While some political spectators, including those within the Democratic campaign of Massachusetts U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, have said they don’t believe her ongoing American Indian ancestry controversy really matters to voters, a new poll suggests otherwise.
According to a University of New Hampshire poll conducted for The Boston Globe, the Warren controversy could be most damaging for her among independent voters—a bloc she needs to do well with to defeat Republican incumbent Scott Brown.
In the poll, 43 percent of Democrats and 48 percent of independents who said they plan to vote for Brown indicated that the controversy has made them less likely to vote for Warren.
“It’s having an impact early on in the campaign when the Warren campaign really wants to be talking about economic issues,” pollster Andrew Smith told radio station WBUR.
Jim Barnett, campaign manager for the Brown campaign, told Indian Country Today Media Network that he believes the controversy has been very damaging to Warren.
“If you look into the crosstabs of these polls, you’ll see that for people who are aware of this controversy, it’s done significant damage,” Barnett said.
“For people who understand that there’s been no evidence presented that she’s a Native American and that she has misrepresented that, they are overwhelmingly in favor of Scott Brown,” Barnett added.
The Brown campaign in recent days has called on Warren to reach out to Native Americans to address the controversy.
Another recent poll, conducted by Western New England University, showed Warren’s unfavorability ratings to be increasing more quickly than her favorability ratings.
Since the issue was first reported on April 27, Warren has been unable to point to solid evidence to back up Native ancestry that she related to universities she has worked for, including Harvard Law School and the University of Pennsylvania. Warren also initially denied telling the universities that she was Native, but when federal filing data contradicted that position, she admitted she had done so. She has maintained that family lore supports her belief in her ancestry.
Earlier reports indicating that Warren is 1/32nd Cherokee have not been able to be proven by genealogical researchers.
Native Americans have been concerned that Warren’s hiring may have prevented a Native faculty candidate with documentation to be considered from being hired at the universities she worked for.
Warren has also earned criticism for dodging opportunities to discuss the matter with Indians, despite saying in May that she had listed herself as minority earlier in her career in an effort to meet people like her.
ICTMN has asked her campaign repeatedly for Warren to address the questions, but her campaign has avoided all requests since early May.
Last weekend, Warren was chosen as her party’s nominee at the state convention, defeating Democratic challenger Marisa DeFranco, who told ICTMN the day before the vote that Warren should be reaching out to Native American constituents.