A new poll released by JMC Analytics and Polling on Monday morning shows that Bill Lee now leads the Republican gubernatorial primary.
The poll of 500 registered Republican voters conducted between July 18 and July 21 puts Lee in first place with 26 percent, followed by Randy Boyd in second with 20 percent. Rep. Diane Black (R-TN-06) in third with 19 percent, and Tennessee Speaker of the House Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) in fourth place with 16 percent. Seventeen percent are undecided.
“The main takeaways are as follows: (1) Donald Trump remains popular among Tennessee Republicans, and (2) with the primary less than two weeks away (and as of this past Friday, 179,504 have early voted in the Republican primary), Bill Lee leads in the race, and the other three major contenders are not far behind, although his “lead” is at the periphery of the margin of error, depending on whether undecided “leaners” are included,” JMC noted in its statement accompanying the release of the poll Monday.
The poll has a margin of error of 4.4 percent and has plenty of caveats.
First, the poll was of registered voters only, not likely Republican primary voters. Just 71 percent of the poll respondents said they intended to vote in the Republican primary on August 2. Seventeen percent of respondents said they would not vote in the Republican primary, while 13 percent said they were undecided as to whether they would vote or not.
The gubernatorial matchup results of 500 respondents included likely primary voters and uncertain primary voters. Of those 500 respondents, 84.5 percent, or 423, said they were definitely voting in the Republican primary, while 15.5 percent, or 77, said they were uncertain if they would vote in the Republican primary.
JMC did not provide crosstabs that showed the breakdown between the 423 likely primary voters and the 77 uncertain primary voters polled.
Typically, the most reliable polls include only likely voters, not registered voters.
Second, as JMC concluded in their executive summary, “In summary, Bill Lee has a lead (but not a secure one) in the primary race for Governor, while the remaining three major candidates are statistically neck and neck with a relatively low undecided percentage less than two weeks from the primary.”
Among Republicans, Donald Trump remains popular with overwhelming support across the board, although support is not so one-sided both among self-described “traditional Republicans” and those who do not describe themselves as Evangelical Christians.
In the Governor’s race, Bill Lee is currently out front, while Randy Boyd has a small lead over Diane Black for second place, although the point spread between Boyd, Black, or Harwell is not substantial. Lee has a fairly broad base of support, although self-described “Trump Republicans” favor Black over Boyd or Lee by an eight point margin if leaners are included. From a geographic and GOP factional perspective, Lee is (relatively speaking) the strongest in middle Tennessee; he narrowly leads in Eastern Tennessee and narrowly trails in Western Tennessee, although in each region, his lead/poll deficit is within the margin of error. This is a race with a respectable amount of voter engagement: 17% (11% if leaners are included) are undecided.
Fivethirtyeight.com gave JMC a C+ grade for its polling of the 2016 election.
You can read the top line summary of the poll, along with the crosstabs, here: