Updated September 14, 2022 - 10:05 pm
A new Emerson College poll shows the races for U.S. Senate and governor in Nevada are virtually tied, with less than two months to go before Election Day.
The poll from Emerson College Polling and The Hill shows Republican former Attorney General Adam Laxalt with 42 percent and Democratic U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto with 41 percent, well within the poll’s 3-percentage-point margin of error.
In the race for governor, Gov. Steve Sisolak and Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo are tied at 40 percent each.
The survey, conducted from Sept. 8 to Sept. 10 with 1,000 somewhat or very likely voters, found that in the Senate race, 11 percent are undecided and 4 percent plan to vote for someone else, according to the results.
Regardless of whom they support, 54 percent of those surveyed expect that Cortez Masto will win, while 46 percent expect Laxalt to win.
Cortez Masto is down three points from a July Emerson poll, and Laxalt is up one point.
Cortez Masto leads among women voters by 7 points, and Laxalt leads among men by 6 points, said Spencer Kimball, executive director of Emerson College Polling, in a statement. Cortez Masto holds a large 19-point lead among Hispanic voters, who are expected to be a decisive voting group in the midterms, and a 27-point lead among Black voters. Laxalt leads white voters by 9 points.
“This poll captures what we are seeing on the ground here in Nevada. Between surging inflation, the effects of an open border, and record-high gas prices, Nevadans are fed up with the failed Biden/Cortez Masto agenda and are ready to make a change,” Laxalt said in a statement. “Cortez Masto and her friends in DC can spend all the money they want attacking me and trying to rehabilitate her image, but none of it will stop the momentum of our grassroots campaign.”
“Senator Cortez Masto is focused on Nevadans, recently delivering major legislation to lower health care costs and bring good-paying jobs to our state,” her campaign’s press secretary, Sigalle Reshef, said in an email. “Meanwhile, Adam Laxalt is continuing to attack Nevadans’ rights, making it clear that he would support a strict abortion ban in Nevada and standing with the big pharmaceutical companies who opposed Cortez Masto’s bill to lower costs for families.”
David Damore, professor and chair of the political science department at UNLV, said that every poll is making a guess about what the electorate is going to look like, but nobody knows. There are a lot of new people coming into the state, and this will be the first time they will vote, he said.
The “wild card” will be all these new potential voters, Damore said.
While Democrats have scored some victories, such as the Inflation Reduction Act, and the abortion issue could mobilize voters in favor of Democrats, it’s not surprising Cortez Masto is polling so close with Laxalt, said Dan Lee, a UNLV associate professor in political science.
Even before the abortion ruling, political analysts expected a red wave year where Republicans are favored because of “fundamentals,” Lee said — those being the low approval rating of the sitting president and the issues with the economy and inflation.
“Based on the fundamentals, going into it we were expecting it to be close,” Lee said.
Nevada is also a swing state, and races are super close, he said.
Like all polls, the Emerson poll should also be taken with a grain of salt. People who have a high likelihood of voting might not vote, and people who don’t have an interest in voting might still vote in the election, Damore said.
The Senate race echoes the 2018 U.S. Senate race between Dean Heller and Jacky Rosen, Damore said. Republicans are making the race a “referendum on the party of power,” whereas Democrats are making it a “choice election,” showing what they are delivering for Nevada, he said. The opposite was occurring in 2018, when Republican incumbent Heller lost to Democrat Jacky Rosen.
Governor, congressional races
In the race for governor, 12 percent are undecided and 4 percent plan to support someone else, the poll found.
Since July, Sisolak’s support has decreased by 4 percentage points, while Lombardo’s has stayed the same.
Like in the Senate race, a majority of respondents expect Sisolak to win at 52 percent, whereas 48 percent expect Lombardo to win.
Another advantage Republicans in Nevada have compared to Republicans in other states is that the Republicans nominated qualified candidates for both Senate and governor, Lee said. Laxalt is a former attorney general who had success in running for a state office before, and Lombardo is a sheriff who also had success in winning a race. To compare, Republicans in Pennsylvania might be facing trouble with Dr. Mehmet Oz, who “might not have been the best candidate,” Lee said.
Republicans are ahead by 3 percentage points in congressional races, according to the poll. Forty-six percent of voters plan to support the Republican candidate, and 43 percent plan to support the Democratic candidate.
Biden’s approval rating in Nevada is still not good, with 53 percent of Nevada voters disapproving of the job that he is doing as president, according to the poll.
If Biden and former President Donald Trump were to go toe-to-toe in the 2024 presidential election, 43 percent would support Trump and 40 percent would vote for Biden.
While Trump is under investigation for allegedly mishandling classified documents and other possible crimes, 40 percent of Nevada voters say the recent FBI search of his Mar-a-Lago home makes them more likely to support him for president in 2024. Thirty-two percent are less likely, and 28 percent say it makes no difference.
The biggest issues that are important to voters in Nevada are, in order: the economy, abortion access, health care, immigration, crime, water supply and education.
Half of Nevada voters say the overturning of Roe v. Wade makes them much more likely or somewhat more likely to vote in the election, the poll found.