Bluegrass Poll | Conway holds slim lead over Bevin in governor’s race

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) – A new Bluegrass Poll shows Democrat Attorney General Jack Conway with a slight lead over Republican Matt Bevin in the race to be Kentucky’s next governor.

With 100 days until ballots are counted, Conway edges Bevin 45 to 42 percent. The poll — conducted for WKYT-TV, the Lexington Herald-Leader, the Louisville Courier-Journal, and WHAS-TV — asked 1,000 adults about the battle to replace term-limited Gov. Steve Beshear.

In a two-person governor's race, Bevin suffers because 15 percent of those polled said they are "very conservative" but cross-over and vote for the Democrat Conway. Bevin needs every one of these "very conservative" votes to win, according to SurveyUSA which conducted the poll which found 13 percent of likely voters remain undecided.

When all registered voters are asked which of the two is better qualified to deal with the state worker pension system, voters split: 37 percent name Conway, 36 percent name Bevin. When registered voters are asked who is better qualified to manage the state’s budget, voters split: 38 percent say Conway, 38 percent say Bevin.

In a head-to-head match-up with Conway, Bevin leads by 19 points in southern and western Kentucky, by 13 points in west central Kentucky which maps closely to the second Congressional district, and by a nominal two points in traditionally conservative northern Kentucky.

Conway leads Bevin by 30 points in Jefferson County, by 11 points in the central Kentucky area that closely maps the fifth Congressional district, and by a nominal three points in eastern Kentucky.

“This poll could be instructive to both campaigns because it’s clear that we have a region-by-region battle with each campaign having strong holds in some parts of the state while others are obvious battlegrounds,” said WKYT political editor Bill Bryant.

The wild card in the election is whether Independent Drew Curtis who runs meet the deadline to enter the race.

“He is a wild card. There is no telling what kind of effect he could have on this race," said Herald-Leader political writer Sam Youngman.

If Curtis is on the November 3 ballot, the Bluegrass Poll found he would capture eight percent of the likely vote and takes slightly more votes from the Republican than from the Democrat. A three-way contest would have Conway leading by five points: Conway 43 percent, Bevin 38 percent, Curtis eight percent, with 11 percent undecided. Of Bevin supporters in a two-person race, seven percent vote for Curtis in a three-person race. Of Conway supporters in a two-person race, five percent vote for Curtis in a three-person race.

"I think right now Drew Curtis is concerning a lot of Democrats. They think he is left-leaning in a lot of policy issues, and they are worried he could play a Ralph Nader spoiler role,” Youngman said. “But what's remarkable about this poll is he is pulling from both sides. You see that if he gets in the race the numbers move slightly in Conway's favor."

Going into the race, Conway was well-known for his recent high-profile, headline-grabbing failed battle against now Sen. Rand Paul and his emotional decision to not appeal a judge's order for Kentucky to recognize same-sex marriages from other states and countries while Bevin most recently tangled with Sen. Mitch McConnell who defeated him in the 2014 Republican primary.

TV ads in the race for governor are focusing not on the candidates but on Democratic President Barack Obama. Previous Bluegrass Polls show Obama is unpopular with a majority of Kentucky voters.

An ad from Conway says he was the only Democratic attorney general in the country to sue the Obama administration over proposed emission standards for coal-fired power plants. In the ad, Conway says he will stand up to anybody to keep people working in coal mines.

An ad from the Republican Governor's Association supporting Bevin criticizes Conway for not joining other states in a lawsuit trying to overturn the federal Affordable Care Act. The ad says hospitals are struggling financially and insurance premiums have increased since the act was passed.

About the poll

SurveyUSA interviewed 1,000 adults from the state July 22-28. Of the adults, 856 were registered to vote in Kentucky. Of the registered voters, 685 were determined by SurveyUSA to be likely to vote in the November 3 election for Governor. This research was conducted using blended sample, mixed mode. Respondents reachable on a landline telephone (72 percent of likely voters) were interviewed on their home telephone in the recorded voice of a professional announcer. Respondents not reachable on a home telephone (28 percent of likely voters) were shown a questionnaire on their smartphone, tablet or other electronic device. Respondents to this survey were asked both what their party registration is, and what their party affiliation is. Party registration is reported herein as a binary result: 53 percent of likely voters are registered Democrat; 35 percent of likely voters are Republican. Among registered voters, the split is: 51 percent Democrat and 34 percent Republican. Separately, the same likely voters were asked to place themselves on a seven-point continuum, from "Strong Republican" to "Strong Democrat." Those results are also reported herein. In addition, voters were asked to place themselves on a five-point continuum from "Very Conservative" to "Very Liberal." Those results are reported herein.

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