Democrat Terry McAuliffe has a 48-42 percent lead over Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in the race to become Virginia’s next governor, according to today’s Quinnipiac University poll, the first survey in this race among voters likely to vote in the November election.
The six-point lead for McAuliffe is not comparable to previous surveys by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University, taken among registered voters.
Honesty is the most important quality Virginia likely voters are considering when they choose a candidate as 58 percent of voters say a candidate’s “honesty and trustworthiness” are “extremely important” while 35 percent say “very important.” Voters are divided 39-36 percent on whether McAuliffe is honest and trustworthy, and are divided 42-43 percent on Cuccinelli’s honesty.
A candidate’s experience is extremely important, 19 percent say, as 42 percent say very important. Cuccinelli has the right kind of experience, voters say 56-31 percent, compared to 46-34 percent for McAuliffe.
A candidate’s “understanding of the problems of people like you” is extremely important, 44 percent of voters say, while 38 percent say very important. Voters are divided on McAuliffe as 38 percent say he understands and 42 percent say he doesn’t. By a wide 51-37 percent margin, voters say Cuccinelli does not understand.
“Democrat Terry McAuliffe is up 16 percentage points among voters who say empathy or understanding their problems is extremely important, while Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has a 23-point advantage among those who say the right kind of experience is extremely important,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “It’s a tossup among voters who say honesty is extremely important. Voters care more about empathy than experience which helps explain McAuliffe’s lead.”
“The campaign has been light on issues and big on personalities, and it is in the area of personal characteristics that McAuliffe has a small edge,” said Brown. “It seems obvious that Gov. Bob McDonnell’s political troubles are hurting fellow Republican Cuccinelli. Guilt by association may not be fair, but it sure is politically powerful. Trust matters and at this point neither man is doing all that well in that category.”
McAuliffe carries Democrats 92-1 percent while Cuccinelli wins Republicans 90-6 percent. Independent voters are divided with 42 percent for McAuliffe and 44 percent for Cuccinelli.
The candidates break even 45-46 percent among men while McAuliffe takes women 50-38 percent. Cuccinelli wins white voters 50-42 percent, while black voters go Democratic 74-7 percent.
Voters have a 41-35 percent unfavorable view of Cuccinelli and disapprove slightly, 46-42 percent, of his performance as attorney general. They have a split 34-33 percent favorable/ unfavorable opinion of McAuliffe.
Virginia voters say 56-25 percent that McAuliffe spends more time attacking Cuccinelli rather than explaining what he would do as governor.
Cuccinelli spends more time attacking rather than explaining, voters say 52-32 percent.
With less than three months until the election, the candidates for attorney general and lieutenant governor are unknown to the vast majority of voters.
In the race for lieutenant governor, 75 percent of voters don’t know enough about Republican E.W. Jackson to form an opinion of him, and 87 percent don’t know enough about Democrat Ralph Northam.
Republican attorney general candidate Mark Obenshain gets an 82 percent “don’t know enough,” compared to 88 percent for Democrat Mark Herring.
From August 14-19, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,129 likely voters with a margin of error of +/- 2.9 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, Colorado, Iowa and the nation as a public service and for research.