LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56) — A follow-up WOWK 13 News/Emerson College poll asked likely Kentucky Republican voters where they stood on multiple issues ahead of the May 16 primary election.
The poll asked 16 questions on topics like preferred gubernatorial nominees, the most important issues Kentucky is facing, the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, and whether President Biden’s victory over Trump was legitimate or not.
REPUBLICAN GOVERNOR CANDIDATES
Poll results showed Attorney General Daniel Cameron led former United Nations Ambassador Kelly Craft with 33% of the vote to 17.6%, while 13.2% said they would vote for Agricultural Commissioner Ryan Quarles. Eric Deters, an attorney, was fourth among candidates, with 9.7% of voters supporting him, but 12.8% are still undecided.
Among undecided voters, Mike Harmon, who is currently serving as the Kentucky Auditor of Public Accounts, held a lead over front-runners Cameron and Quarles. Poll results showed Harmon drew 18.4% of the vote versus 16.7% and 12.8% for Cameron and Quarles, respectively.
A WOWK 13 News poll from April showed Cameron leading Craft 30.1% to 23.9% among likely Republican primary voters. While 14.9% said they would vote for Quarles, more were undecided at 20.7%.
Participants in the current poll found Cameron to be the most favorable Republican candidate. Poll results showed 63.1% held a favorable view of Cameron, while 20.6% held an unfavorable view, and 16.3% weren’t sure who Cameron was or had never heard of him.
Meanwhile, Craft had 45.9% of voters view her as a favorable candidate and 37.0% as unfavorable. Over 17% of voters were unsure about Craft or had never heard of her.
The April 2023 poll found Cameron to be the most favorable Republican candidate. Results showed 62.9% had a favorable view of him, 15.6% had an unfavorable view, and 21.5% were unsure or had never heard of him. Meanwhile, Craft had 46.8% favorable votes, 20.4% unfavorable votes, and 32.6% who were unsure or hadn’t heard of her. Quarles had 39.1% favorable votes, 15.0% unfavorable votes, and nearly half (45.9%) were unsure or had never heard of him.
“Cameron has grown his support amongst women, from 29% in April to 36% in the current poll,” Spencer Kimball, executive director of Emerson College Polling, said. “Men have shifted away from Craft by 10 points since April, 29% to 19%. Deters has gained 7 points among men this month going from 5% to 12%.”
MOST IMPORTANT ISSUE FACING KENTUCKY
Poll results showed 48.0% of Kentuckians believe the economy is the most important issue Kentucky is facing. Education was the second-leading issue at 10.2%, followed by crime at 9.7%.
Previous results showed the economy was top of mind for many poll respondents, as 41.5% said it was the top issue facing Kentucky. “Threats to democracy” came in second at 15.7%, and education came in third at 10.7%.
WOWK 13 News DEBATE WINNER
On May 9, WOWK 13 News held an in-studio debate that featured Cameron, Quarles, and Deters. Craft was eligible to participate but declined the invitation.
Of the three candidates to appear in the debate, 36.6% of those polled believe Cameron won the debate, while 20.9% believe Deters performed the best, and 20.5% voted in favor of Quarles. The remaining 22.0% believed no candidate truly stood out after the debate.
Voters were also asked about how important it was for governor candidates to appear in a debate ahead of the primary election on May 16.
Respondents heavily believed participation in a debate was important. In fact, 96.4% voted that it was at least a little important, with 60.6% believing it to be very important and 25.8% believing participation to be somewhat important. Ten percent of the remaining voters believe it is not too important, and 3.6% believe it is not important at all.
“Craft opting out of Tuesday’s debate might not have helped her candidacy, considering 86% of Republican likely voters find it important that candidates running for Governor participate in a debate prior to the election,” Kimball noted.
ISSUES FACING KENTUCKY’S SCHOOLS
The state of Kentucky’s public school system was one of the main talking points from the WOWK 13 News debate, with Cameron, Quarles, and Deters all agreeing that the base salaries of teachers needed to be increased. Teacher shortages, wokeism, and classroom safety were also discussed.
Participants in the poll said wokeism was the most important issue with Kentucky’s public school system, drawing 42.3% of the vote. Classroom/student safety was the second-leading issue with 19.8% of the vote, while teacher pay and teacher shortages rounded out the voting with 15.5% and 11.4%, respectively. Meanwhile, 11% believe there are other, more important issues in Kentucky schools.
KENTUCKY INCOME TAX
According to the previous WOWK 13 News poll, the primary issue facing Kentuckians is the economy. Kentucky is gradually working toward abolishing the state income tax. All three candidates who participated in the WOWK 13 News debate have supported ending the income tax, which makes up about 40% of all revenue in the Kentucky general fund.
Among respondents, 42.6% supported phasing out the income tax in Kentucky, while 26.1% were not in favor of phasing out the income tax, and 31.3% were unsure.
DONALD TRUMP’S ENDORSEMENT
The previous Emerson College/WOWK 13 News poll showed 61.5% of Kentucky Republican primary voters favored former President Donald Trump in a hypothetical 2024 primary.
Previously, a reported 35.7% of likely Kentucky Republican primary voters said Trump’s endorsement of a candidate makes them “more likely” to vote for that candidate, while 54.5% said it makes “no difference,” and 10% found it made them “less likely” to support a candidate.
In WOWK 13 News’ May poll, 47.8% of likely Kentucky Republican primary voters said Trump’s endorsement of a candidate makes them “more likely” to vote for that candidate, 40.5% said it made no difference to them, and 11.8% found Trump’s endorsement made them less likely to support a candidate.
LEGITIMACY OF BIDEN’S ELECTION
Trump has made questioning the results of the 2020 election a key aspect of his reelection campaign. Despite no legitimate evidence existing that the election was stolen from him, the claims appear to be making Trump a more enticing candidate among voters.
In the latest WOWK 13 News poll, the majority of voters agree with the former president’s belief, as only 21.1% of voters believe Biden’s election was legitimate. The other 78.9% believe the election was stolen from Trump.
THREATS TO ELECTIONS
In the April poll, “threats to democracy” was considered the second-leading issue at 15.7%, behind the economy.
The May WOWK 13 News/Emerson College poll asked voters what the greatest threats to Kentucky’s elections were.
According to poll results, voter fraud was considered the biggest threat to the election process, receiving 58.5% of the vote. Foreign interference in elections came in second with 12.4%, while voting machines malfunctioning and voter suppression finished with 11.5% and 6.0%, respectively.
There were also 6.3% of voters who said there were no threats to elections, and the remaining 5.2% believed the biggest threat to elections was not listed.
KENTUCKY PRIMARY ELECTION 2023
The Kentucky primary election will take place on Tuesday, May 16, as in-person early voting ran from Thursday, May 11, to Saturday, May 13.
To find out more regarding the upcoming election, including polling locations and voter identification requirements, click here.
The winner of the Republican seat for governor will go on to face the winner of the Democratic primary—Andy Beshear, Geoff Young, and Peppy Martin—in the general election on Nov. 7, 2023.
Methodology: The WOWK 13 News/Emerson College poll was conducted May 10-12, 2023. The sample consisted of 500 very likely Republican primary voters, with a margin of error (MOE) of +/- 4.3 percentage points. The data sets were weighted by gender, age, and education based on 2023 turnout modeling. Turnout modeling is based on US Census parameters, Kentucky voter registration, and voter turnout data (KY SOS).
WOWK 13 News requested information on which Congressional districts respondents lived from Emerson College. Emerson said, “We’re not able to since they’re too small subsets – we usually do with general elect statewide surveys since they’re larger samples.”
It is important to remember that subsets based on demographics, such as gender, age, education, and race/ethnicity, carry with them higher credibility intervals, as the sample size is reduced. Survey results should be understood within the poll’s range of scores, and know with a confidence interval of 95% a poll will fall outside the range of scores 1 in 20 times.
Data was collected by contacting cell phones via SMS-to-web, an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system of landlines, and a consumer list of emails.
All questions asked in this survey with exact wording, along with full results and cross tabulations can be found at emersoncollegepolling.com/blog.