KANSAS CITY, Kan. — New polling results for the state of Kansas show the governor’s race is in a dead heat.

This week’s FOX4/Emerson College poll shows a two-point lead for incumbent Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly over Republican candidate and Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt.

On the question of, “If the election for Governor were held today, who would you vote for?” Kelly is at 44.6% while Schmidt is at 43.1%. That difference is within the margin of error.

It’s also notable, for the time being, that right-leaning Independent candidate Dennis Pyle has 3% of that total.

“The big demographic takeaway is the gender divide that we’re seeing in Kansas. It’s almost like an opposite where the men are breaking for Schmidt — 51% to 38% — and the females are breaking for Kelly — 51% to 37%,” said Spencer Kimball, executive director for Emerson College polling.

Emerson’s polling also shows the issues most important to voters. The economy broadly tops the list for 48.4% of surveyed voters. But the clear breakaway issue is abortion access. The issue is most important to 16.2% of voters.

“When we’re taking a look at the male vote, the economy’s the top issue, and they’re breaking for the Republicans about 3-to-1. But you look at that female vote, and abortion is the second-most important issue in the entire electorate,” Kimball said.

“So after the economy is abortion access, and that’s breaking for Democrats like 80% to 5%. So as more people come on board and say abortion access is my top issue, that generally will help the Democratic candidate.”

Other Kansas polling questions

Another close statewide race is for Kansas attorney general. Republican Kris Kobach is currently toe-to-toe with Democrat Chris Mann, with Kobach leading 41% to 39%.

However, in the U.S. Senate race, Republican incumbent Jerry Moran holds a comfortable double-digit lead over Democratic challenger Mark Holland, 45% to 33%.

Looking at President Joe Biden’s approval rating in Kansas, about 59% disapprove of his performance while nearly 36% approve.

And regarding Former President Donald Trump, Emerson asked this question: “Does the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago make you more or less likely to support a possible Donald Trump campaign in 2024?”

On this question, 38.5% of Kansans said the search makes them “more likely” to support him, 31.7% said “less likely” and 29.8% said it makes no difference.

“To me, I look at certain questions as indicators. So the Mar-a-Lago question, it’s an important question because we’ve been asking it in every state. And we can start to see where the Trump vote is really strong and where it is not as strong. And so what we see in Kansas is a strong Trump vote,” Kimball said.

“The abortion access is also important to continue to watch. When we started asking this question a couple months ago it was like 3-4% as the more important issue. Now in Kansas it’s 16%. It could up to 20-25%. That’s a gamechanger for the Democrats. Those votes are coming heavy for Democrats,” Kimball said. 

“What do you think the campaigns themselves — Laura Kelly, Derek Schmidt — what are they going to take away from this information?” FOX4 asked.

“The question’s going to be for both campaigns: Do you double down on your base? Does Laura Kelly go for the female vote? Does Schmidt go for the male vote because they know those are going to be their base voters. Or do you start to see ads that appeal to the other side in which case they’re trying to cross over votes,” Kimball said.

About 8% of Kansans polled said they are still undecided in the governor’s race. Also interesting to note from the poll is that independent voters are favoring Kelly over Schmidt at 46% to 30%.

Kansas governor candidates respond

Gov. Kelly’s campaign released a statement on the poll results Wednesday:

“Governor Kelly’s strong favorability and big lead with Independent voters is just more proof that her steady leadership and record of bipartisan results is resonating with Kansans – no matter their political party. She’s gotten Kansas back on track by working with both parties to balance the budget, fully fund schools, cut $1 billion in taxes and bring in over $14 billion in new business investment to the state.

“Governor Kelly will continue to earn the trust of Kansans by pushing for policies that help families – while Derek Schmidt is running to bring us back to the failures of Sam Brownback.”

Madison Andrus, Kelly campaign spokesperson

Schmidt’s campaign also issued a statement on the poll:

“The Schmidt campaign is surging as Kansans learn more about Laura Kelly’s extreme record of vetoing fairness in women’s sports, locking kids and parents out of schools, and working in lockstep with Joe Biden to make inflation worse. She can’t answer for her record and as of today has to resort to desperate on-camera lies, which no Kansan believes.”

Eric Pahls, Schmidt campaign general consultant