Incumbent Jahana Hayes (left) and Republican challenger George Logan appear for the Fifth Congressional District debate at Central Connecticut State University October 20, 2022. Mark Mirko / CT Public

Republican George Logan has a one-point lead over U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-5th District, in the first public poll in Connecticut’s nationally watched congressional contest.

The poll released Thursday by WTNH/The Hill/Emerson College brands the race a toss up, validating national Republican spending in a blue-state district as the GOP tries to claw back control of Congress.

Logan had a 48% to 47% lead, with 4% undecided, in a survey of 500 likely voters conducted from Oct. 19 to 21. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.

“There is a stark gender divide among 5th District voters: 55% of women plan to vote to re-elect Hayes whereas 57% of men plan to vote for Logan,” said Spencer Kimball, executive director of Emerson College Polling. “In addition, Logan is winning independent votes 53% to 38%.”

Nearly half of the respondents identified the economy as the most important issue in determining their votes, followed by 15% who named abortion and 14% concerned about threats to democracy. Nothing else registered in double digits.

By a narrow 51%-49%, voters said the state was on the wrong track.  

“Among those who say Connecticut is headed on the wrong track, 86% plan to support Logan for Congress, while 87% of those who say the state is headed in the right direction are voting to re-elect Hayes,” Kimball said.

[Election 2022: Everything Connecticut residents need to know before voting this year]

The overturning of Roe v. Wade, returning control over abortion to the states, made 45% of voters much more likely to vote and 5% somewhat more likely. Forty-six percent said it made no difference.

Both candidates favor a woman’s right to an abortion, as is currently guaranteed by state law in Connecticut codifying Roe v. Wade. Hayes favors for a similar federal law; Logan is opposed, calling it an overreach. 

Emerson went into the field the day after their first debate and concluded the survey the day after the second one. Both debates were televised, the first by WTNH and the second by Connecticut Public Broadcasting.

Logan, 53, the only Black Republican in the state Senate during a two-term tenure that ended with defeat in 2020, is trying to unseat Hayes, 49, the first Black woman elected to Congress from Connecticut.

The district runs along Connecticut’s western border with New York from Danbury to the Massachusetts line, covering cities like Waterbury, New Britain, Meriden and Bristol and villages in the Litchfield hills.

Voters had favorable opinions of both candidates, though Logan lagged in name recognition behind the two-term congresswoman, a former national teacher of the year and Waterbury school teacher.

Nearly one in 5 voters had no opinion of Logan, a government affairs official for Aquarion, a water company owned by Eversource.

Hayes had a 51% to 46% favorable/unfavorable rating. The margin for Logan was 45% to 37%.

Chris Murphy unseated Republican Nancy Johnson to represent the district in 2006. Democrat Elizabeth Esty won the open seat when Murphy ran for U.S. Senate. Hayes won the open seat in 2018, when Esty did not run.

President Joe Biden carried the district in 2020, and 53% of Emerson’s polling sample said they voted for him. Hayes was elected and reelected by double-digits, but the district was carried by the GOP candidate for governor in 2018. 

The race has attracted nearly $7.2 million in outside spending. 

Republicans currently hold no U.S. House seats from New England. But they are competing in Connecticut’s 5th and an open race in Rhode Island, where Republican Allan Fung is leading in public polls.

Emerson College Polling collects its data using automated questions to likely voters on landlines and cell phones, plus an online panel. It weighted data sets by gender, age, education, race, party registration, and region based on 2022 turnout modeling.

Emerson gets an accuracy grade of A- from the political data site, The grades are based on how closely polls conducted within 21 days of an election came to the actual results.

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.