This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Utah really is a swing state.
A new poll this one released Monday from Rasmussen Reports shows a statistical tie between Republican Donald Trump (30 percent), independent Evan McMullin (29 percent) and Democrat Hillary Clinton (28 percent).
This is the fourth poll of the state since the damaging "Access Hollywood" video emerged showing Trump boasting of groping women, leading to some state Republican leaders abandoning their own party's nominee.
And some trends are emerging in these surveys, even as they have different numbers and different methodologies.
McMullin • "One of the consistencies is that Evan McMullin is doing remarkably well for someone who is not a nominee of a major party," said Quin Monson, who helped found Y2 Analytics, the firm that released the first post-Trump tape poll showing a statistical tie between these three candidates.
McMullin entered the race in August as a conservative alternative to Trump. He's Mormon and most recently worked as a policy aide for congressional Republicans. He previously was a CIA agent and spent a couple of years working for Goldman Sachs.
Before the tape of Trump emerged, McMullin was at 12 percent in the mid-September Salt Lake Tribune-Hinckley Institute poll, roughly tied with Libertarian Gary Johnson. Since then he has attracted some upset Republican voters and siphoned some support from Johnson, becoming a viable third option in Utah, though there's no indication he has made similar headway elsewhere.
The four Utah polls have shown McMullin with at least 20 percent and the Rasmussen poll, which tends to skew a few points conservative, had him at 29 percent, his highest level of support.
Trump • Support for the embattled Republican nominee has clearly declined, but he hasn't been second in any of the four most recent Utah polls. Rasmussen had him at 30 percent. A CBS News/YouGov poll over the weekend had him at 37 percent. That outlier is likely explained by the way the question was asked and the sample the pollster used. That survey gave respondents a choice between Trump, Clinton and "someone else." Only if the person selected someone else were they given the options of McMullin, Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein.
Also, the YouGov poll included 67 percent Mormons, when the state is about 60 percent LDS. Monson believes that sample diluted Clinton's strength, while McMullin would likely have had more support if he was one of the original options.
While Trump has lost the support of politicians such as Gov. Gary Herbert and Rep. Mia Love, he has maintained the support of Sen. Orrin Hatch and Rep. Rob Bishop, among others.
"The die-hard Trump voters aren't going anywhere necessarily," Monson said.
Clinton • For a Democrat to win in one of the nation's most conservative states, Trump and McMullin would have to fight to a draw, with the other third-party candidates snatching some votes away, said Jay DeSart, a political scientist at Utah Valley University.
The reason is that Clinton's supporters are solid, hovering around the high 20s, and it appears volatility in the polling is among the Republicans and independents who tend to vote Republican.
DeSart has his own national political forecast that shows Clinton is highly likely to win the presidency. He believes that may give Utah Republicans more wiggle room to leave Trump's column and vote for McMullin.
Voting underway • Polling and predicting the presidential race in Utah are complicated by mail-in balloting, which is already underway in 21 counties, while the other eight counties will stick to traditional Election Day balloting.
Salt Lake County election officials have already received 25,000 votes. While the state's second most populous county, Utah County, isn't participating in mail-in ballots, allowing McMullin more time to try to cut into Trump's slim advantage.
Monson, who is also a political scientist at Brigham Young University, said he would have predicted that turnout would be low in Utah County because of general dissatisfaction with Trump, but McMullin's rise has changed that.
"It is a little more exciting," he said. "You can see voters getting motivated."
The Rasmussen poll, commissioned by the online publication Heat Street, was conducted Friday through Sunday and included 750 likely voters. It had a margin of error of 4 plus or minus percentage points.
Like the other surveys, it found that Trump and Clinton are highly unpopular in the state, while McMullin is still trying to get his name out there. He's made some strides in that effort. The Y2 Analytics poll published Oct. 12 found that 48 percent of Utahns hadn't heard of McMullin.
The Rasmussen poll released just five days later found that only 15 percent were unaware of McMullin's candidacy.