Poll shows Cox far ahead of Lyman in Utah Republican primary

Jun 11, 2024, 5:34 PM

Gov. Spencer J. Cox, left, speaks to reporters during the Governor's Monthly News Conference at the...

Gov. Spencer J. Cox, left, speaks to reporters during the Governor's Monthly News Conference at the PBS Utah Studios in Salt Lake City on Thursday, May 16, 2024. Rep. Phil Lyman, R-Blanding, right, testifies about his bill, HB371, in the House Government Operations Standing Committee at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022. (Laura Seitz and Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

(Laura Seitz and Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Gov. Spencer Cox has a commanding lead over his primary challenger, state Rep. Phil Lyman, ahead of the June 25 primary election.

Cox, who is running for his second term in office, is among the most popular governors in the nation. So when state Rep. Phil Lyman was the top vote-getter at the GOP state convention in April, winning 67% of delegates’ votes, many were surprised.

But a new poll conducted by HarrisX for the Deseret News and the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics shows Cox with 62% support among registered Republican voters, while Lyman garners 25% support. Another 12% of voters said they were unsure.

Among likely GOP primary voters, the split was 64% for Cox, 26% for Lyman and 10% unsure.

When undecided voters were asked which way they were leaning, Cox’s lead increased, with 71% choosing the incumbent compared to 29% for Lyman.

The poll was conducted by HarrisX among 477 registered Republican voters, and 421 likely voters, including those who have already voted, from June 4-7, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute, said while there was some division evident among Republicans at the state convention, the poll results show convention delegates do favor “much more conservative” candidates than the Republican electorate statewide.

“This is not a completely new phenomenon, it’s something we’ve seen over the years,” Perry said. “We’re just seeing it more clearly this year than we have in the past.”

Cox was booed at the convention by some of the delegates, leading him to express frustration with delegates and the convention system.

“I’m a little worried about our caucus convention system,” Cox said at the time. “There are a whole bunch of people out there who want to get rid of this. … I hope you’re not giving them more ammunition today.”

Lyman has waged an aggressive campaign, accusing Cox of mishandling funds during the pandemic and of being soft on immigration. He has also criticized Cox over government spending.

Cox has run on policies he’s championed during his first term as governor, including cutting taxes while increasing spending on education, and his battle against social media companies who he says are harming children.

A poll conducted by the Deseret News and the Hinckley Institute asking Utah Republican voters, "If the Republican primary for Utah governor were held today, who would you vote for?"

A poll conducted by Deseret News and the Hinckley Institute asking Utah Republican voters, “If the Republican primary for Utah governor were held today, who would you vote for?” (Deseret News)

The poll demonstrates how Cox’s message is resonating with a broad cross section of Utah voters.

“This poll clearly demonstrates Gov. Cox has broad support throughout the state and in the Republican Party. He’s ahead in every demographic, which is the position that he’s been trying to be in. Because of that, he’s in a commanding lead,” said Perry.

As part of the poll, Utah voters were also asked whether they have a favorable or unfavorable impression of Cox. Overall, 57% of voters said they have a favorable impression of Cox, including 66% of Republicans and 35% of Democrats. Among independents, 50% said they have a favorable impression.

Cox, Lyman campaigns respond to poll

When asked for a response to the poll, campaign spokesperson Matt Lusty said they were “encouraged by these results which are reflective of our internal polling.”

“Governor Cox and Lieutenant Governor Henderson will continue to work every day to earn the vote of Utah Republicans by delivering a message of optimism and conservative leadership,” he said.

Lyman responded to the poll by saying he didn’t expect “conventional political polls to show Spencer Cox losing this race.”

“Yet, 62% of Utahns think our state is headed in the wrong direction,” he said.

Lyman said his internal polls show “a much tighter race,” and said he believes they have “more volunteers, more campaign donors, more enthusiasm, and a brighter vision for Utah.”

“After a dominant performance in the Republican Convention, we’ve been focusing on building a strong new coalition of Republican primary voters who want more than just the status quo. We have a lot of work to do for a victory on June 25, and we are fighting hard for every vote,” he said.

Cox and Lyman will meet for a debate on Tuesday at 6 p.m., hosted by the Utah Debate Commission. The debate will be broadcast on the commission’s Facebook page and on several local TV channels, including KSL TV.

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Poll shows Cox far ahead of Lyman in Utah Republican primary