From left, Oz Griebel, Bob Stefanowski and Ned Lamont at a recent debate.
From left, Oz Griebel, Bob Stefanowski and Ned Lamont at a recent debate at UConn.

A Quinnipiac University poll of likely voters released Wednesday found a huge gender gap fueling a 47 percent to 39 percent lead for Democrat Ned Lamont over Republican Bob Stefanowski in a volatile Connecticut race for governor, with independent Oz Griebel garnering 11 percent.

In the U.S. Senate race, Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat seeking his second term, leads Republican Matthew Corey, 57 percent to  42 percent among likely voters.

Women back Lamont over Stefanowski by a margin of 53 percent to 31 percent, with  13 percent for Griebel. Men favored Stefanowski, 46 percent to 41 percent, with 9 percent for Griebel.

With four weeks until the election, one in five voters who now have a preference say they could change their mind.

Voters disapprove of the job performances of two men who are not on the ballot: President Donald J. Trump (59 percent to 39 percent) and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy (69 percent to 23 percent). But the Republican president at mid-term is a bigger factor than the exiting Democratic governor.

“In deciding which candidate to support, President Donald Trump is a more important factor for voters than Gov. Dannel Malloy, although both men appear to be doing damage to their own parties,” said Douglas Schwartz, the poll’s director.

Supporting a candidate who shares their opinion of Trump is important to 65 percent of likely voters, 78 percent of Democrats, 58 percent of Republicans and 61 percent of independent voters. Only 35 percent of voters say it’s important if a candidate shares their opinion of Malloy.

Tying Malloy to Lamont has been a central feature of advertising by Stefanowski’s campaign and Change PAC, an independent-expenditure group funded by the Republican Governors Association.

Negative advertising directed at both major-party candidates appears to have taken a toll. Slightly more voters have unfavorable opinions of them than favorable. The unfavorable/favorable splits are 45 percent to 44 percent for Lamont and 44 percent to 39 percent for Stefanowski.

Stefanowski’s latest ad, which features the candidate at home with his wife and three daughters, is an attempt to address both the gender gap and his unfavorables.

Unaffiliated voters,  the largest bloc of voters in Connecticut followed by Democrats, favor Lamont, 42 percent to 36 percent, with 18 percent for Griebel.

The poll gives Griebel, the former leader of the MetroHartford Alliance, a stronger argument for inclusion in the final two debates on Oct. 18 and 30. It is the first survey to show him topping 10 percent.

Griebel is a former Republican who unsuccessfully sought the GOP nomination in 2010, but his support is stronger among Democrats (9 percent) than Republicans (5 percent).

The survey of 767 likely voters from Oct. 3 to 8 has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points. It is Quinnipiac’s first poll of likely voters and cannot be directly compared to a previous survey that showed Lamont with a larger lead.

Quinnipiac was in the field during the contentious debate over the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme. A Politico/Morning Consult poll also released Wednesday shows the Kavanaugh confirmation energizing more Democrats than Republicans.

Republicans have labored to keep Connecticut voters focused on the state’s economy and fiscal challenges. Lamont did well in the Quinnipiac poll among voters focused on the economy, while Stefanowski was favored by those whose biggest issue is taxes.

“The number one issue for Connecticut voters is the economy, and Lamont wins decisively among those voters,” Schwartz said. “Voters also say, however, that the most important quality in a candidate for governor is the ability to bring needed change, and among those voters, Stefanowski wins big.”

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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