Spencer Cox leads Jon Huntsman in latest 2020 Utah governors poll

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox leads the Republican field for governor, according to the latest UtahPolicy.com poll.

The latest poll on Utah’s 2020 race for governor shows Spencer Cox with a sizable lead over Jon Huntsman and a big gap between these frontrunners and the rest of the Republican field.

The poll was conducted by UtahPolicy.com and Y2 Analytics and released late Friday. Cox, the lieutenant governor, received 41% of the support from Republican voters who will select their party’s nominee in a June primary, which is likely to be a crowded affair.

Huntsman, a former Utah governor who recently served as the U.S. ambassador to Russia, came in at 29%. This is not significantly different than the last poll in this race, which was sponsored by the Salt Lake Chamber and conducted by Dan Jones and Associates in June. That poll showed Cox at 41% and Huntsman at 26%.

After Huntsman, the next highest level of support in the UtahPolicy poll went to Rep. Rob Bishop at 9%. Bishop, who is leaving the U.S. House in 2020, has not declared his candidacy and may not join this race.

The new poll included 911 registered voters who were contacted between Nov. 19 and Dec. 7. UtahPolicy identified the margin of error for these Republican only questions at 4.6 percentage points.

Huntsman declared his candidacy on Nov. 14, so this is the first survey that fully captures his involvement in the open contest. It indicates reclaiming his old job won’t be easy for the well known politician. Gov. Gary Herbert is not running for re-election and has endorsed Cox, who has been campaigning throughout the state since May.

“Both Lt. Gov. Cox and Ambassador Huntsman seem to share a similar constituency,” Kelly Patterson, a Y2 Analytics pollster, told UtahPolicy.com. “They also have the advantage of currently holding or having held a statewide office. This means that their names are more easily recognized.”

The poll also asked voters to identify their second choice. Among Cox supporters, Huntsman was their second choice and Huntsman voters would shift to Cox. This is a sign of how dominant these two candidates are in the early stages of this contest.

That said, the gubernatorial field is still forming. Beyond these two heavyweights, the announced candidates include Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton (she received 6% in the poll) and businessman Jeff Burningham (5%).

Former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes is expected to announce his bid soon. He came in at 5%.

The poll also included Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes (5%) and Utah Republican Committeeman Thomas Wright (1%).

Cox’s campaign manager Austin Cox (no relation) thanked volunteers and donors when asked to comment on the new poll. He added, “The lieutenant governor has been working tirelessly to reach voters across all 248 cities and towns and his message as a consistent conservative is resonating with a broad coalition of Republicans.”

Huntsman spokeswoman Lisa Roskelley noted Huntsman is four weeks into his campaign, "where we’ve traversed the state. We have excited supporters and continue to meet more Utahns who are ready for a vision to ensure success for our state.”

Most polls now, she added, “are meaningless data points in a race that has barely started. Our direction is solid and substantive, based on real experience and proven leadership.”

Burningham’s campaign issued a statement saying this poll shows positive movement for the relatively unknown candidate. “We’re laying the groundwork for a campaign that will shock the political establishment,” he said.

So far, no prominent Democrat has emerged as a candidate in this race.

Editor’s note: Jon Huntsman is the brother of Tribune Publisher Paul Huntsman.