HELENA — U.S. Sen. Steve Daines leads his Democratic challenger, Gov. Steve Bullock, by three percentage points and President Trump leads Democratic nominee Joe Biden by seven points in Montana, according to a poll released Friday by AARP-Montana.
The poll, which surveyed 800 people by telephone from Aug. 30-Sept. 5, said Daines led Bullock 50 percent to 47 percent of those surveyed and the president leads Biden by 50 percent to 43 percent.
The poll confirmed that Daines, a first-term Republican, and Bullock, a two-term governor, are locked in a close race in one of the most closely watched U.S. Senate contests in the country – and, likely the most expensive race in Montana history.
The campaigns and outside groups will spend at least $50 million on the race -- and likely a lot more.
Earlier polls showed Bullock leading or the race tied, but more recent polls have shown Daines with a slight lead.
While the poll shows Trump leading Biden by a comfortable margin in Montana, the seven-point gap is much smaller than the 20-point margin by which Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton in Montana in 2016.
The poll has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3.5 percentage points.
AARP-Montana is a nonpartisan group whose members are 50 and older. It hired polling firm Fabrizio Ward and Hart Research to conduct the survey.
The poll also showed a significant gender gap in both races, with men leaning Republican and women leaning Democratic, and a big gap between those with or without a college education.
Majorities of those with college educations supported Democrats in both races, while strong majorities of those with a high school degree or less supported Republicans.
In the U.S. Senate race, Daines had a 57 percent to 40 percent edge among men, while Bullock led among women who were surveyed, 55 percent to 43 percent.
Men without a college degree preferred Daines by 64 percent to 34 percent, but men with a college degree favored Bullock, 51 percent to 45 percent.
Women without a college degree favored Daines by a slight edge, 49 percent to 47 percent, but women with college degrees overwhelmingly preferred Bullock, 67 percent to 31 percent.
Similar breakdowns occurred in the presidential race.
Men preferred Trump by a 16-point margin, 54 percent to 38 percent, while Biden had a slight edge among women, 48 percent to 47 percent.
Women without a college degree favored Trump by 14 points, 55 percent to 41 percent, but those with a college degree favored Biden by 32 points, 63 percent to 31 percent.
Men without a college degree favored Trump 62 percent to 30 percent, while men with a college degree favored Biden, 49 percent to 41 percent.
The poll also broke down the responses by age group.
Among those 50 years and older – who made up 62 percent of voters in 2018 – the races are essentially tied. Bullock had a 49 percent to 48 percent edge over Daines, while Trump led Biden 48 percent to 47 percent in this group.