U.S. Senate candidate Allen Weh appeared to gain a little ground in recent weeks, but the Republican challenger continues to trail Democratic Sen. Tom Udall by a wide margin, a new Journal Poll found.
Just over half of the likely New Mexico voters surveyed – 51 percent – said they supported Udall for re-election in the September poll, conducted Tuesday through Thursday last week. Thirty-eight percent said they preferred Weh. Another 11 percent were undecided.
A Journal Poll conducted Aug. 12-14 found Udall had 53 percent of voters at the time, compared with 35 percent backing Weh.
The number of undecided voters was unchanged between the two polls, at 11 percent. The August results totaled 99 percent because of rounding.
“Tom Udall started out a month ago – before Allen Weh had hit the airwaves – with an 18-point lead, basically running against a person who people hardly knew,” said Journal pollster Brian Sanderoff, president of Research & Polling Inc. “Now, as Allen Weh introduces himself to the voters through media and other vehicles, it’s not surprising to see the gap has narrowed.”
Weh’s improvement in the latest poll appeared to come from a significant gain among independent voters. Since August, Weh has cut Udall’s advantage among independents from 36 percentage points to 3 points.
About 22 percent of independents were undecided in the new poll of the U.S. Senate race. Last month, just 12 percent of independents were undecided.
The shift among independent voters suggests that those voters are considering the Republican, Sanderoff said, making Weh competitive with Udall among those voters.
“The independents didn’t even know who he was a month ago,” Sanderoff said. “Now, he’s picked up 12 percentage points among independents.”
But Weh has failed to move Democrats in a state where Democratic voters represent a plurality of all registered voters.
Democrats account for 47 percent of registered voters; Republicans, 31 percent; independents, or decline to state a party affiliation, 19 percent; and other parties, 3 percent.
Udall showed gains within his own party, with the number of Democrats saying they support him increasing to 82 percent from 79 percent in August.
Udall held Weh to claiming just 9 percent of the Democrats in the new poll. By comparison, Republican Gov. Susana Martinez in the state governor’s race is drawing support from 27 percent of Democrats, the Journal Poll found.
Weh “hasn’t tapped into much Democratic support yet, and that’s one of the reasons he’s still behind by such a large measure,” Sanderoff said. “Republicans can’t win in statewide offices by only having single-digit support among Democrats.”
Weh showed some gains among Republicans by winning back a few who previously backed Udall.
Seventy-eight percent of Republicans in the latest survey said they would vote for Weh, compared with 73 percent in August.
Thirteen percent of Republican voters said they’d prefer Udall, compared with 16 percent who favored Udall last month.
Ethnic and regional groups
Weh also saw a bump in his support among self-described Hispanic voters, but Udall held on to a nearly three-to-one advantage among the ethnic group.
Udall led Weh among Hispanic voters 65 percent to 23 percent in the latest survey, compared with Udall’s 70-17 advantage last month.
Weh, however, held a small advantage among Anglo voters, with 48 percent backing Weh and 43 percent supporting Udall. Those numbers were unchanged from the August survey.
Regionally, Weh saw gains in the state’s northwestern region where he has an advantage over Udall, improving from his position last month.
Weh also led Udall on the state’s Republican-leaning east side.
Udall held advantages in all other areas of the state – including the Albuquerque metro area, north-central New Mexico and the state’s southern and southwestern regions – although Weh showed some improvement in the southern part of the state.
The Journal Poll is based on a scientific, statewide sample of 603 proven voters who cast ballots in the 2010 and 2012 general elections and said they were likely to vote again this year.
The poll was conducted Sept. 9 through 11. The full voter sample has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. The margin of error grows for subsamples.
Research & Polling Inc. generated a random sample in which each New Mexico county received a representative proportion based on turnout patterns in the 2010 general election for governor. When necessary, Research & Polling weights the surveys to reflect the known distribution of age, gender and party affiliation, based on the 2010 election. Historically, voter turnout is much lower in non-presidential election years such as 2010 and 2014. Racial and ethnic proportions are based on Research & Polling estimates of turnout patterns.
All interviews were conducted by live, professional interviewers, with multiple callbacks to households that did not initially answer the phone.
Both landlines (73 percent) and cellphone numbers (27 percent) of proven general election voters were used.