August 20, 2018

Poll: Close governor’s race, Johnson in 2nd in Senate race

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Emerson College e-Poll

The race for New Mexico governor is tight, while the incumbent Democratic U.S. senator holds a sizeable lead over his two challengers, according to a new poll from Emerson College.

The poll, conducted last week, via calls to landlines and online surveys and released Monday morning, shows Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham with a two point lead over Republican nominee Steve Pearce, 42 percent to 40 percent. The poll shows 18 percent of voters polled are still undecided.

The poll is of registered voters.

Both candidates are leaving their respective congressional seats to run for governor.

Pearce spokesman Kevin Sheridan said that “August has been a great month” for the campaign.

“We are getting tremendous feedback from Steve’s message that he is the leader for New Mexico who will create jobs,” he said of the poll’s results.

James Hallinan, a spokesman for Lujan Grisham, was skeptical of the poll’s results and said, “The stakes couldn’t be higher for our state after eight years of failed Republican leadership from Susana Martinez.”

“The veracity of this poll is questionable for many reasons including that its registered voters not likely voters, no live calls were made, and the sample is not representative of the New Mexico electorate,” he said.

The poll found each candidate leading among their own constituents, though the poll shows Pearce leading in the 3rd Congressional District, a Democratic stronghold where a Republican has only held office once, two decades ago. The only Republican to win the district since 2014 was Gov. Susana Martinez in her blowout victory against Democratic nominee Gary King.

U.S. Senate race

The polling memo calls former Gov. Gary Johnson, a Libertarian, “the top competition” against U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich. Johnson officially entered the race just last week.

Heinrich has the support of 39 percent of those polled, Gary Johnson, 21 percent and Mick Rich, just 11 percent. The poll shows 30 percent undecided.

“Martin Heinrich remains committed to running on his record and vision for New Mexico, and that will be his focus whether a poll shows him winning by 18 points or not,” Heinrich campaign spokeswoman Vanessa Valdivia said.

The poll showed that Johnson, who served two terms as governor of New Mexico as a Republican before becoming the Libertarian nominee for president in 2012 and 2016, captured more Republicans than the Republican nominee.

A spokesman for Johnson said the poll results were not a surprise.

“The data we have looked at certainly has shown that there’s a race,” Joe Hunter said. “Otherwise we wouldn’t be in it. The Emerson Poll is consistent with what we believe is the state of play.”

Rich’s campaign, meanwhile, said the results are in question because of the methodology.

“The methodology is flawed,” pollster Brian Tringali of The Tarrance Group, which conducts polling for Rich, said. “It includes very few seniors, and it does not match every other recent poll.”

The Tarrance Group is a Republican firm that also conducts polls for the Pearce campaign.

Approval ratings

Meanwhile, Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, remains an unpopular figure as she finishes her time in office. Just 30 percent of voters polled say they approve of her job performance and 47 percent disapprove. Martinez is term-limited and was barred from running for a third-consecutive term.

She is even more unpopular than President Donald Trump, who New Mexico voters give a 35 percent approval rating to 54 percent disapproval, below national polling averages.

The poll also found registered voters did not back expanding a border wall between the United States and Mexico. Just 38 percent said they favored it, while 54 percent opposed it.

The poll of 500 registered voters was conducted August 17 and 18 by calling landlines and through Survey Monkey online. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 4.6 percent.

Interactive Voice Response, or IVR, polling is conducted only with landlines, which some consider less reliable than polling conducted via live-interviews over the phone. One reason is that IVR polls cannot legally call cell phones. To make up for this, some pollsters have begun using online panels.

Update: Added information about The Tarrance Group.