With the Republican primary election in the rearview mirror, the race between Republican Sen. Mike Lee and independent Evan McMullin is heating up.

And the latest Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll found that like the scorching temperatures in Utah, it’s going to be a hot one.

The survey of 801 registered Utah voters shows 41% would vote for Lee and 36% for McMullin if the general election were held today. Another 14% would choose another candidate (two third-party candidates are on the ballot) and 8% don’t know who they would vote for.

Dan Jones & Associates conducted the survey July 13-18. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.46 percentage points.

“Utah has not seen a Senate race this competitive in decades. Both Lee and McMullin have a base of support locked in and will spend the next few months in a contentious fight to win over the few who remain undecided,” said Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah.

“This race is going to be expensive with tremendous outside interest.”

The new numbers are consistent with Deseret News/Hinckley Institute polls taken before Lee defeated two credible challengers in the GOP primary in late June.

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The latest survey also found 46% of Utahns approve of the job Lee is doing in the Senate, up slightly from a poll earlier this year. But at the same time, his disapproval rating has ballooned to 47%, including more than a third who strongly disapprove of the two-term senator’s performance. Only 7% of those polled didn’t have an opinion.

McMullin is counting on those voters who don’t like what Lee is doing in Washington to gravitate his way regardless of political persuasion. The Utah Democratic Party did not nominate a candidate in the Senate race but endorsed McMullin, maintaining that he has a better shot to oust Lee than one of their own. A Democrat has not won a U.S. Senate race in Utah since 1970.

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“Sen. Lee is going to spend the next several months asking members of his party to come home and reminding them McMullin is not a Republican. McMullin will focus on his record of national service and try to position himself as a viable option for Republican voters,” Perry said.

McMullin campaign manager Andrew Roberts said though Lee is well-known across the state, he’s barely cracking 40% in public opinion polls.

“This poll is yet another blaring warning sign for Sen. Lee, and it should tell him what we’ve been hearing from Utahns for months: folks are fed up with Sen. Lee’s divisive and ineffective approach to politics that puts special interests, party bosses and himself first while leaving Utahns behind,” he said.

“As Utah Republicans, Democrats and independents hear more about Evan McMullin’s career of service as an undercover CIA officer and his independent campaign that isn’t taking a dime from special interests or party bosses, they are responding.”

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Matt Lusty, Lee campaign spokesman, said the Lee campaign’s internal polling continues to show Lee significantly ahead.

“Evan McMullin is trying to be all things to all people. This kind of gamesmanship does not appeal to Utah voters. Utahns across this state appreciate Sen. Lee’s principled, authentic leadership,” he said.

Lee knows the challenges that face the country and the state, and he’s willing to take difficult positions to stand up to President Joe’s Biden agenda that is harming Utah families, Lusty said.

“When pumping gas or buying groceries,” he said, “Utahns know we can’t afford to leave the Senate in the hands of Democrats.”

McMullin, who ran an independent, anti-Trump campaign for president in 2016, says he’s trying to build a coalition of Republican, Democratic and unaffiliated Utahns. Lee voted for McMullin in that election before becoming a staunch ally of former President Donald Trump.

The poll shows McMullin has strong support among Democrats in Utah, with 63% of those polled saying they would vote for him. It also found 28% of Republicans would vote for McMullin, along with 41% who say they don’t belong to either major party.

Lee, who is endorsed by Trump, continues to enjoy a solid GOP base as 57% of Republicans polled said they would vote for him. Just over a quarter of those who aren’t affiliated with the Republican or Democratic parties favor Lee.

Voters who identified themselves as “very” or “somewhat” conservative overwhelmingly chose Lee, while McMullin ran away with “very” or “somewhat” liberal voters, according to the poll. Those who consider themselves moderate lean heavily toward McMullin, with 56% saying they would vote for him, compared to only 16% for Lee.

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The survey also found Lee has higher support among men, while McMullin has more support among women. Voters ages 40 and under favored McMullin, while voters over that age preferred Lee.

Both candidates are raising significant amounts of money. The most recent July quarterly report covering June 8 through June 30 shows both candidates raised more than $540,000, with McMullin pulling in about $30,000 more during that period.

Overall, Lee has raised more than $6.2 million and McMullin, who is not accepting PAC money, $3.2 million in the current election cycle, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

The well-respected Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball last month downgraded the Senate race in Utah from “safe Republican” to “likely Republican” based on a number of factors, including the earlier Deseret News/Hinckley Institute poll results.