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Published August 11, 2022
Wyoming Republican primary candidate Harriet Hageman is leading incumbent Liz Cheney by nearly 30 points in the primary race for Wyoming’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, according to a new survey by the University of Wyoming’s Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center (WYSAC).
The survey was conducted July 25-Aug. 6, yielding 562 responses from Wyoming residents identified as likely voters in the Aug. 16 Republican Party primary. The margin of error for the primary survey is plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Just over one-quarter, 28 percent, of GOP primary voters support incumbent candidate Cheney, while 57 percent support Hageman. Candidate Anthony Bouchard polled at 2 percent, while candidates Denton Knapp and Robyn Belinskey both polled below 1 percent. Ten percent of likely GOP voters say they are still undecided.
“The race for the Republican nomination appears to be a referendum on Cheney, as it usually is when an incumbent seeks reelection,” says Jim King, a professor of political science at UW.
Among survey respondents expecting to vote for Cheney, 66 percent indicated their vote was an expression of support for the incumbent congresswoman. In contrast, 29 percent of respondents expecting to cast ballots for another candidate said they were supporting that candidate, while 41 percent said their vote was in opposition to Cheney.
Traditionally, surveys polling primary elections might use lists of registered voters in that party. While that approach may be more cost effective, there are potential shortcomings that needed to be considered in a primary such as this.
“Given the unique attention this race is receiving, and the accompanying increases in voter registration and potential party switching, we decided to field this survey to a random sample of all Wyoming residents on cellphones and landlines and work to identify likely voters in the GOP primary,” says Brian Harnisch, director of WYSAC. “When looking only at residents who say they are Republican and likely voters in the primary, we actually see Hageman leading by roughly 50 points.”
Among Wyoming residents who identify as Democrats and likely voters in this primary season, roughly half say they will vote in the Republican primary. Among this group, Cheney received 98 percent support. Among Republican likely voters in the GOP primary, Cheney is polling at roughly 15 percent. Among likely voters in the primary who identify as independent, support is split, with 41 percent supporting Hageman and 43 percent supporting Cheney.
“There has been much talk in the media about Democrats crossing over and voting in the Republican primary; this group is not especially large,” King says.
Of likely voters in the primary, only 8 percent identify as Democrats, and 21 percent identify as independents. According to King, independents regularly play an important role in Republican primaries and, thus, are key to Cheney’s chances. Her lack of support among Republican identifiers and inability to dominate among independents have placed Cheney well behind Hageman.
In the 2020 primary election, Wyoming saw a roughly 61 percent turnout of registered voters. In the 2020 general election, roughly 100 percent of registered voters turned out to vote. As previously mentioned, roughly half of self-identified Democrats who will vote in a primary indicate they will register for or have registered for the Republican Party and vote in that primary.
“Back-of-the-napkin math says that number could represent as many as 20,000 votes in the GOP primary from currently registered Democrats, compared to as many as 200,000-plus votes from registered Republicans,” Harnisch says. “It does not appear at the time of this survey the numbers are there for party switching to have a significant effect on the outcome of this race.”
Of those likely voters who support Hageman in this primary, only 16 percent believe that Joe Biden’s election as president was legitimate, compared to 94 percent of Cheney supporters. Some 72 percent of Hageman supporters in the GOP primary say there is solid evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election, while 3 percent of Cheney supporters say the same.
When considering how closely likely primary voters have been watching the Jan. 6 House Select Committee hearings, 83 percent of Cheney supporters say they have been following very closely or somewhat closely. Alternatively, 57 percent of Hageman supporters say they have been following not too closely or not closely at all.
Both landline and cellular telephone numbers were randomly generated for the study, resulting in 70 percent of completed surveys on cellphones. The survey was funded by WYSAC; UW’s School of Politics, Public Affairs and International Studies; and Wyoming Public Media.
The complete topline survey results can be found here: https://wysac.uwyo.edu/wysac/reports/View/7723.