CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Less than three weeks until Election Day, Greenbrier owner Jim Justice still has a double-digit lead in the governor’s race over Senate President Bill Cole, according to the MetroNews West Virginia Poll released today.

Justice, the Democratic nominee, leads by an 11-point margin, according to the latest poll.

Justice is favored by 44 percent of those who responded while Cole received 33 percent. Mountain Party candidate Charlotte Pritt was at 8 percent, Libertarian Party candidate David Moran was at 5 percent, and 9 percent were not sure.

“His lead has slipped slightly from the last wave of our poll, but it’s within the margin of error. So he is maintaining a double digit lead, based on this wave of data,” said Rex Repass, CEO of Repass Research and director of the MetroNews West Virginia Poll.

The poll of 408 likely voters was conducted Oct. 12 and 17 after the second gubernatorial debate. There was an overall margin of error of +/- 4.9 percentage points.

When the two major party candidates were paired in a head-to-head matchup, Justice leads Cole by 52 percent to 36 percent, with 12 percent undecided, according to the  poll.

Other key findings:

  • Cole voters were more uncertain about their choice: 29 percent of likely voters said they would definitely or probably vote for the Republican nominee, while 44 percent of Justice voters said they would definitely or probably vote for the Democratic nominee.
  • Justice was supported by 20 percent of Republicans, while 15 percent of Democrats said they would vote for Cole. Justice leads Cole by 15 percentage points among independents.
  • A majority of likely voters (52 percent) said they believe Justice will prevail, regardless of their personal support for any of the candidates.

“Looking at the data, the support for Justice among his voters is stronger than the support for Cole among his voters,” Repass said this morning. “Even if one were to assume that all undecideds today would vote for Cole on Nov. 8, he still would have to pick up some voters who were not totally committed to Justice.

“There are more soft voters for Cole than there are soft voters for Justice.”

In addition to being conducted after the second gubernatorial debate, the poll also was conducted after a National Public Radio investigative story revealed Justice’s companies owe $15 million in taxes and fines, and that his companies together would be considered the nation’s top mine safety delinquent.

“Voters tend to solidify their points of view on candidates in a governor’s race later than they do in a  presidential. So anything can happen,” Repass said. “However, it appears to not have had much of an effect.”

The MetroNews West Virginia Poll released in early September showed similar results, with Justice favored by 46 percent in that version with Cole at 32 percent and the other candidates and undecideds making up the rest.

That poll was conducted prior to two debates between Cole and Justice, two weeks in a row in October.

MetroNews and Repass gathered a focus group for the second debate. That group made up of Democrats, Republicans and independent voters went with Justice 7-5 after watching the debate together at West Virginia Radio Corporation offices in Charleston.

Some members of the focus group credited Cole with greater command of facts, but other members of the group described Justice as more relate-able.

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