Engaged in a fierce battle in the U.S. Senate race, a new poll of Republican Senator Mike Lee and independent contender Evan McMullen shows neck and neck with just over six weeks until Election Day. (Getty Images/Michelle Page, Desert News)
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SALT LAKE CITY – Engaged in a fierce battle in the US Senate race in Utah, a new poll of Republican Senator Mike Lee and independent challenger Evan McMullen shows neck-and-neck with just over six weeks until Election Day.
A recent Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll found that 36% of Utahns would vote for Lee and 34% for McMullen if the election were held today. Another 16% do not know who they will vote for, while 13% will mark a ballot paper, which includes two third-party candidates, for someone else.
Dan Jones & Associates surveyed 815 registered voters in Utah for Deseret News and the Hinckley Institute from September 3 to 21. With a margin of error of plus or minus 3.43 percentage points.
The poll also asked respondents to determine how likely they are to vote in the November 8 midterm elections, where one would definitely vote while five would definitely not. It found that 96% of those surveyed say they are likely to vote, including 83% who said they would definitely vote.
The numbers remain roughly the same among potential voters, with 37% saying they would vote for me, 34% for McMullen and 16% undecided. The margin of error for this group increases or decreases by 3.49 percentage points.
Of those who said they would definitely vote, 40% would choose Lee, while 35% would choose McMullen.
The Lee-McMullin match is the closest statewide election Utah has had in decades.
“Mike Lee is still in the driving seat, but the most interesting aspect of this poll is who the wavering voters are — the moderate and the liberal. Mike Lee needs some moderates and Evan McMullen needs all the moderates and liberals he can convince,” said Jason Berry, director of the Hinckley Institute For Politics at the University of Utah, “But these groups are in trouble.”
According to the poll, those who defined themselves as “very liberal” and “moderate” accounted for the highest percentage of undecided voters.
Perry said the Liberals are trying to reconcile the fact that they do not have a candidate with proven Democratic positions with their desire to impeach Lee. He said moderates are trying to decide whether they want to retain a well-known but not unifyingly popular conservative figure, or to vote for an unaffiliated candidate who is still establishing his political positions.
“None of the candidates can take these voters for granted and they are clearly watching and weighing,” Perry said.
Lee and McMullin ramped up their advertising on TV and social media as the competition got hotter in recent weeks. The race is shaping up as my most expensive race since he was elected in 2010. He raised $7.9 million and spent $5.8 million, according to OpenSecrets.com. McMullin raised $3.2 million and spent $1.9 million.
In the new poll, McMullin nearly closed the five-point gap that Lee had kept since the last Deseret News/Hinckley Institute poll in July, even though the number of critical and hesitant voters in the new poll doubled.
“Evan McMullen can win this race. Senator Lee is in serious trouble – there is no other Senate in the country that sits at 40% or less,” McMullen campaign spokeswoman Kelsey Quinnen said.
“The majority of Utah wants to replace Mike Lee and this race is now one of the closest and most important in the country. We are in a virtual league and we are out for 45 days. Together, Utah can confront the politics of division and extremism and chart a better course for our future.”
Lee’s campaign spokesperson, Matt Lusty, said Lee is committed to winning the support of every voter, which is a major reason polls consistently show him in the lead.
“Our internal numbers continue to show strong support, too. As Utah sees firsthand the disastrous effects of Biden’s agenda, they know they can count on Senator Lee as an unwavering champion of conservative values that will put our country back on the right track,” he said.
The latest survey found that 40% of Yotanes approve of Lee’s two-term Senate job, down six points from July, and still underwater because 45% disapprove of his performance.
McMullen is counting on voters who dislike what Lee is doing in Washington to swing his way regardless of political persuasion. The Utah Democratic Party did not field a candidate in the Senate race, but endorsed McMullen, asserting that he had a better chance of ousting Lee than one of them. No Democrat has won a US Senate race in Utah since 1970.
Lee, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, continues to enjoy strong support from his conservative Republican base.
Of those in the poll who self-identified as Republicans, more than half said they would vote for Lee. Just under half of those identified as Democrats would prefer McMullin, while 40% of voters not affiliated with either major party would choose McMullin as well.
Nearly three-quarters of voters who consider themselves “very conservative” support Lee, while more than half of those who say they are “moderate” or “liberal” support McMullen.
The new survey also found that Lee has higher support among men, while McMullin has greater support among women. Voters age 40 and under prefer McMullin, while voters over this age prefer Lee.
Other polls conducted on the Lee-McMullin race vary widely.
A Lighthouse Research & Development poll of 500 Utah voters conducted for the Utah State Debate Committee found Lee leading McMullin 48% to 37%, and 5% undecided. The Independent Committee shall hold a ballot to determine the eligible candidates for discussion.
McMullen and Lee are scheduled to hold the debate on October 17 at the University of Utah Valley.
Polls conducted by the two candidates’ campaigns also yielded sharply divergent results.
An August WPA Intelligence survey of Lee’s team found that the incumbent leads McMullin 50% to 32%, with 12% undecided and 6% choosing other candidates. The WPAi, which includes Senator Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, and Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, among its clients, sampled 500 potential voters in Utah on August 4-5. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4%.
McMullin recently released a two-person survey for his campaign by Impact Research that showed he leads Lee by 47% to 46%, and 7% are undecided. The poll of 800 potential voters in Utah was conducted from August 29 to September 1. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. Among Impact Research’s clients is President Joe Biden.