This Utah Policy survey makes three in a row that put McMullin in the 29-31 percent range, with Trump clinging to a bare 30/29 lead. It seems likely that the state really is a toss-up now between the two with ~30 percent apiece. Clinton remains just a few points behind at 25 percent, but that looks to be her ceiling .
What’s interesting about this poll are the religious demographics. McMullin’s surge is being driven not so much by Mormons generally as by “very active” Mormons in particular. The further you move from that niche, the more his support falls. Although, needless to say, if there’s any state where being a favorite of “very active” Mormons might be enough to win, this is it.
McMullin leads Trump among “very active” LDS voters 43-31%.
Surprisingly, “somewhat active” Mormons prefer Trump by 15-points, 37-22%
Hillary Clinton leads among “not active” members of the LDS Church. The Democratic nominee gets 36% of this group, while Trump has 33%. McMullin only gets 13% support here.
Catholics prefer Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump 55-26%. McMullin only gets 5%.
Protestants pick Trump over Clinton, 45-37%. McMullin is at 8%.
Most of the Republican leadership in the state cut Trump loose after the “Access Hollywood” tape came out but rank-and-file GOPers haven’t followed suit (yet?). Trump still leads McMullin among Republican voters by 11 points (48/37) and, interestingly, among “very conservative” voters by 12 (51/39). So how’s McMullin within a point of the lead? Simple: Independents. He leads them with 31 percent followed by Clinton with 27 and Trump in third(!) at just 20. That’s surprising to me since you would think most conservatives in Utah would have been assimilated into the GOP at some point. The resisters, I would have guessed, might lean right on balance but are sufficiently uncomfortable with conservative orthodoxy to refrain from becoming Republicans. (Ideal Gary Johnson voters, one would think.) Yet it’s McMullin who’s the most orthodox conservative in the race — and he’s killing it with independents while Trump, the more centrist Republican, is lagging. Maybe there’s a significant conservative minority in the state who quit the GOP recently because of Trump and now identify as independent.
One note about this poll: It was conducted before the third presidential debate, which other scientific surveys say Clinton won. Here’s a new one from NBC, in fact.
New NBC/Surveymonkey debate poll finds viewers think Clinton won by 46-37 margin, smaller than first two pic.twitter.com/bOAV0LuWQy
— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) October 21, 2016
That split is remarkably close to the RCP polling average in the four-way race (45/39), further evidence that most voters have made their choice for president by now and watched the debate through that lens. Whoever you’re voting for won the debate. If that’s true, the effects in Utah will be unpredictable. Does Clinton’s debate “win” mean she gains a few points and breaks through her 25-percent ceiling after all, or does Trump’s “loss” free up more Republicans and independents to tilt towards McMullin? Like I said yesterday, there’s a chance as buzz grows for McMullin in the state that some Clinton voters will switch to supporting him for strategic reasons. Right now Utah Dems are probably looking at these polls, noticing Clinton is just a few points out of the lead, and sticking with her. If, though, next week’s polls show McMullin up five points on Trump in the mid-30s with Clinton falling into the low 20s, Democrats might conclude that it’s hopeless and therefore pointless to continue to back her. The goal might become to simply take a red state out of Trump’s column by backing the independent. I wonder, in fact, how much Team Clinton itself might try to nudge its voters there towards McMullin in the last two weeks. Stay tuned.