As the major party candidates in the Virginia governor’s race prepare for the Sept. 19 televised debate, a Suffolk University poll shows Democrat Ralph Northam and Republican Ed Gillespie tied, with 42 percent supporting or leaning toward each.
And as the nation wrestles with a strategy to deal with Confederate statues in public places, 57 percent of Virginia voters want them to remain in place, while 32 percent support their removal. Voters were split by party and race on this question, with 61 percent of Democrats supporting removal and 91 percent of Republicans and 60 percent of independents opposed. Among black voters, 65 percent supported removal, while 67 percent of whites were opposed.
Although Hyra is certified on the official ballot for governor, he was not invited to the Tuesday evening debate. Yet 67 percent of likely Virginia voters—spread across party lines, age categories, incomes, regions, races, and gender—said that Hyra should be included, compared to 16 percent who said he should not.
“Although most voters have never heard of Hyra, they still respect that any candidate who has gone through the process of getting on the Virginia ballot should be included in the debate,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston.
Among independent voters, Gillespie led Northam 40 percent to 26 percent, with Hyra at 7 percent, and 26 percent undecided. Gillespie led Northam 90 percent to 4 percent among Republicans, with 5 percent undecided, and Northam led Gillespie 90 percent to 2 percent among Democrats, with 6 percent undecided.
A majority of Virginia adults did not vote in the 2014 midterm election either because they were not registered to vote or they were registered but didn’t go to the polls. When likely voters were asked why the turnout was so low, 17 percent cited “poor candidate choices,” 16 percent said the nonvoters probably feel like their vote doesn’t count, 16 percent blamed apathy, 8 percent said that nonvoters are not familiar with issues, 6 percent said that “promises not kept/don’t trust politicians.”
Of the nearly 6 million Virginia adults eligible to vote in the 2014 midterm election, only 2.2 million voted, according to the U.S. Elections Project. The previous year, 2.2 million Virginia voters cast ballots in the statewide election. In August 2012, Suffolk University/USA TODAY released a national poll of unregistered/unlikely voters examining the issues and preferences of the growing number of people who don’t vote every year. It was the only poll of its kind taken during that election year. The Suffolk University Political Research Center is again exploring the issue of voter turnout in its state and national polling.