Incumbent Gov. Jim Justice has a wide lead over his Democratic challenger, Ben Salango, according to the latest edition of the West Virginia Poll.
Justice, a Republican, leads the race by a 19-point margin, according to results of the MetroNews West Virginia Poll released this morning.
Justice leads Salango by a 53 to 34 percent margin.
“He has his work cut out to make this a closer race,” pollster Rex Repass said of Salango, who is a Kanawha County commissioner.
Erika Kolenich, the nominee of the Libertarian Party, would receive 5 percent of the vote if the election were held today, while the Mountain Party’s Daniel P. Lutz would receive two percent. Six percent are undecided.
Early voting in West Virginia starts Oct. 21, and Election Day is Nov. 3.
The only scheduled debate between Justice and Salango is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday. The West Virginia Broadcasters Association debate will be moderated by Hoppy Kercheval of MetroNews.
Justice is not only the incumbent governor but also owns the historic Greenbrier Resort as well as coal and agriculture holdings. He has been subject of news coverage in West Virginia for years and often references his close relationship with President Donald Trump, who is popular in West Virginia.
“He has all the benefits and the challenges the office brings, and he’s well known,” Repass said.
Salango, a plaintiffs attorney who has served on the Kanawha County Commission since 2017, is not as well known across the state.
When poll participants were asked whether they approve of Salango, 32.6 percent indicated approval, 30.3 percent indicated disapproval, and 37.1 percent said they are not sure.
For Justice, 53.7 percent indicated approval, 35.6 percent indicated disapproval and just 10.7 percent said they’re not sure.
“So from Ben Salango’s position, while he’s a sitting commissioner in Kanawha County, he is not well-known statewide,” Repass said. “People just aren’t sure how he would be positioned on issues.”
Poll results show West Virginia voters believe Justice will do a better job than Salango at handling the economy, 52 percent to 28 percent with 24 percent unsure.
Voters express more confidence in Justice’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, 48 percent to 28 percent with 24 percent unsure. Justice has had regular briefings about the pandemic response streaming over video.
And 44 percent favor Justice’s approach to reopening K-12 schools, compared to Salango’s 29 percent and the 27 percent who are unsure. Salango won endorsements from teachers unions, including the West Virginia Education Association, AFT-West Virginia and the West Virginia School Service Personnel.
Justice’s campaign said those results are reflective of what he’s done the past four years.
“We are pleased. We are excited,” said Larry Puccio, political adviser to the Justice campaign.
Puccio added, “More important than the big lead is the confidence people have in the governor, and it’s high.”
Larry Puccio, Advisor to the Justice campaign, talks with @HoppyKercheval about the numbers regarding the latest MetroNews poll on the Governor’s race. WATCH: https://t.co/wkudfIRZCB pic.twitter.com/6lCBCfXo4j
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) October 9, 2020
Some other polls have shown a closer race.
A poll released this week by WMOV Radio/Triton Polling showed 48 percent for Justice and 40 percent for Salango. Another poll from Strategies Unlimited showed just a gap of 46 percent for Justice to 40 percent for Salango.
“There are two other polls out this week that show Ben within 10.8 percent and 6 percent of Jim Justice, so with three weeks left this is still a jump ball,” stated Kelsi Browning, spokeswoman for the Salango campaign. “As voters start to pay attention, we are growing our momentum until Nov. 3.”
Grant Herring, Manager of the Ben Salango campaign, joins @HoppyKercheval to discuss the numbers regarding the latest MetroNews poll on the Governor’s race. WATCH: https://t.co/wkudfIRZCB pic.twitter.com/iTWXG1mbVU
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) October 9, 2020
Each candidate showed strong fundraising for the final stretch of the campaign in reports released this week through the Secretary of State’s Office.
Justice’s campaign raised nearly $890,000 over the past three months. Salango’s campaign reported raising nearly $564,000.
Justice’s campaign reported having about $263,000 cash on hand, while Salango has nearly $153,000.
The MetroNews West Virginia Poll was conducted between Oct. 1-6 among a sample of 450 West Virginia registered voters who are likely to vote in the upcoming Nov. 3 General Election. The overall confidence interval for the survey is +/- 4.6 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.
Results of this edition of MetroNews West Virginia Poll are based on interviews conducted between Oct. 1-6, 2020 with a sample of 450 West Virginia registered voters who are likely to vote in the upcoming November 3rd national general election, including registered Democrats, Republicans, Libertarian, Mountain Party, and unaffiliated or independent voters. Data collection was completed online and by telephone with purchased sample of registered voters who are likely to vote in general elections.
Registered likely voters in all 55 West Virginia counties were sampled and screened for near certainty that they plan to vote. After completion of data collection, the data was modeled to likely voters, actual voter registration in the state, and expected turnout.
When using sample of registered voters and hybrid data collection (online and telephone) it is not appropriate to apply a probability-based margin of error to interviews completed. However, applying statistical tests of significance to each question asked at the 95 percent confidence interval yields an overall statistical error of +/- 4.6 percentage points based on the 450 interviews. The 95 percent confidence interval varies by question.
The purpose of the West Virginia Poll is to provide a snapshot of opinion and timely voter views in the Mountain State. The media sponsor of the West Virginia Poll is MetroNews Radio Network.
Rex Repass is director of the West Virginia Poll and president of Research America Inc. Repass is responsible for questionnaire design, the respondent screening and selection process, data tabulation, statistical analysis, and reporting of results.
The MetroNews West Virginia Poll is a non-partisan survey of public opinion conducted by Repass and Research America Inc. The West Virginia Poll has been directed by Repass and conducted periodically since January 21, 1980. The name The West Virginia Poll is a trademark owned by Research America Inc; all rights reserved.