Deseret News/KSL poll: Mia Love has slim edge on Jim Matheson in volatile 4th District

Published: Saturday, Nov. 3 2012 10:00 p.m. MDT

Candidate Mia Love talks with John Voshell as she walks door to door in West Valley City on Friday, Nov. 2, 2012.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Copyright 2012 Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — After dropping millions of dollars, exchanging testy debate barbs and attacking each other week after week on TV, Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson and Republican Mia Love appear evenly matched in almost every way as they scrap for votes two days before Tuesday's election.

Love slipped a little in the latest Deseret News/KSL poll but maintains a slight edge over Matheson in Utah's volatile 4th Congressional District.

Pollster Dan Jones and Associates found that 42 percent of registered voters in the district say they would definitely vote for Love, while 38 percent say they would definitely vote for Matheson.

When those leaning toward one candidate or the other are factored in, Love leads Matheson 48 percent to 43 percent. Only 6 percent are undecided, leaving few voters to fight over in the waning hours.

In late September, Jones showed Love leading Matheson by six points, which reflected a 21-point swing since she trailed by double digits in June.

Jones expects a long night on Election Day.

"But it seems to me, in the last couple of weeks, Mia Love has had the momentum," he said, attributing that to the "Mitt Romney surge."

The pollster couldn't say whether it would carry through Tuesday.

"In that race, it could switch on a dime," Jones said.

Love found the poll results encouraging.

"Every credible poll has us ahead, which means the truth is resonating," she said. "I've had a lot of things thrown at me. I'm sure that people will continue to try to throw as much as they possibly can at me. Utahns are savvy; they're smart. They know what rings true."

Matheson said there are a lot of polls out there showing different results.

"At the end of the day, I think this is going to be a real close race. I've always said that and always prepared for it. I have a ground game second to none. I have great confidence, that that's what's going to push me over at the end," he said.

Jones surveyed 414 registered voters in the 4th District from Oct. 26 to Nov. 1. The poll has a plus or minus 4.8 percent margin of error. Two-thirds of respondents say they're likely to vote, while a third have already voted.

The six-term congressman hasn't trailed in the polls this late in any of his previous elections, though his 2010 challenger closed the gap and nearly caught him at the end.

But the 52-year-old congressman has proven to be an astute campaigner who appeals to independents and moderate Republicans.

According to the poll, Matheson pulls 59 percent of voters who identify themselves as independent, while Love gets 29 percent.

"But he's got to get it higher than that to offset the tremendous amount of Republicans who are voting," Jones said.

Matheson has fended off five challengers — two of them narrowly — since wresting the 2nd District seat from a Republican 12 years ago. He jumped to the new 4th District this year after the GOP-controlled Utah Legislature carved up his district when it redrew congressional boundaries last fall.

A Love victory would quell Utah's only Democratic voice in Congress, giving the state an all-GOP congressional delegation for the first time since Matheson took office in 2001.

Jones said Salt Lake County, where the poll shows Matheson up 48-44, also will be a determining factor in the outcome.

"He needs at least 55 percent in Salt Lake County," he said.

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