A new poll by Dan Jones & Associates finds Provo Mayor John Curtis still leading in the GOP 3rd District race – with 31 percent of the vote -- but former state lawmaker Chris Herrod has closed considerably.
The primary election is Tuesday, Aug 15. Ballots were mailed to registered GOP voters more than a week ago.
The new UtahPolicy.com survey shows Curtis has weathered the barrage of negative ads directed at him. But a Herrod surge could win the Republican nomination – and likely the final election in November – for the arch-conservative candidate.
Jones finds if the election were today:
- 31 percent said they would vote for Curtis.
- 23 percent said Herrod.
- 15 percent said businessman Tanner Ainge.
- And 26 percent said they were still undecided.
The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.6 percent – so statistically, Herrod is still outside of the margin of error, meaning Curtis still has the lead in the poll numbers.
By internal party rules, only registered Republicans can vote in the party primary, even though it is paid for by local taxpayers.
However, unaffiliated voters – those who don’t belong to any political party – can register as a Republican at the polls on Tuesday, and pick up a GOP ballot and vote in the 3rd District Republican race.
Jones polled mostly Republicans, but he also included some political independents – who are still eligible to cast a GOP ballot if they so desire.
For the 26 percent who told Jones they are still undecided, Jones asked them if they are leaning toward Ainge, Curtis or Herrod.
Among those undecideds:
- 21 percent said they were leaning toward Ainge.
- 21 percent said they were leaning towards Curtis.
- And 18 percent said Herrod.
Even though pushed by Jones to make a decision, 41 percent of the “undecideds” didn’t move and said they were still trying to make up their minds with no favorite at all.
Ainge and Curtis got on Tuesday’s ballot via the signature-gathering route.
Naturally, Curtis' campaign hailed the poll results showing them with a slight lead.
"Dozens of volunteers are joining our campaign daily who believe that it's time we send some Utah Values to Washington D.C. and reject Washington D.C. trying to buy this election," said Curtis in an email statement to UtahPolicy.com.
Outside groups have poured more than $800,000 into the campaign so far trying to influence voters.
However, Tanner Ainge's campaign threw cold water on the Dan Jones & Associates poll, saying their own internal polling conducted around the same time showed Ainge with a slim lead over Curtis and Herrod. Those numbers, provided to UtahPolicy.com, showed Ainge with 28%, Curtis with 25% and Herrod at 22%. 25% of voters remained undecided.
"We feel pretty good about these last few days and think we're within striking distance," said a source with the Ainge campaign who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "But, it's very hard to poll this electorate given the vote-by-mail nature of the election."
The source added one big caveat, "Polls showed Hillary Clinton was going to win in 2016, and we all know how that turned out."
Under intra-party rules changed just this spring, only one candidate who took the delegate/convention route could get on the ballot.
Herrod defeated nearly a dozen Republicans – including Curtis, who took both the convention and signature routes at the same time – in a June special 3rd District delegate convention vote.
Thus Herrod is the pick by the delegates, who over the years have proven to be more conservative in the Utah GOP ranks than regular Republican voters.
Among just Republicans in the survey the race is much closer:
- 29% support Curtis
- 25% support Herrod
- 16% picked Ainge
- 26% were undecided
When asked which way those undecided Republicans were leaning:
- 23% said they were leaning toward voting for Ainge
- 20% were considering voting for Curtis
- 15% were leaning toward Herrod
- 39% remained undecided
And Herrod’s support is reflected in various political demographic groups, Jones’ new survey shows:
- Among those who self-identified as “strong Republicans,” Herrod gets 28 percent; Curtis, 22 percent; and Ainge at 19 percent; with 26 percent undecided
- Among those who said they were “not so strong Republicans,” Curtis has 37 percent support; Herrod is at 26 percent support; and Ainge at 11 percent; with 26 percent undecided.
- And among those who classified themselves as independents who lean Republican; Curtis gets 44 percent; Herrod only 15 percent; and Ainge 10 percent; with the same 26 percent undecided.
Jones found that 30 percent of those polled said GOP Gov. Gary Herbert’s pre-primary endorsement of Curtis made them more likely to vote for the Provo mayor.
But 67 percent said the Herbert support had no impact on whom they planned to vote for.
Jones polled 447 registered voters (mostly Republicans, but with some independents) on Aug. 2, 3 and 8th. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.6 percent.
Twenty-seven percent told Jones they had already voted – so he was counting actual ballots among those folks – with 69 percent saying they were “very likely” to vote in the race.