Gov. Jay Inslee leads his 2016 Republican challenger, Bill Bryant, by 9 percentage points, according to the results of an Elway Poll.

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OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee leads 2016 GOP challenger Bill Bryant by 9 percentage points, according to the results of a new Elway Poll.

Inslee, a Democrat who was elected governor in 2012, leads Bryant, a former Port of Seattle commissioner, 39 to 30 percent, according to results released Wednesday. Thirty-one percent of poll respondents were undecided.

The poll also notes the increasing numbers of respondents — 58 percent — who rate the governor as doing a “poor” or “only fair” job. Those marks have increased in Elway polls from 49 percent in July 2013.

On job performance, 39 percent of respondents in the poll rated Inslee as doing a “good” or “excellent” job, down slightly from 41 percent last July.

“The story early in this election year is Inslee’s apparent vulnerability,” according to a summary of the poll. “But just how vulnerable is he?”

In a state where voters have elected Democratic governors for decades — albeit sometimes narrowly — that seems to be the question.

The new poll noted that 19 percent of respondents in last July’s survey said they preferred a different Democrat for governor. Inslee hasn’t drawn challengers from within the party.

In other words, “Inslee’s obvious first task is (to) convince those disaffected Democratic voters that he is their guy,” according to the poll. “If he does that, he is almost home.”

A 9-point lead in the race isn’t too bad a place to start out the year, either.

“It’s good to see another poll with the Governor in a strong position for re-election, leading by nearly 10 points,” wrote Jamal Raad, spokesman for the Washington State Democratic Party, in an email. Raad pointed to a November Morning Consult poll showing Inslee with a job-approval rating at 55 percent.

In a statement, Bryant’s campaign highlighted issues at several state agencies — including the error leading to the early release of prisoners; problems with recruiting and retention at the Washington State Patrol; and ethics questions about a state clean-energy-grant program involving the state Department of Commerce.

“Voters are tiring of all the scandals and ethical lapses in Olympia,” Bryant said in prepared remarks.

But the question remains whether Bryant can outperform previous unsuccessful Republican candidates such as Rob McKenna and Dino Rossi. The Elway Poll notes “Bryant already has most of the mileage he is going to get out of his party identification and his not-Inslee-ness.”

The poll randomly surveyed 500 registered Washington voters between Dec. 28 and 30 and has a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points at the 95 percent level of confidence.

This means that had the survey been conducted 100 times, in theory, at least 95 of those would be within a 4.5 percentage-point margin of error.