With three weeks to go before county clerks start mailing ballots to primary voters, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox has a seven-point lead over former Gov. Jon Huntsman according to a new UtahPolicy.com/KUTV 2 News survey.
The poll, conducted by Y2 Analytics, shows Cox with 39 percent support among likely Republican primary voters. Huntsman has 32 percent. Former House Speaker Greg Hughes gets 23 percent, while former Utah GOP chairman Thomas Wright has 6 percent.
Cox won the vote at the Utah GOP, pulling in 55 percent of support from delegates in the final round of voting. Hughes got 45 percent to secure a spot on the ballot. Cox, Huntsman and Wright all gathered signatures so they were safe from elimination at the convention.
Self-described “strong conservatives” in our survey are nearly evenly split between Cox and Hughes, with 37 percent of that group favoring Cox and 35 percent behind Hughes. 21 percent of that group prefer Huntsman and 8 percent chose Wright.
But, Cox pulls away from the rest of the pack among “moderate conservatives,” where he gets 43 percent support. Huntsman is backed by 34 percent of that group. Greg Hughes is favored by 17 percent, and Wright is at 6 percent.
Gov. Gary Herbert’s administration has come under some fire lately for emergency spending during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most notably, the state purchased 20,000 doses of an anti-malarial drug at an inflated price. When the efficacy of the drug in treating coronavirus was found to be questionable at best, the state blacked away from the purchase. The state has racked up more than $100 million in emergency spending since the outbreak of the coronavirus.
That controversy apparently hasn’t rubbed off on Cox. He’s only dropped a single point since our poll in March of this year, where he led Huntsman by a 40-33 margin. The race has remained remarkably static since our initial Utah Political Trends survey from December of last year, where Cox led Huntsman by 41-29 percent.
Hughes has jumped 7 points since the pre-convention primary, while Wright has climbed 5 percent. That could be more a function of the race narrowing from 8 candidates at the convention to just four now than any real signs of momentum from either campaign.
Cox is the top choice among both men and women, with 42 percent of female voters and 36 percent of men saying they plan to cast a ballot for him.
The June 30th GOP primary is closed, meaning only registered Republicans can take part. But, Democrats and unaffiliated voters have the ability to change their registration to the GOP in order to take part in the primary election.
Among unaffiliated voters who are likely to register as Republicans to cast a ballot in the Republican primary election, Huntsman is far and away the top choice. 48 percent of that particular group say they would choose Huntsman, while 31 percent pick Cox. That 17 point gap could prove decisive if sufficient numbers of independent voters (and maybe some Democrats) were to register as Republicans to participate in the primary. UtahPolicy.com’s Bob Bernick breaks those numbers down in greater detail here.
The survey was conducted by Y2 Analytics from May 9-15 among 483 likely Republican primary voters. The margin of error is +/- 4.5 percent.