SALT LAKE CITY — A new poll of Utah voters released Friday shows there's still uncertainty about the presidential race that could affect Republican Donald Trump's lead over independent candidate Evan McMullin and Democrat Hillary Clinton.
"There are still a lot of voters who are unsure about their choices. That's the part that makes me hesitate about being very confident about a prediction," said Quin Monson, a founding partner of Y2 Analytics, which conducted the latest poll.
Trump has the support of 33 percent of Utahns, followed by McMullin with 28 percent and Clinton with 24 percent in the Y2 Analytics poll that comes after three polls released Thursday suggested the state was solidly behind Trump.
The Salt Lake City-based firm, however, found that more than a quarter of Utahns polled say they don't know who they want or could change their minds before Election Day Tuesday, Monson said.
The poll also includes a sizable sample of millennial voters aged 18-34 who show a strong preference for McMullin.
"There's still a tremendous amount of potential for this to change," the BYU political science professor said of the poll results, first reported by the Deseret News. "That's a lot of people, with just a few days to go."
Utah GOP Chairman James Evans said he still believes Trump will win in the state.
"All the polling is headed in that direction," Evans said, including the latest poll. He said Monson's suggestion that there is still significant voter uncertainty is "reading too much into the numbers."
But Monson said a call in Utah last week by Trump's running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, for Republicans to "come home" to their party's presidential nominee — a call that's been echoed by Evans and other GOP leaders — isn't working that well.
He said Trump is tied with McMullin among all but the Republicans who describe themselves as strongly partisan, where he gets 61 percent support. But that's not enough, Monson said.
"Strong Republicans are over a quarter of the electorate," he said. "He should be getting 90 percent or more. Hillary Clinton is getting 90 percent or more of strong Democrats, as you would expect."
Mormons and millennials
Trump is also running into trouble with Mormon voters, Monson said.
"That perceived weakness among Mormon Republicans is real," he said, noting Trump is "losing among very active Mormons decisively," and tied with McMullin among all Mormon voters. Active Mormons make up half of the electorate.
Voters "are struggling to come around" to McMullin, a Mormon former CIA operative who got in the race in late summer as a conservative alternative to Trump, Monson said.
The Y2 Analytics polls was conducted Nov. 1-3 of 500 likely Utah voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.38 percent. Monson said he believes his results reflect Utah's young voters, who make up almost 30 percent of the electorate.
The difference between his poll results and those released Thursday showing McMullin trailing in third place, he said, is that age is a "strong predictor of the vote in Utah," the youngest state in the nation with a median age below 31.
"The younger voters, millennials in particular, are much more adverse to Trump, and these are the very voters that are the hardest to get to answer their phones and take the survey," he said.
Sutherland Institute President Boyd Matheson said the polls findings that a quarter of voters are still persuadable at this point in the race is "really significant. I think that bodes well for McMullin."
Matheson, a former chief of staff to Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said McMullin could win the state if he can make the right appeal to those voters "still not sure about holding their nose and voting for Trump."
McMullin's spokeswoman in Utah, Kelsey Koenen Witt, said the numbers show the race is still tight in the Beehive State.
"We are confident if Utah voters keep in mind the same principles and values that they've built their homes and communities on, they will realize thy have a home with Evan McMullin's campaign," she said.
'Fluid until the end'
Salt Lake County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson, a longtime Clinton supporter, called the new poll encouraging.
"With a third-party candidate with Utah roots here on the ballot who's getting some national attention, it does make it fluid until the end," Wilson said. "But a vote for him is a vote thrown away, so Utahns need to make a choice."
In October, Y2 Analytics was the first to find a surge in support for McMullin.
Then, McMullin was statistically tied with Trump and Clinton, at 22 percent support compared to 26 percent for the major party candidates. Libertarian Gary Johnson, at 14 percent in the October, has dropped to 5 percent in the new poll.
The October survey came just after a video surfaced with Trump talking about making sexual advances on women using graphic terms. Several Utah GOP leaders, including Gov. Gary Herbert, backed off their support for Trump.
Trump has struggled with Utah voters, even talking on the campaign trail about his "tremendous problem" in a state that hasn't voted for a Democrat for president since 1968.
Clinton has tried to take advantage of Utah's new status as a battleground state in the presidential election by sending surrogates to campaign here and boosting her paid staff to a half-dozen people.76 comments on this story
Friday, an anti-Trump super PAC secured local airtime in Utah for a 15-second spot suggesting his proposed ban on Muslims entering the United States could have been aimed at other faiths, including Mormons.
Both Trump and Clinton were the last choices of Utahns in their political party's presidential preference caucuses in March. McMullin has focused his efforts on Utah, a state that's key to his longshot path to the White House.
He would not only have to win at least one state but also prevent Trump and Clinton from reaching the 270 electoral votes needed to declare victory on Tuesday, forcing the U.S. House to decide the election.