Nearly 40 percent of Democratic primary voters are still undecided in the Illinois governor’s race, according to a poll released Wednesday, just eight days before early voting was scheduled to begin.
The survey, conducted by polling firm We Ask America, was the first to be released since last October and shed some light on a race that has since been measured by endorsements, fundraising and television ad buys.
While 38 percent of respondents reported that they were undecided, the poll showed that state Sen. Daniel Biss' standings have drastically improved from 6 percent to 17.4 percent. With that number, Biss overtook businessman Chris Kennedy for the first time to land in a clear second place behind frontrunner J.B. Pritzker.
Biss even outperformed Pritzker in suburban Cook County, grabbing 30 percent of respondents' support compared to Pritzker's 25 percent, but falling short in downstate with just 4 percent to Pritzker's 38 percent.
That offset helped Pritzker, the billionaire Democratic fundraiser and Hyatt heir, remain in first with 30 percent of the vote, though his lead dropped by 9 points since the fall.
Kennedy’s share shrunk as well, slipping from 15 to 11.5 percent in Wednesday’s poll.
The three remaining gubernatorial candidates — Tio Hardiman, Bob Daiber and Robert Marshall — together made up just 3 percent of the vote.
A spokeswoman for Biss said in a statement that their campaign wasn't surprised by the news.
"Voters understand the choice in this primary: a middle-class candidate with a progressive record and bold vision for Illinois' future, or a billionaire businessman who's now promising to fix the same broken systems he's benefited from," said Abby Witt.
The Pritzker campaign took the news in stride. "J.B. is proud of the support he has received across the state,” campaign spokeswoman Galia Slayen said in a statement, adding that it was “clear that J.B. is the only candidate who is focused on beating Bruce Rauner and that’s exactly what he’ll do in November.”
Meanwhile, Kennedy's camp pointed to the large swath of undecided voters.
"One thing is consistently clear in this poll and in every poll that’s been done in this race: Voters are very much undecided and they’re looking for another option besides J.B. Pritzker," Kennedy spokeswoman Rebecca O'Halloran Evans said in a statement.
With an almost entirely self-funded campaign war chest in the neighborhood of $42 million, Pritzker has been able to dominate airwaves since launching his first TV ad last May. But with the March Primary Election Day just six weeks away, his rivals have since been able to hop in, with Kennedy buying his first TV spot in November and Biss hitting airwaves earlier this month.
The We Ask America poll was conducted between Jan. 28 and 30 and polled 811 likely Democratic Party voters using both automated and live calls. About half of the responses came from cellphones, leaving the poll with a 3.44 percent margin of error.