 percent said that they believed he was deserving of another term, while just under four in 10 Massachusetts voters said he did not.

Meanwhile, 40 percent of respondents said that they believed Warren had the experience to serve in the Senate, while 32 percent said the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau advocate did not.