Nielson Brothers Polling, a local firm with Democratic connections, finds Mike Rounds with a strong but shrinking lead over Democrat Rick Weiland.
In their Oct. 2 to Oct. 6 automated poll, Rounds had support from 50 percent of voters compared to 35 percent for Weiland.
That’s down from June, when NBP found Rounds up 54-27, more than 25 points.
Rounds was in a strong position in the GOP primary. NBP found 46 percent of Republican voters picked Rounds. The strongest GOP rival was Stace Nelson with 10.5 percent. Larry Rhoden (4 percent) and Annette Bosworth (3 percent) were far behind.
(This, to me, is perhaps the most interesting finding of the survey — I think it’s the first time we’ve had a public, scientific poll ask this question. I’m not surprised that Nelson is doing better than Rhoden and Bosworth, since he’s tapping into an established network of conservative activists including tea party groups and Ron Paul supporters. That said, his early lead now doesn’t mean he’ll hold it.)
A third of Republican voters were undecided.
Winning a multi-way primary election doesn’t require an absolute majority. Rounds just needs a plurality of votes with at least 35 percent support to win without a runoff.
In head-to-head matchups against Nelson, Rhoden, and Bosworth, Weiland comes out narrowly on top in all three. He’s neck-and-neck with Nelson, with 35.5 percent to Nelson’s 34.5 percent, and beats Rhoden 36.5 to 32, and Bosworth 37.5 to 32.5. NBP says a big part of this close race is Republican support dropping off sharply for the lesser-known candidates.
The pollsters also asked about a hypothetical primary election between Weiland, Brendan Johnson and Steve Jarding (even though Johnson has said he won’t run for Senate and Jarding has only talked about running for House and governor). They find Johnson, much better known, would clean house with 31 percent to Weiland’s 10 percent and Jarding’s 6.5 percent. This comes despite Weiland making big gains among Democratic voters since the June survey, as he’s toured the state and spoken to many local Democratic groups.
The survey talked to just over 800 voters and has a margin of error of around 3.4 percent for more questions. Questions about the Republican primary talked to around 400 voters and had a margin of error of 4.8 percent. Questions about the Democratic primary talked to 280 voters and had a margin of error of 5.8 percent.
This was the second of three releases from NBP about this poll. They previously released results about the government shutdown. Next week they’ll release polling on the minimum wage and abortion. The issue-specific questions were asked after the head-to-head matchup questions.