SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert maintains a significant lead over his GOP primary opponent, Overstock.com chairman Jonathan Johnson according to a new UtahPolicy.com poll released Wednesday.
The poll, conducted after Johnson beat the governorat the Republican Party state convention in late April, found that 74 percent of Republicans would vote for Herbert in the June primary, compared to 19 percent for Johnson.
The poll of 284 Republicans was conducted May 2-10 by Dan Jones & Associates, which also polls for Herbert, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.81 percent. Inan April poll, 72 percent supported Herbert and 13 percent, Johnson.
Herbert campaign manager Marty Carpenter said the numbers suggest Johnson didn't get a big boost from the convention. There are about 4,000 state GOP delegates and some 600,000 Republicans eligible to vote in the party's primary.
"If there was to have been a bump coming out of the convention, it would have shown up in this poll. The fact is, we see the same numbers," Carpenter said. "Gov. Herbert still has strong support among Republicans across the state."
But Johnson's campaign challenged the poll results.
"To put it bluntly, Utah Policy's polling numbers are wrong," Johnson spokeswoman Sasha Clark said, accusing the online political news source of attempting to influence the race with the poll results.
Clark said polling before the Republican Party state convention in late April was "proven to be outlandishly wrong" when delegates voted 55 percent to 45 percent in favor of Johnson.
Asked which pre-convention poll she was referring to, Clark said it was one she had heard about that was done for the Herbert campaign and not made public. She could not provide details and neither campaign has been willing to release internal polls.
UtahPolicy.com's "efforts now with the release of these latest polling numbers, once again conducted by the Herbert campaign's own pollster, are beyond rational comprehension," Clark said.
Johnson told the Deseret News and KSL editorial board on Monday that his campaign's polling of likely Republican primary voters "shows us at the same place we were with delegates at the convention."
Carpenter, however, said the UtahPolicy.com poll results "track consistently" with the polling done for the governor's campaign. "We have strong confidence in Dan Jones and the polling he does," he said.
LaVarr Webb, UtahPolicy.com publisher and the co-writer of a political column for the Deseret News, also stands by the poll. "The numbers speak for themselves," Webb said, calling Jones a veteran pollster with "immense credibility."
Webb said Johnson faces a tough primary election because the governor is better known and has high approval ratings. Herbert also started running TV commercials a week ago while Johnson has yet to hit the airwaves.
"The reality is Jonathan Johnson hasn't run enough of a media campaign to be really well known," Webb said. "I think he did have some momentum coming out of the convention, but I don't think they exploited it very well."
Johnson told the editorial board Monday his name recognition with voters compared to the governor's is "poor" but said he can win focusing on the Republicans expected to actually vote in the June 28 primary.
"We are very comfortable with where we are today. Will I be the face of Utah and have $450,000 of billboards up and down the Wasatch Front? No, I won't," he said. "We are running a grass-roots campaign."
Herbert continues to lead in fundraising, collecting more than $466,000 since mid-April, according to online filings with the state Elections Office. Johnson has pulled in less than $43,000, including $10,000 from his wife, Courtney.