Brown takes 53 percent support in the poll, over Markey at 31 percent. A match-up of Brown against a generic Democratic ballot is considerably closer, but Brown still leads, 44 to 36 percent.
A strong majority of Democrats, 71 percent, would like to see a primary battle to determine their candidate, and they might get just that. Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) is planning a challenge for the Democratic nomination, the Boston Globe reported Friday.
His decision comes even as Markey has racked up numerous big-name endorsements from prominent Massachusetts and national Democrats, notably Kerry himself and the National Democratic Senatorial Committee.
Brown has a strong favorability rating with Massachusetts voters, at 55 percent positive, but his numbers in head-to-head match-ups against the Democrats are possibly inflated because voters are unfamiliar with the Democratic candidates.
Fifty-nine percent said they had no opinion on Markey, and 66 percent said they had no opinion on Lynch.
The MassInc Group poll of 435 registered voters was conducted between Jan. 16 and Jan. 19.