- Mike Lee leads Evan McMullin 36%-34% in a new Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll.
- The Utah Senate race is shaping up to be one of the most competitive statewide contests in years.
- The key to victory is the support of the state's moderate voters, per Hinckley director Jason Perry.
Republican Sen. Mike Lee holds a narrow lead over independent candidate Evan McMullin in the Utah Senate race, in what is shaping up to be one of the most competitive statewide races in recent memory in the longtime GOP stronghold.
In the latest Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll — among registered voters — Lee earned the support of 36% of respondents, while 34% backed McMullin and 13% opted for another candidate. Per the polling results, 16% of respondents also indicated that they were undecided.
Among likely voters, the race remains largely unchanged, with Lee leading McMullin 37% to 34%, with 16% of respondents stating that they were undecided.
The poll surveyed 815 registered voters from Sept. 3 through Sept. 21 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.43 percentage points.
Jason Perry, the director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah, told Deseret News that the polling indicated that a swath of moderates — who are still not sold on giving Lee a third term in Washington, DC — are the key to the incumbent winning in November and are also critical to McMullin if he is to upset the Republican lawmaker.
"Mike Lee continues to be in the driver's seat, but the most interesting aspect of this poll is who the undecided voters are — moderates and liberals," Perry told the publication. "Mike Lee needs some of the moderates and Evan McMullin needs all the moderates and liberals he can convince, but those groups are in a quandary."
Utah Democrats in April threw their support behind McMullin in the November contest, in turn passing over a nominee from their own party. In endorsing McMullin, Democrats lined up behind a former CIA officer who unsuccessfully sought the presidency in 2016, but performed strongly in the Beehive State — winning 22% of the statewide vote and holding Donald Trump below 50% of the vote in one of the most Republican states in the country.
While Lee overwhelmingly votes in line with most Republican senators, McMullin told NBC News in July that he wouldn't caucus with either major party should he be elected to office this fall.
And while Republican candidates generally enjoy a healthy financial advantage in Utah, McMullin has been able to remain competitive with the incumbent.
According to OpenSecrets, Lee has raised $ 7.9 million and had nearly $ 2.5 million in cash on hand, while McMullin has taken in over $ 3.2 million and had nearly $ 1.3 million in cash on hand.
In the last Deseret News/Hinckley poll — which was conducted in July — Lee held a 41%-36% lead over McMullin.
The latest results show some erosion in support for the senator, as there has since been an increase in the number of voters who are undecided.