Gov. Gary Herbert would easily defeat either of the Democratic challengers in November while Republican Jonathan Johnson would find himself in potentially much closer races.
A new UtahPolicy.com survey finds Herbert would win a clear majority against either Michael Weinholtz or Vaughn Cook.
Herbert easily outpaces Cook by a 63-21% margin. He also beats Weinholtz 65-19%.
If GOP challenger Jonathan Johnson captures the Republican nomination, he would find himself in a tougher battle with the two Democrats come November.
Johnson currently leads Cook by a 39-25% tally with 37% undecided in that matchup. He also leads Weinholtz 44-23% while 34% remain undecided.
Herbert’s margin over both Democratic candidates is on par with previous recent gubernatorial elections. In 2012, Herbert beat Democrat Peter Cooke by nearly 41 points. In 2010, Herbert defeated Peter Corroon by 32 points. In 2008, Jon Huntsman clobbered Bob Springmeyer by nearly 58 points. The 2004 election was the closest in recent memory with Huntsman triumphing over Scott Matheson by 16 points.
The potentially close races between Johnson and the two Democrats most likely stems from their relative anonymity and lack of name recognition. Just over a third of Utahns in both hypothetical matchups express no preference, which just reinforces that unfamiliarity.
If, as expected, Herbert wins the GOP nomination for another term, he would likely have little trouble triumphing over both Democrats as Herbert enjoys broad support:
Men support Herbert 65-21% over Cook and 68-19% over Weinholtz.
Women pick Herbert 62-20% over Cook and 62-21% over Weinholtz.
Not surprisingly Republicans overwhelmingly support Herbert 84-5% over Cook and 87-2% over Weinholtz.
Independent Utahns choose Herbert 48-27% over Cook and 49-27% over Weinholtz.
Moderates like Herbert 58-22% over Cook and 59-23% over Weinholtz.
Democrats favor Weinholtz slightly more than Cook in a matchup against Herbert, with Weinholtz leading 69-15% over Herbert and Cook leading Herbert 63-17%.
If Johnson upsets Herbert for the GOP nomination, there may be a few potential trouble spots for him that could provide a very slight opening for a Democratic opponent in November’s general election:
Independent voters would break for Cook over Johnson 36-17% and Weinholtz 30-28%.
Moderates like Cook over Johnson by a 33-25% margin. Johnson beats Weinholtz among this group 35-24%.
Nearly every other demographic group goes for Johnson, so any opportunity for a Democratic upset would be tiny indeed. A lot of things would have to go right for that to happen.
Utahns on the left see Johnson as their best chance to win the governor’s mansion for the first time since 1985 when Scott Matheson occupied the top spot in the state. A UtahPolicy.com poll of a head-to-head primary matchup between Johnson and Herbert finds liberals either divided between the two or favoring Johnson.
Overall, Utahns expect a Republican to be the next governor of Utah. 49% say they would pick Herbert out of all the candidates in the field. 7% say Johnson. Just 5% say Vaughn Cook and 3% pick Michael Weinholtz.
Republicans overwhelmingly say Herbert is the top pick in this year’s field with 67%. Johnson gets 10%.
Democrats are more unsettled, with 22% picking Cook, 17% say Weinholtz and 43% undecided. Surprisingly Herbert wins 10% support among Utah’s minority party.
36% of independents pick Herbert, 7% like Democrat Cook, 6% pick Republican Johnson, and just 2% say Weinholtz is the best candidate. 40% of independents are undecided.
The Dan Jones & Associates survey was conducted March 23-April 5, 2016 among 600 adults Utahns. It has a margin of error +/- 4%.