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Statewide survey: Kelly holds slight lead over Kobach in governor's race

Published: Oct. 29, 2018 at 4:44 PM CDT
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Democrat Laura Kelly holds a slight advantage in the bid to be Kansas' next governor and overall, Kansans are feeling good about the state's economy.

These are a couple takeaways from a statewide public opinion telephone survey from the Fort Hays State University Docking Institute of Public Affairs.

The Docking Institute provided the following introduction to its latest survey:

"The Docking Institute of Public Affairs at Fort Hays State University conducted the 2018 Kansas Speaks fall survey from August 22 to September 25, 2018. A random sample of adult residents of Kansas age 18 and older were surveyed by telephone to assess their attitudes and opinions regarding various issues of interest to Kansas citizens."

The latest poll results recently released also show an overall trend of Kansans starting to lean toward legalizing recreational marijuana and supporting a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to illegal immigration, meaning anyone crossing the border illegally will be prosecuted and deported.

The "Docking survey" also touches on areas where Kansans approve and disapprove of the president, based on ratings on individual issues. and economic priorities for the state.

At the national level, respondents were asked to rate President Donald Trump in seven areas. The president received high ratings on the economy and national security, but low ratings on "sharing my values," trustworthiness," and "international diplomacy."

Positives for the state are reflected in opinions about the state's overall health. Similar to the nation as a whole, respondents say the state's economy is a strong suit.

The survey shows 55 percent of respondents indicated Kansas is a "very good" or "excellent" place to live. Forty-three percent feel the economy is "good." This is significant because that 43 percent is the highest approval rating of the state's economy the Docking Institute's observed in the last five years.

Fifty-eight percent of respondents in the latest Docking survey feel Kansas is "on the right track." This is a big change from 2016 when 70 percent of people who took part in the statewide survey felt Kansas was "on the wrong track."

In the Nov. 6 gubernatorial election, 40 percent of respondents say they plan to vote for Laura Kelly, while 36 percent say they would vote for Kris Kobach. Leading up to the election, various polls have shown Kelly and a Kobach in a dead heat. In the Docking survey, 10 percent of respondents say they plan to vote for Greg Orman to be Kansas' next governor.

In the survey, Orman received high support from independent voters, including independents who lean Republican. When it comes to name recognition, Kobach leads the way with Kelly coming in fourth behind the current secretary of state, Orman and current Kansas governor Jeff Colyer.

Friends University Professor of Political Science, Dr. Russell Arben Fox, says the survey from the Docking Institute is different than a benchmark poll where those conducting the survey try to measure levels of support for different candidates.

"This is a broader public survey that looks at people's attitudes with Kansas as a whole, America as a whole and how taxes and trade and security issues fit into all of that," Fox says. "So what you see is a rather multi-layered portrait of Kansas voters."

While the Docking survey shows Kelly holding the narrow lead over Kobach, Fox says there's not enough of a swing to indicate that Kelly should be considered a clear favorite.

"Not good enough news for Laura Kelly supporters to stop treating this like an absolute nail biter," Fox says. Thirty six to 40 percent, that's a noticeable gap, but this is also just one poll. It is a very-well informed poll, very well shaped poll, but it is still just one poll. It is still an absolute dead heat as far as I'm concerned."