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VCU poll: Northam, Democrats hold leads in all three state races

Democrat Ralph Northam holds a five-point lead over Republican Ed Gillespie among likely voters — 42 percent to 37 percent — in the race to become the next governor of Virginia, according to a poll released today by the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University.

ralph northamDecided Virginia voters were surprisingly consistent in their preferences across statewide races, according to the poll, conducted by the Wilder School’s Office of Public Policy Outreach. However, with more than three months to go before Election Day, a significant number of voters remain undecided in each race.

Libertarian candidate Cliff Hyra polled at 6 percent, while 13 percent of voters remained undecided in the governor’s race. Democrat Justin Fairfax holds a five-point lead in the lieutenant governor’s race, with 43 percent of likely voters supporting him and 38 percent supporting Republican Jill Vogel. Fifteen percent of likely voters remain undecided.

In the attorney general race, 45 percent of likely voters favor Democrat Mark Herring and 39 percent support Republican John Adams. Fifteen percent of likely voters are undecided.

The poll, a random sample of 806 adults in Virginia contacted by landline and cell telephone from July 17-25, has an overall margin of error of 4.2 percent. The margin of error for registered voters (707 adults) is plus or minus 4.5 percent. The margin of error for likely voters (538 voters) is 5.1 percent.

Poll respondents were asked which party they would rather see in control of the Virginia General Assembly. All 100 House of Delegates seats are up for election in November, with Republicans currently holding a 66-34 advantage. A plurality (48 percent) of likely voters responded that they would rather the Democrats control the General Assembly. Forty-one percent said they would prefer Republican control.

In the gubernatorial race, Northam has a sizeable lead in Northern Virginia (54 percent to 25 percent). Gillespie leads in the west (47 percent to 21 percent). Voters are split in the northwest, with 38 percent supporting Gillespie and 35 percent supporting Northam, and in Tidewater, with 39 percent supporting Northam and 35 percent supporting Gillespie. (See map below for a visual definition of the regions mentioned.)

Similar regional differences were found in the other statewide races. In the lieutenant gubernatorial race, Fairfax has a sizeable lead in Northern Virginia (58 percent to 25 percent), while Vogel leads in the west (46 percent to 24 percent). Voters are split in the northwest, with 36 percent supporting Fairfax and 34 percent supporting Vogel, and in Tidewater, with 42 percent supporting Fairfax and 37 percent supporting Vogel. Voters in the south central region of the state were evenly split with 34 percent support for each candidate. Larger proportions of voters remain undecided in south central (25 percent) and the west (22 percent).

Herring has a sizeable lead in Northern Virginia in the attorney general race (57 percent to 26 percent) and Adams leads in the west (52 percent to 30 percent). The margin is smaller in the south central and northwest regions, and voters were almost evenly split in Tidewater, with 42 percent supporting Herring and 41 percent supporting Adams. Larger proportions of voters remain undecided in the south central (28 percent) and northwest (21 percent).

Voters’ current employment status played a role in the statewide races. Those who are not employed were more likely to support the Republican candidate and those who are employed part-time were more likely to support the Democrat. Employment status was related to the respondent’s age. Forty-four percent of those who said they are not employed are ages 65 or older and 58 percent of those who said they are employed part-time are ages 18 to 34.

Party identification played a strong role in voter intention for all of the races, with Democrats preferring the Democratic candidate and Republicans preferring the Republican candidate. Independents were much more likely to offer that they would vote for neither candidate and a much larger proportion remain undecided, including 42 percent in the attorney general race.

In the weeks ahead, the Wilder School’s Office of Public Policy will be releasing further poll results measuring Virginians’ views on public safety (Aug. 15), economic development (Aug. 22), and K-12 and higher education (Aug. 29).

For a PDF of the 15-page report including complete question wording and detailed tables of results see www.wilder.vcu.edu/office-of-public-policy-outreach.

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