Is the Virginia governor’s race tightening, or did Quinnipiac University just decide that it needed to tighten?
A look at the poll’s internals might give an indication to the diverging trends. The new Quinnipiac poll weights the electorate at 31 percent Republican, 29 percent Democrat and 31 percent independent. Looking back at the two most recent previous Quinnipiac polls, the weighting was not skewed Republican, but Democratic. The Oct. 21 poll that had McAuliffe up 46 percent to 39 percent had an electorate that was 33 percent Democrat, 25 percent Republican and 35 percent independent, and the Oct. 10 poll that had McAuliffe up 47 percent to 39 percent had an electorate that was 32 percent Democrat, 27 percent Republican and 35 percent independent.
For comparison sake, Monday’s Washington Post poll that has McAuliffe up 12 points had the partisan breakdown at 32 percent Democrat, 24 percent Republican and 31 percent independent. A Roanoke College poll also released today that has McAuliffe with a 15-point lead has the breakdown at 36 percent Democrat, 27 percent Republican and 24 percent independent.
Another look at the Quinnipiac poll internals would seem to suggest that McAuliffe’s lead would be more in line with what the Post and Roanoke College have it in their recent polls. In the Oct. 10 and Oct. 21 Quinnipiac polls, McAuliffe had either a narrow lead among independents (40-38 on Oct. 10) or was tied (39-39). In the poll released today, McAuliffe had opened up a 15-point lead among independents, 46 percent to 31 percent.
If the weighting of the Oct. 28 poll were similar to the Oct. 21 poll, McAuliffe’s lead would still be in the seven-point range, and if it were similar to the Oct. 10 poll, the lead for McAuliffe would be nine points.
There was an interesting comment in the press release from Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute by way of trying to explain the tightening of the numbers. Brown said Cuccinelli “seems to be benefitting from Republicans coming home,” even as a look at the internals of the three most recent polls shows nothing of the sort in terms of a trend.
The Oct. 28 poll has Cuccinelli leading McAuliffe among Republican voters 86 percent to 5 percent. The Oct. 21 poll had the split at 81-6 in favor of Cuccinelli, and the Oct. 10 poll had the split at 83-7 in terms of Cuccinelli.
That slight at best shift among Republicans has been more than overshadowed by the big move from Oct. 10 and Oct. 21 to Oct. 28 among independents, from what was essentially a neck-and-neck race to a 15-point McAuliffe lead.