An update to a June poll of the GOP field for governor shows State Treasurer Mark Gordon carrying a slight lead heading into Election Day, as undecided voters in the state of Wyoming have begun to select their preferred candidates.
The race is still tight, however, as polling has indicated candidates Harriet Hageman and Foster Friess have made significant gains in support throughout the summer.
Conducted by researchers at the Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center, the new poll is a follow-up to a similar poll of Wyoming voters in June, incorporating the opinions of undecided voters polled several months ago who, since, have made up their minds on a candidate. Reporting a 61 percent response rate among the 589 who participated in the June poll, researchers found a “narrowing of the field” between three clear front-runners in the lead-up to the Republican party primary.
Of the 35 percent of voters who were undecided in June, just 15 percent who were previously surveyed remain unsure of who they’ll be backing in tomorrow’s vote. Many of them flocked to Friess, who saw the largest gain of support among voters throughout the summer with a gain of 13 percent: good for a pre-primary day return of 20 percent. Much of that support came from undecided voters: of the group of voters who were previously undecided, more than a quarter said they would be backing Friess.
The researchers also noted shifts among previously decided voters. While 68 percent of voters who previously supported Friess said they would still likely be voting for him come Tuesday, 21 percent of his earlier supporters have switched their preferences to other candidates, while an additional 11 percent are now undecided. This bears a stark contrast to candidates like Gordon and Hageman, who saw just 4 percent and 2 percent of their early supporters flipping to undecided status. However, both shed quite a bit of support to Friess among their early base, the multimillionaire investor converting Gordon’s early backers at rates of 13 percent and Hageman’s at 17 percent.
Gordon, polling in the lead at 26 percent, enjoyed a 7 percentage point increase from June, his margin sweetened by a 19 percent share of June’s undecided voters stating a preference for him. He also managed to secure 15 percent of Hageman’s previously committed supporters. The results didn’t elicit much of a response from the candidate, however, saying in response “the only poll that counts is the one tomorrow.”
“I have faith in the people on Wyoming,” he added.
Hageman, whose return of 18 percent was equivalent to a 7 percentage point increase among likely voters. This was helped by a conversion of the base of multiple candidates as well as gaining the third-largest share of undecided voters, at just under 13 percent.
Businessman Sam Galeotos saw his support drop to 10 percent – a drop of 4 percentage points decrease. On the margins were Bill Dahlin, who remained at 1 percent, and Taylor Haynes, who dropped a single percentage point to 9 percent.
Despite increased clarity on the pulse of Wyoming’s electorate, researchers emphasized that Monday’s numbers should not be confused with a current estimate of the people’s preferred candidate: “Rather, they describe changes in candidate preference since June,” the report states. The poll also reports a wider margin of error – at plus or minus 4 percent – of other polls.
Monday’s poll comes days after two other polls, each showing different front-runners. The first, released last week, was a privately-conducted poll by national polling firm, the Trafalgar Group: that one showed Friess with a slight lead over Gordon, however that lead was well within the approximate 2 percent margin of error listed by the firm.
Though other campaigns – including Gordon’s – contested the returns shown in that poll, Friess maintained that both the Trafalgar poll and this current poll show promise for his campaign heading into primary day.
"Even though this survey has a margin of error nearly three times higher than the poll released by Real Clear Politics (the Trafalgar poll) recently, it shows an important fact,” Friess said in an email. “The focus of this survey was the changing preferences in the Governors over time. UW found there has been huge growth in support for the Friess campaign that has outpaced all other candidates by almost 2:1. Undecided voters normally break heavily to the candidate that has the momentum going into election. We are encouraged that this is another indicator of a good Tuesday for the Friess Campaign."
The second poll to be released this week, conducted for the Hageman campaign by digital consulting firm, Liftable Media, showed Hageman with a nearly 3 point lead over Gordon and a 5 point lead over Friess. However, that poll has a number of discrepancies that call its reliability into question, including its disproportionate response rate by gender (62 percent female, compared to 38 percent male). The poll also relies exclusively on data compiled via Facebook and under a broad umbrella of individuals who identify as “conservatives,” leaving uncertainty that the poll is truly representative of the pulse of all voters at large.
“There are a lot of issues with that poll... mostly all boiling down to it not being a truly random sample of the population,” Brian Harnisch, a University of Wyoming researcher who helped conduct the June and August polls, wrote in an email. “So you cannot make inferences about the general population. At best, that poll represents the voter preferences of ‘self-identified republicans in Wyoming who use Facebook and are highly engaged on that platform,’ plus some black box proprietary information. [There was] no mention of the number of respondents, response rate, etc.”
Polls open tomorrow at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.