COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – The first independent poll of Ohio’s Republican U.S. Senate primary shows former state treasurer Josh Mandel in the lead, but more than 1 in 3 voters are still undecided more than four months away.

Conservative-leaning pollster the Trafalgar Group released a survey Friday that shows Mandel leading five other candidates with 21.4% of the vote, while 34.4% of respondents – a plurality – said they have yet to choose a candidate or would choose someone not listed.

Behind Mandel are author and venture capitalist JD Vance (14.9%), Cleveland banker Mike Gibbons (11.9%), former Ohio GOP chair Jane Timken (10.4%), state Sen. Matt Dolan (5.3%) and auto dealership owner Bernie Moreno (1.7%).

The poll was conducted Dec. 12-15 among 1,053 likely 2022 GOP primary voters from across Ohio. Its margin of error is 2.99%.

For most polls, you can read the margin of error (MoE) like this: If the poll were to be done again 100 times, in 95 of those times the results would be within “X” percentage points of the original.

So let’s say a national poll of a sampling of registered voters, with an MoE of +/- 3, has:

  • Joe Biden at 53%
  • Donald Trump at 47%

  • You can be 95% certain that a hypothetical poll of all registered U.S. voters would yield results between these extremes:

  • Biden 56/Trump 44 (+3 more for Biden, -3 fewer for Trump)
  • Trump 50/Biden 50 (+3 more for Trump, -3 fewer for Biden)
  • Before Trafalgar’s survey, the only polling of the race came from candidates’ campaigns. Usually when a campaign commissions a poll, the results show oversized support for that candidate.

    A Nov. 29 poll sponsored by Timken’s campaign, for example, showed her in second place with 17% of the vote. That’s above the 10.4% she received in Trafalgar’s survey.

    In at least 14 of these campaign-commissioned polls dating back to February, Mandel, who was the Republican nominee for Senate against Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown in 2012, has led.

    The primary candidates are running for a chance at retiring Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman's seat.

    Although polling from Atlanta-based Trafalgar tends to favor Republicans, and the group has been criticized for not explaining its methodology in great detail, it was among the most accurate pollsters of Ohio in the 2020 presidential election.

    Trafalgar correctly predicted former President Donald Trump would win Ohio last year, as a poll days before the election favored him over President Joe Biden by 4.8 percentage points. And that poll’s margin of error was just 2.96 points. Trump won the state by just over 8 points.

    Trafalgar also correctly predicted Trump winning the presidency in 2016, and FiveThirtyEight rated it the second most accurate pollster for the 2020 election despite it predicting a Biden loss. The poll-tracking website gives Trafalgar an overall A- rating.