SLU pollsters: Parson leading Galloway in Missouri governor race

Austin Huguelet
Springfield News-Leader

St. Louis University pollsters say Missouri Gov. Mike Parson was running ahead of State Auditor Nicole Galloway in his bid for a full, four-year term with around a month left before Election Day.

A survey of 931 likely Missouri voters they conducted Sept. 24 to Oct. 7 found 50 percent supporting Parson, a Republican, and 44 percent for Galloway, a Democrat. 3.6 percent of respondents remained undecided, and 3 percent said they support someone else. Third-party candidates include Rik Combs, a Libertarian, and Jerome Bauer of the Green Party.

The latest results are roughly in line with other public polling showing Parson with a relatively stable lead as the race enters the home stretch. A Missouri Scout/Remington Research poll conducted Sept. 30-Oct. 1 had Parson up seven points, and another conducted two weeks before had him up by 9 points.

But the new SLU numbers represented a significant shift from the university’s last poll in June, which had the race in a statistical "dead heat".

Steven Rogers, the SLU poll director, said the poll showed Parson "pulling away" with once-undecided voters moving decisively to his column.

More than half of voters undecided in June backed Parson in the latest poll, Rogers wrote, while only 27 percent broke for Galloway.

"With few undecided voters’ remaining, Galloway needs to convince existing Parson supporters to support her to avoid defeat in November," Rogers said.

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The 931 voters surveyed also weighed in on the presidential election. Predictably, voters backed President Donald Trump over former Vice President Joe Biden by roughly 9 percentage points.

However, Ken Warren, the poll’s associate director, noted Trump's lead dropped to 4 points among voters interviewed after his strident debate performance Sept. 29, which he said may have prompted the Biden campaign's TV blitz here.

“Campaigns do not make major ad buys in a state they feel they have no chance of winning,” he wrote.

By the same token, people surveyed after the debate were also more likely to say they're voting for Galloway in the governor's race, which Rogers said suggested that Parson's lead isn't ironclad, either.

The SLU pollsters also surveyed the likely voters on a number of other top issues, including a COVID-19 vaccine and the state of the economy.

Only 51 percent of said they would "definitely" or "probably" get an approved vaccine, which does not currently exist; while 49 percent said they probably or definitely wouldn't.

Those numbers are likely unwelcome news for doctors, public health workers and politicians who see a vaccine as the only way to return public life to normal without sacrificing millions of lives to reach herd immunity. 

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Rogers, the poll director, said the "troubling" numbers are partly due to polarization of opinion on the virus: Democratic voters were more than 15 percent more likely to say they would get a vaccine and significantly more likely than Republicans to say they trust the federal Food and Drug Administration, which approves vaccines.

Democrats were also more likely to take expert-recommended precautions, such as wearing a mask in public places.

Ninety-two percent of Democrats surveyed said they wear masks "all the time" in stores and small businesses, while only 60 percent of Republicans said they do.

Views on the economy were also polarized, even more so than the virus.

Fifty-five percent of Republicans rated Missouri's economy as "excellent" or "good," but only 6 percent of Democrats said the same.

Pollsters said that may have had something to do with why 72 percent of Republicans polled said Missouri is on the right track and heading a good direction, while only 4.7 percent of Democrats polled thought so.

Austin Huguelet is the News-Leader's politics reporter. Got something he should know? Have a question? Call him at 417-403-8096 or email him at ahuguelet@news-leader.com. You can also support local journalism at News-Leader.com/subscribe.