Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith has a slight 41% to 40% lead over Democratic challenger Mike Espy in a poll released Monday morning by the Tyson Group.

The same pollster had Hyde-Smith up on Espy 54% to 28% in March.

The Tyson Group  recently conducted polls in Gulf Coast states for the Consumer Energy Alliance on the issue of offshore drilling. FiveThirtyEight, which rates national pollsters, gives Tyson a B/C grade.

In addition to asking questions on offshore drilling, which was supported by a majority of respondents in Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida and Mississippi, the poll also surveyed political issues. It is one of few public surveys in the 2020 election cycle that polled voters about the Hyde-Smith vs. Espy race.

The poll provides the best showing yet for Espy, the former congressman and secretary of agriculture in the Clinton administration. In August, his campaign released an internal poll showing him within 5 percentage points of Hyde-Smith. But at the same time, the Hyde-Smith campaign released its own internal poll that indicated the race was not as close.

READ MORE: Espy, Hyde-Smith campaigns release dueling polls in Mississippi Senate race.

Black Mississippians made up 29% of those polled by Tyson — which, if the poll results are accurate, would be welcomed news for Espy. The Espy campaign has said that the African American share of the electorate needs to be more than 35% for him to have a chance of prevailing on Nov. 3 against the incumbent Hyde-Smith.

Hyde-Smith garnered more than 53% of the vote in November 2018 to defeat Espy in a special election runoff, when the two were competing to finish the term of long-time Sen. Thad Cochran who retired for health reasons.

The poll shows Hyde-Smith with a 45% to 35% lead among male voters, but Espy has a 44% to 37% advantage with female voters. Espy, who in 1986 became the first Black elected to Congress from Mississippi since the 1800s, has an 83% to 4% lead among African Americans.

The poll found that 18% of Mississippians were undecided.

READ MORE: Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith ducks questions at rare public event after months of laying low.

In recent weeks, Hyde-Smith has made few public appearances. Most political forecasters have tabbed the race as a safe or a least likely hold for Republicans who are struggling to maintain their slim majority this election cycle in the U.S. Senate.

The same poll gives President Donald Trump a 50% to 40% lead over former Vice President Joe Biden in Mississippi.

In terms of job approvals, the poll finds:

  • Governor Tate Reeves with a 51% to 41% positive rating.
  • Sen. Roger Wicker with a 45% to 29% positive rating.
  • Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith with a 45% to 37% positive rating.

In Florida, considered a key swing state, especially for Trump’s potential path to victory, Biden holds a slim 46% to 44% lead.

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In neighboring Alabama, Trump has a surprisingly slim 48% to 44% lead over Biden.

The poll of 600 Mississippi voters was conducted on Aug. 28-30 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4%.

Espy began his television advertising campaign on Sept. 1. Hyde-Smith is slated to begin running television ads later this week.


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Bobby Harrison, Mississippi Today’s senior capitol reporter, covers politics, government and the Mississippi State Legislature. He also writes a weekly news analysis which is co-published in newspapers statewide. A native of Laurel, Bobby joined our team June 2018 after working for the North Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo since 1984. He is president of the Mississippi Capitol Press Corps Association and works with the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute to organize press luncheons. Bobby has a bachelor's in American Studies from the University of Southern Mississippi and has received multiple awards from the Mississippi Press Association, including the Bill Minor Best Investigative/In-depth Reporting and Best Commentary Column.