Lt. Governor Spencer Cox currently has an 11-point lead over former Governor Jon Huntsman among Republican voters according to a new survey.
The Utah Political Trends poll from UtahPolicy.com and Y2 Analytics finds 41% of registered Republican voters in Utah say Cox would be their first choice if the Republican primary election were held today. 29% of Republicans say Huntsman is their top choice. Those two have a combined 70% support in our survey, which puts them in the top tier of candidates. The remaining declared and possible candidates for the 2020 race have single-digit support.
9% picked retiring Rep. Rob Bishop, who is rumored to be mulling a run for governor next year. 6% said Salt Lake County Councilmember Aimee Winder Newton was their favorite. Former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes and Provo businessman, Jeff Burningham and Attorney General Sean Reyes were each at 5%, followed by former Utah GOP chairman and real estate executive Thomas Wright at 1%.
Cox, Huntsman, Burningham and Winder Newton are all declared candidates seeking next year’s GOP nomination to replace current Governor Gary Herbert, who is not seeking re-election. Hughes is expected to officially announce his entry into the race soon, while Bishop and Reyes may or may not decide to run.
UtahPolicy.com pollster Kelly Patterson of Y2 Analytics says the results show Cox and Huntsman are well known by voters, while the other candidates may be struggling to find a foothold.
“Both Lt. Gov. Cox and Ambassador Huntsman seem to share a similar constituency,” he says. “They also have the advantage of currently holding or having held a statewide office. This means that their names are more easily recognized.”
Cox and Huntsman get support from more than ⅔ Republicans, leaving the remaining candidates and potential candidates to fight to gain traction. Patterson says it’s still early, so there’s still time for other candidates to possibly move into the top tier.
“There will always be a possibility for another candidate to gain some support. As the campaign develops, voters will get to know the candidates better. And there is always the possibility that one of the main candidates could falter. However, the other candidates will have to work harder for public support because of the favorable starting positions of Lt. Governor Cox and Ambassador Huntsman,” he said.
We also asked respondents who their second and third choice candidates would be if their top choice were not available.
Cox and Huntsman were the top second choice of Republican voters, both clocking in at 18%.
Attorney General Sean Reyes was the #2 candidate for 16% of Republicans.
Aimee Winder Newton was picked as 2nd favorite by 14%.
Bishop was the second choice of 13% of Republicans.
9% of Republicans picked Greg Hughes as their second choice.
Burningham was the second choice of 7%, while Wright got 4%.
Reyes and Bishop were the top candidates when it came to the third choice among Republicans, getting 21 and 19%, respectively. Winder Newton was the third choice for 15%, while Hughes was picked as third-favorite by 12% of Republicans.
Cox is picked as a first choice over Huntsman by both male and female Republicans. 40% of Republican men and 41% of Republican women say Cox is their first choice, while 29% of men and 30% of women pick Huntsman. Surprisingly, Aimee Winder Newton, the only woman in the race, is selected as a first choice by just 7% of women.
Cox also enjoys strong support from both the right and center wings of the Republican party. 36% of “strong” Republicans pick the Lt. Governor as their first choice. 41% of Moderate Republicans say Cox is their top pick along with whopping 58% of independent-leaning Republicans.
Y2 also tracked how support for the candidates flowed from first to the second choice and second to the third choice. As you can see from the graphic below, the most significant chunk of Cox’s support would go to Huntsman if Cox was not in the race, while the lion’s share of Huntsman’s support would fall behind Cox if Huntsman weren’t on the ballot. The second-largest group of Cox supporters picked Bishop as a second choice.
When it comes to third choices Cox and Huntsman’s supporters mostly flow to Reyes or Winder Newton.
The survey was conducted November 19-December 7, 2019, among 911 registered Utah voters with a margin of error +/-4.6 percent.