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A Salt Lake Tribune poll shows challenger Jackie Biskupski with a 12-point lead over two-term Mayor Ralph Becker less than three weeks before the Aug. 11 primary election.
The SurveyUSA poll of 507 likely Salt Lake City voters found that 33 percent of those surveyed favored Biskupski, a former state lawmaker, to 21 percent for Becker.
Some 26 percent were undecided.
Salt Lake City Council Chairman Luke Garrott got 8 percent, while community activist George Chapman and businessman Dave Robinson each received 6 percent.
The polling was conducted from July 13 to 21 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.
In a second poll, released Wednesday by UtahPolicy.com, Becker had a lead of 27 percent to Biskupski's 24 percent. Garrott had 6 percent, Robinson 3 percent and Chapman 1 percent. This poll showed a higher number of undecided voters: 36 percent.
The survey of 406 registered voters was conducted by Dan Jones & Associates from July 7-21 and has a margin of error of 4.88 percent.
The numbers aren't encouraging for Becker, said Tim Chambless, a University of Utah political science professor who also is affiliated with the Hinckley Institute of Politics.
"He's the two-term incumbent with very high name recognition," Chambless said. "Yet he's polling well below 50 percent."
Historically, incumbents polling below 50 percent in advance of a primary are not re-elected because voters cast ballots for the challenger in the general election, Chambless explained.
The good news for Becker, Chambless said, is that he appears likely to be among the two top primary vote-getters to advance to the Nov. 3 general election.
The poll numbers are surprising, said Matthew Burbank, another U. professor of political science.
Biskupski's totals seem about right, he said. But Becker's numbers in the two polls are low they seem much too low.
"I would expect that he would be at least at 30 percent," Burbank said.
The large number of undecided voters is not unusual, given that it's summer, he added. "It's the middle of July and people aren't really paying attention."
Biskupski said she was pleased with both polls.
"It sends a clear message that voters are looking for change and embracing my vision for the city," she said. "But we are taking nothing for granted, and are working our guts out."
The Becker campaign, by contrast, was more subdued but remained confident.
"The race is just beginning. It's July," said Laura Anderson, deputy campaign director. "We are working very hard and we know we need to earn every vote. We are excited about our message."
Anderson noted that the numbers in The Tribune poll were at odds with what the Becker campaign is finding. The UtahPolicy.com poll numbers are closer, she said, to what campaigners are finding as they go door to door.
Campaign manager Matt Lyon said that so-called robocall polls conducted by SurveyUSA are not as accurate as the traditional surveys conducted by people because they tend to capture older, more conservative respondents.
FiveThirtyEight, a respected polling-aggregation website founded by analyst Nate Silver, gave SuveyUSA top rankings last year.