COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Gov. Mike DeWine has a formidable advantage in his bid for reelection, according to the first independent survey of Ohio’s Republican gubernatorial primary, released Monday.

A poll of 1,066 likely GOP primary voters conducted Feb. 1-4 by the Trafalgar Group found 40.9% would vote for DeWine, while 22.8% and 20.2% would vote for challengers Jim Renacci and Joe Blystone, respectively.

The remaining 16.1%, per the conservative-leaning pollster’s survey, are still undecided or do not plan to vote.

A graph shows the results of the first independent poll of Ohio’s 2022 Republican primary for governor, conducted Feb. 1-4, 2022. (Screenshot/Trafalgar Group)

The poll has a margin of error of 2.99 percentage points, meaning each candidate’s advantage could swing about six points in either direction if the poll was done again. DeWine’s 18-point lead over Renacci would survive that error margin, a further solidification of his status as frontrunner for the May 3 primary.

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)
  • Renacci, a former congressman from Northeast Ohio, has tried to position himself as the biggest threat to DeWine's reelection. Trafalgar's poll, however, suggests his battle is currently with outsider candidate Joe Blystone, a farmer from Canal Winchester who, like Renacci, is running to DeWine's right.

    Previous polls commissioned by Renacci's campaign and an anti-DeWine political action committee, including one in mid-January, showed him leading the incumbent governor, but polls commissioned by campaigns and PACs notoriously often favor the supported candidate. Trafalgar's survey is the first neutral look at the race.

    Renacci left his seat in 2018 to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown in his reelection, but he lost by about 7 points. Blystone has no political experience. Trafalgar's poll was conducted before former state Rep. Ron Hood entered the race.

    On the Democratic side, a two-way contest between former Cincinnati mayor John Cranley and former Dayton mayor Nan Whaley, has yet to be independently polled.

    Trafalgar an accurate recent pollster

    As NBC4 explained in December when Trafalgar released the first independent survey of Ohio's GOP Senate race, the pollster has been among the most accurate in Ohio despite not explaining its methodology in great detail.

    Trafalgar notes on its website that it uses a mix of techniques like live calls, texts and emails to conduct polls. Its surveys are also shorter and try to accommodate for a recent trend of respondents intentionally giving false answers because of who is asking and why.

    The Atlanta-based pollster correctly predicted former President Donald Trump would win the Ohio last year, as a poll days before the election favored him over President Joe Biden by 4.8 percentage points. That poll’s margin of error was just 2.96 points, and Trump won Ohio 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-minus rating.

    The pollster's only previous poll of a governor's race, however, predicted DeWine would lose the 2018 general election to Democrat Richard Cordray by 3.6 points. DeWine won by 3.7 points.