Heinrich, now in his second term as the 1st Congressional District representative in the U.S. House, drew support from 48 percent of voters in the statewide poll on the Senate race, conducted Oct. 9 -11.
Thirty-nine percent of voters said they preferred Wilson, who preceded Heinrich in the 1st Congressional District seat, serving from 1998 to 2009.
Journal Poll on the U.S. House races
Nine percent of voters remain undecided in the Senate race. The remaining 4 percent backed Independent American Party candidate Jon Barrie.
The margin of error in the Journal Poll is plus or minus 3.8 percentage points. The survey included likely voters for the Nov. 6 election and voters who cast ballots early. Early voting in New Mexico began Oct. 9.
The three candidates are vying to replace U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., who is retiring after 30 years in the Senate seat.
“I think (Heinrich) has stuck to his game plan from the beginning, a traditional Democratic Party message, and it’s worked. He’s avoided missteps,” Journal pollster Brian Sanderoff said. “Wilson has not been able to kink his political armor yet.”
Heinrich’s advantage in the race has grown from a 7-point edge in the Journal Poll last month. However, that poll did not include Barrie, who is drawing away about 1 percent of the vote from both Heinrich and Wilson, the new poll indicates.
Contributing to Heinrich’s advantage in the new poll was increased support from self-identified independent voters. In the latest Journal Poll, Heinrich drew support from 49 percent of independent voters.
Much of Heinrich’s gain among independents apparently eroded away from Wilson. Independents in September broke for Wilson 53 percent to 37 percent. In the new Journal Poll, Wilson dropped to 36 percent support among independents.
That shift came as Wilson has used TV ads to cast Heinrich’s political positions as “too extreme” for New Mexico. Sanderoff said that message has probably helped Wilson rally support among her Republican base but does not seem to have swayed many independent voters.
Meanwhile, Wilson has lost support among Democrats – a group comprising 48 percent of all registered voters in New Mexico that Republicans must draw from to win any statewide race. Wilson was backed by 10 percent of Democrats in the new Journal Poll, down from 17 percent in September.
“Heather Wilson, part of her success in the past (U.S. House elections) was being able get a sufficient number of cross-over Democrats,” Sanderoff said. “That’s just not the case this time.”
Eleven percent of Democrats said they’re still undecided in the Senate race.
Voters who identified themselves as Hispanic preferred Heinrich at nearly a 3-to-1 ratio, with 62 percent saying they plan to vote for the Democrat.
Heinrich appeared to have at least a slight advantage among female voters, 45 percent to 40 percent. However, 11 percent of women were undecided.
Wilson’s regional support was strongest on the east side of the state, with 57 percent of voters there saying they preferred the Republican. Wilson also had an advantage in northwestern New Mexico, 49 percent to 34 percent.
Heinrich, a former Albuquerque city councilor, had a strong lead in the Albuquerque area, with 52 percent compared with 37 percent for Wilson.
Heinrich’s strongest area of support in the state was New Mexico’s north-central region, which includes Santa Fe and Española. Heinrich led Wilson there 62 percent to 28 percent.
The Journal Poll on the Senate race was conducted by Research and Polling Inc. of Albuquerque and is based on cellphone and land-line telephone interviews of 658 likely voters statewide from Oct. 9 to Oct. 11. The margin of error for the statewide sample in the Journal Poll is plus or minus 3.8 percentage points. The margin of error grows for subsamples. Sums may not equal 100 percent because of rounding error.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal