Heinrich, now in his second term as the 1st Congressional District representative in the U.S. House, was backed by 50 percent of voters surveyed statewide Oct. 23-25.
Wilson, the former five-term representative of the 1st Congressional District, had support from 42 percent of voters in the survey.
The new poll found a 3 percentage point gain for Wilson over the 39 percent who said they would vote for her in a Journal Poll conducted Oct. 9-11, which Heinrich led by 9 points.
Independent American Party candidate Jon Barrie totaled 3 percent in the new poll. Another 6 percent of voters remained undecided.
The margin of error for the full voter sample in the Oct 23-25 Journal Poll is plus or minus 3.8 percentage points. The survey included likely voters for the Nov. 6 election and voters who said they cast ballots early. Early voting in New Mexico began Oct. 9.
The three candidates are aiming to replace U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., who is retiring after 30 years.
Between the two Journal surveys this month, Heinrich’s margin over Wilson declined by 1 point to a lead of 8 percentage points.
However, the Democrat reached the 50 percent support level for the first time in a Journal survey.
For Wilson to overtake Heinrich, her campaign would have to win all remaining undecided voters and take away at least 3 percentage points of the support now claimed by Heinrich or Barrie, said Journal pollster Brian Sanderoff.
“On one hand, the lead has gone from 9 (points) to 8,” Sanderoff said. “On the other hand, the undecideds keep dropping and Heinrich has reached the 50 percent mark, and we’re that much closer to the election.”
Adding to Wilson’s challenge is the fact that Barrie drew support predominantly from voters who likely would have supported Wilson if the third-party candidate, who is affiliated with the tea party, were not in the race, Sanderoff said.
Barrie was winning about 5 percent of Republican and independent voters but had a statistical 0 percent support level from Democrats, the Journal Poll found.
Heinrich and Wilson were splitting independent voters, 45 percent to 44 percent, in the latest Journal Poll.
Wilson’s share of independents in the new survey was increased from earlier this month, when she was backed by 36 percent of independents.
Wilson also appeared to be running more strongly than Heinrich among members of the opposite party – drawing support from 15 percent of Democrats, compared with Heinrich pulling support from 10 percent of Republicans. About 6 percent of voters from each party remained undecided.
Because Democrats represent about 48 percent of statewide voter registrations, Wilson must draw more Democrats than she has so far in the Senate race, Sanderoff said.
“Heather Wilson needs to pick up more crossover Democrats and independents,” Sanderoff said. “For her to close the gap and to win, she needs more of those groups.”
Breaking it down
Heinrich and Wilson remained close among male voters, with 46 percent backing Heinrich and 44 percent backing Wilson. Among women, however, Heinrich had a more significant lead, with the support of 53 percent of female voters to Wilson’s 39 percent.
Heinrich also maintained a strong lead among voters who identified themselves as Hispanic. Hispanics preferred Heinrich 67 percent to 24 percent, the latest Journal Poll found.
Wilson’s regional support was strongest on the east side of the state, with 56 percent of voters there saying they would or had voted for her. Wilson also had an advantage in northwestern New Mexico, 54 percent to 44 percent.
Heinrich led in the Albuquerque area, 49 percent to 40 percent, although the former Albuquerque city councilor appeared to have lost a little ground to Wilson among city voters, who previously favored him 52 percent to 37 percent.
Heinrich has continued to hold his strongest advantage in New Mexico’s north-central region, which includes Santa Fe and Española. Heinrich had a 38 percentage point advantage there in the latest Journal Poll.
The Journal Poll on the U.S. Senate race in New Mexico was conducted by Oct. 23-25 by Research & Polling Inc. of Albuquerque. It is based on cellphone and land-line telephone interviews statewide of 662 likely voters in the Nov. 6 general election, or voters who said they had already voted. 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, such as ethnicity, gender and region. Sums may not equal 100 percent because of rounding error.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal