Rand Paul Holding Slimmer Lead in Kentucky
The new poll - in which 569 likely voters were questioned by telephone - found Paul would beat Conway by a margin of 51 percent to 45 percent if the election were held today.
Paul's lead, however, falls within the poll's margin of error, which is plus or minus 4.2 percentage points. Only 4 percent of likely voters said they were undecided in the poll, which was conducted May 25-27 by SurveyUSA.
The seat, which Republican Jim Bunning has held since 1998, is one that Democrats believe they have a good chance of capturing in the Nov. 2 election.
But Conway has work to do among several key demographic groups if he expects to beat Paul, including independents and voters in the 35-49 age group, the Bluegrass Poll shows.
In the early days of the race, Paul has tried to paint Conway as being too liberal for Kentucky voters, while Conway has tried to characterize Paul as outside the mainstream with his libertarian beliefs.
The poll was conducted one week after a political firestorm erupted when Paul appeared on MSNBC and suggested that businesses should have the right to discriminate on the basis of race, even though he said he finds racism abhorrent.
He backtracked the following day, saying that government was right to prohibit businesses that are open to the public from discriminating.
The poll results are similar to those from a Daily Kos survey conducted by Research 2000 earlier in the week, which found Paul leading 44-40 percent. But they differ greatly from a Rasmussen poll released last week showing Paul with a 25-point lead.
The Bluegrass Poll found that Paul has clear advantages among men and people in the 35-49 age group. He has sizable leads among those who consider themselves conservatives, abortion foes and those who agree with the political views espoused by the tea party, which favors lower taxes and smaller government.
Paul also leads handily among white voters, college graduates, those who attend church regularly, earn more than $50,000 a year and those who own guns.
He is strongest in Western Kentucky and nearly as strong in north-central Kentucky.
Conway, conversely, leads among voters age 18-34, African Americans, moderates, liberals and those who don't agree with the tea party.
He also enjoys leads among those who favor abortion rights, who never go to church and who don't own guns.
Conway is also ahead among voters who earn less than $50,000 a year and those who live in eastern Kentucky.
Fay Theurer, a 60-year-old semiretired nurse in Adair County who participated in the poll and agreed to a follow-up interview, said she plans to vote for Conway because he's a Democrat.
"I absolutely will not vote for a Republican," said Theurer, who worries that Republicans like Paul favor businesses over people. "I've never known of a Republican ever to think of the little man."
Theurer said she believes the Democrats have better ideas on job creation and the economy.
But Dean Bowcock, a Republican from Pulaski County who responded to the poll and agreed to an interview, said he plans to vote for Paul because of his support for a smaller, less-intrusive government.
"One of the biggest reasons is I don't think our federal government has any responsibility raising our kids," said Bowcock, 46, who is a stay-at-home father taking care of his disabled daughter.
Bowcock said he wants the federal government out of education and is particularly against federal court rulings that have "taken God out of schools."
He also said he, like Paul, favors limiting government to the specific provisions outlined in the U.S. Constitution.
A separate Bluegrass Poll question found that much of Paul's support comes from people who identify themselves with the tea-party movement. Paul received the backing of several tea-party groups during the GOP primary, in which he defeated Secretary of State Trey Grayson.
The results of the polling on the tea party appear a bit contradictory - although they fall within the poll's margin of error.
The poll found that a plurality of Kentuckians have neither a favorable nor unfavorable view of the tea-party movement, with 45 percent saying they are either neutral or have no opinion.
It found that 36 percent of Kentuckians view the group favorably, while 19 percent said they view it unfavorably. That poll, conducted on the same days as the U.S. Senate race poll, had a margin of error of 4.1 percentage points.
Among those who have a favorable view of the tea party, Paul leads 90 percent to 9 percent, while among those who agree with the movement he has an advantage of 85-14 percent.
Among those who have an unfavorable view of the movement, Conway leads 93-3 percent and among those who disagree with it he leads 93-4.