A poll shows Secretary of State Ken Bennett as the early favorite in the Republican primary for the 2014 governor’s race, though more than half of the respondents were undecided.
Bennett and Treasurer Doug Ducey also hold narrow leads over presumptive Democratic nominee Fred DuVal in the general election, according to the poll.
Susquehanna Polling and Research, a Pennsylvania-based company that recently opened an office in Arizona, surveyed 600 voters between Nov. 27 and Dec. 4. Only the 245 respondents who identified as Republicans were asked about the GOP primary for governor.
Among the 245 Republicans, 20 percent said they would cast their ballots for Bennett if the election were held today, compared to 8 percent for Ducey. Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, who has not yet declared whether he will run for governor, garnered 6 percent of the vote, while former GoDaddy executive Christine Jones and former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas each took 4 percent and Sen. Al Melvin took 2 percent.
However, 53 percent of respondents were undecided at this early stage in the race.
“Given the high undecided, it’s still way too early to predict a victory for anyone,” Jim Lee, Susquehanna’s president, said in a polling memo.
Many political observers view Bennett’s relatively high name identification as a strength in the governor’s race. Ducey and Jones, meanwhile, are expected to raise substantial war chests for their campaigns, while Bennett, a Clean Elections candidate, will only have about $800,000 in public funding for the Republican primary.
In a poll of all 600 respondents, Bennett took a 38-33 lead over DuVal in the general election, with 28 percent undecided, while Ducey led the former Board of Regents chairman 36-33, with 31 percent undecided.
“The closeness of both races show that the governor’s race next November could be very competitive regardless of who the nominees are,” Leslie Kelly, Susquehanna’s regional director of business development, said in the polling memo.
The general election poll had a margin of error of +/- 4 percent, according to Susquehanna. The GOP primary poll, which had far fewer respondents, had a +/- 6.2 percent margin of error, according to the firm.
Susquehanna polled respondents who had a history of voting in at least one of the past three general elections, with the majority having voted in all three. It is unknown how many of the Republican respondents have histories of voting in GOP primaries.
Forty-one percent of the respondents were Republicans, 31 percent were Democrats and 27 percent were independents or of other parties, which is fairly consistent with partisan turnout models for Arizona general elections between 2004 and 2010.
The survey was a combination of live-caller and autodial calls. Sixty percent of the respondents were contacted via autodialers, while 40 percent were polled by live operators.
Susquehanna said the poll was not paid for by any political party or candidate.