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Poll: Terry McAuliffe leads in Virginia governor’s race

terry mcauliffe2Democrat Terry McAuliffe has opened up a slight 43-38 percent lead over Republican Ken Cuccinelli in the race to become Virginia’s next governor, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

While Virginia may be considered a “swing state” in presidential elections, trial heats for 2016 find that both Hillary Clinton and U.S. Sen. Mark Warner would carry the Old Dominion by comfortable double-digits margins if the White House voting were today, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll finds.

The McAuliffe-Cuccinelli race has been a tossup since Quinnipiac University began surveying the contest late last year, with a March 27 survey showing Cuccinelli at 40 percent to McAuliffe’s 38 percent, a statistical tie.

“The governor’s race remains tight and could well go all the way to November as a close contest,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling institute.  “The 17 percent of voters who say they are undecided will determine the Commonwealth’s next governor.  At this point neither man seems to have much of an edge. “

Independent voters, who tend to be later deciders and generally go to the winner, are split right down the middle in the governor’s race, 38 percent for Cuccinelli and 37 percent for McAuliffe.  Cuccinelli has an 85 – 3 percent lead among Republicans, while Democrats go to McAuliffe 83 – 5 percent.  Cuccinelli carries men 44 – 38 percent, while McAuliffe wins women 47 – 33 percent.  White voters go 48 – 35 percent for the Republican, as black voters back the Democrat 70 – 5 percent.

Neither candidate is well-known.  McAuliffe is viewed favorably by 22 percent of the electorate and unfavorably by 17 percent, while 60 percent don’t know enough about him to have an opinion.  McAuliffe has made no progress in reaching the electorate this year. His favorable/unfavorable ratio in Quinnipiac University’s January poll was 23 – 16 percent favorable, about the same as today.

Cuccinelli, the state attorney general, is better known, with a 31 – 24 favorability rating.

“At this point, neither candidate sets the electorate’s heart atwitter,” said Brown. “But we are starting to see the beginning of the television advertising campaign by the two candidates, and presumably those ads will begin to introduce the candidates to the voters.”

Cuccinelli gets a healthy 47 – 30 percent job approval rating as attorney general and voters say 45 – 25 percent that he has the right experience to be governor.

McAuliffe has the right experience, voters say 31 – 26 percent.

McAuliffe is too liberal, 22 percent of voters say, while 4 percent say he is too conservative and 33 percent say he is about right.

Cuccinelli is too conservative, 28 percent of voters say, with 6 percent saying he is too liberal and 38 percent saying he is about right.

Jobs are the most important issue in their vote for governor, 22 percent of voters say, followed by 16 percent who list government spending, 15 percent who list health care, 12 percent who cite schools and 11 percent who list taxes.

“It does not appear that the governor’s race will be driven by one overarching issue,” said Brown.

In trial heats for 2016, former Secretary of State Clinton would defeat U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida 51 – 38 percent, and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, the 2012 GOP vice presidential candidate, 50 – 40 percent.

Sen. Warner would defeat Rubio 51 – 33 percent and Ryan 50 – 37 percent.

From May 8 – 13, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,286 registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 2.7 percentage points.  Live interviewers call land lines and cell phones.

The Quinnipiac University Poll, directed by Douglas Schwartz, Ph.D., conducts public opinion surveys in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida, Ohio, Virginia and the nation as a public service and for research.

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