Murray’s poll numbers

Lt. Gov. Tim Murray may not be political road kill after all, according to a new CommonWealth poll conducted by the MassINC Polling Group.

Ever since his crash along Interstate 190 in early November, the lieutenant governor has been backpedaling. Initially, he said he was out looking at storm damage when he hit a patch of ice and skidded off the road. He also said he was wearing his seatbelt and didn’t think he was speeding, and a Breathalyzer confirmed he wasn’t drinking.

But the predawn inspection didn’t make much sense, so questions kept being raised. Ultimately, Murray’s version of events unraveled when the State Police analyzed the black box from his car and found he wasn’t buckled in and his speed hit 108 miles per hour just before the crash. State Police investigators say they believe the lieutenant governor fell asleep at the wheel and issued him three citations totaling $555.

Murray didn’t hunker down and hope for the best. He accepted responsibility, paid the citations, and agreed to reimburse the state for the totaled vehicle. He also met with the press and took some tough questions, including whether voters can trust him anymore.

“I’ve been in elected office for 14 years and I think I have had a track record of making good decisions and sometimes tough decisions,” he said. “Certainly people may have their questions. All I can say is, this is what happened. I am thankful to be alive.”

Murray survived the horrific crash with a just a small scratch on his hand, but what about his future in politics, one that most politicos have assumed is focused on a 2014 run for governor?

The CommonWealth poll indicates he may be lucky there as well. The good news for Murray is that he remains a political unknown, even after all the bad crash publicity and a slew of stories about his unusually close relationship with Michael McLaughlin, the disgraced former Chelsea Housing Authority director who was being paid $360,000 a year.

A whopping 56 percent of those polled answered “don’t know” when asked whether they view him favorably or unfavorably, while 27 percent said they viewed him very or somewhat favorably and 17 percent viewed him very or somewhat unfavorably. (His anonymity, spoofed last fall in this video for a MassINC fundraising event, remains intact.)

The crash itself didn’t register with a lot of people. The poll indicates 52 percent of those surveyed knew nothing or not very much about the crash, while 47 percent knew a great deal or a fair amount.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

The problem for Murray is that those who are aware of the crash overwhelmingly think he’s hiding something. Among those who know a great deal about the crash, 57 percent believe he is concealing important information while 30 percent say he is being honest and forthright. The split was 58-26 among those who knew a fair amount about the crash and 41-23 among those who didn’t know much about the crash. The poll of 500 Massachusetts residents 18 and older was conducted from January 25 to 29, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percent.

The predawn crash raises serious credibility problems for Murray, but it also shows he remains largely a blank slate for many voters. The lieutenant governor is lucky there is a lot of time before the race for governor heats up.