2000 U.S. Senate and Presidential Races

U.S. SENATE RACE TIGHTENS; GORE AND BUSH IN DEAD HEAT IN VIRGINIA

A poll conducted by The Center for Community Research at Roanoke College shows former-Governor George Allen (R) and incumbent U.S. Senator Chuck Robb (D) in a statistical dead heat among registered voters, while Presidential candidates Al Gore (D) and George Bush (R) are tied.

Allen leads Robb in the poll by 43%-40%, and Gore and Bush are in a virtual tie. The Roanoke College Poll was conducted between September 9 and September 17 and interviewed 454 randomly selected registered voters. The Poll has a margin of error of 4.5 percent.

U.S. Senate (Registered/Likely)
Allen 43%/46%
Robb 39%/40%

President of the United States (Registered/Likely)
Gore 43%/43%
Bush 42%/45%
Nader 1%/1%
Buchanan 0%/0%
Other 1%/1%
Undecided 11%/10%

Narrowing the sample to include only those registered voters who said they are very likely to vote in the election improves the fortunes of the Republican candidates. Allen’s lead over Robb is extended to 46%-40% (N=399), which is outside the margin of error, and Bush opens a small lead on Gore, 45%-43% (N=402). This is typical of findings of polls that include both registered and likely voters. The Poll also shows that neither of the “third-party” Presidential candidates has made an impact on Virginia voters.

Candidate Approval
George Allen enjoys a more favorable view among registered voters. He is viewed favorably by 65%, while only 25% have an unfavorable view of him. Chuck Robb is seen favorably by 49% and unfavorably by 36%.

The Presidential candidates have virtually identical numbers. Gore is viewed favorably by 58%, Bush by 57%. Their unfavorable numbers are 34% and 31% respectively. To compare them with other elected officials, Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore has favorable/unfavorable ratings of 69%/21% while President Bill Clinton figures are 45%/47%. Job approval ratings for the Governor and President track in similar fashion. Nearly two-thirds of registered voters approve of the job Gilmore is doing (65%) compared to 46% who said they approve of the job Clinton is doing.

Demographic Strengths and Weaknesses
A gender gap is present in both races. Allen leads Robb by 10% among males, but he trails by 3% among females. Gore leads Bush by 10% among females, but is behind by 8% among males. Allen also does much better with Whites (49%-35%), while Robb is the choice of most African-Americans (76%-7%). Similarly, Gore enjoys the support of African-Americans (80%-9%), while Bush leads among Whites (48%-37%).

Both Democratic candidates are doing quite well among younger voters, leading by nearly 2-1 margins. Robb leads among 18 to 29-year-olds 55%-28%, and Gore has a similar lead of 60%-31%. The Democrats also do well with the lowest and highest income brackets, while the Republicans are doing better with the middle class.

Issueless Campaigns
No single issue dominates the Senate campaign. Education was most frequently cited as the most important issue, yet it was only mentioned by 21% of the respondents. Robb leads among those voters by a 47%-36% margin. No other single issue was named by more than 10% of the registered voters. Taxes, cited by 8% as the most important issue breaks in favor of Allen (66%-17%) as does character (52%-39%, named by 7% of respondents) and moral values (80%-7%, named by 4% of respondents). Robb also does well among the respondents who cited health care (47%-16%, named by 4% of respondents) and Social Security/Medicare (39%-22%, named by 4% of respondents.

The Presidential contest in Virginia is even more fragmented in terms of a dominant issue. Education was the choice of 11% of the respondents, and they favored Gore by a 54%-31% margin. Gore supporters were also more likely to mention health care as the most important issue, and he held a slight lead in those who named Social Security/Medicare. Bush’s supporters cited taxes, moral values honesty, and character as the most import issues.

Attention to the Campaign and Importance of Government
Respondents said they have been paying either a great deal of attention (38%) or at least some attention (45%) to the campaigns. Only 15% said they have been paying little attention to this point, and 2% admitted they have paid no attention thus far.

Somewhat surprisingly, 57% of the registered Virginians surveyed said government has a great deal of impact in their daily lives. Another 34% said it has at least some impact on their daily lives. This is in spite of the fact that only 25% were willing to credit the Clinton Administration for the robust economy, while 13% believed the Republican Congress should be credited, and 2% chose state and local government.

Analysis
“While the Senate race is clearly tightening, overall, the news for the Allen campaign is not as bad as it may appear at first blush,” said Dr. Harry Wilson, the Center’s director. “Allen’s lead is outside the margin of error when we only consider likely voters. In addition, the favorable ratings also track in Allen’s favor.”

For the Presidential campaign, “[T]his clearly does not bode well for Bush,” Wilson said. “Even if we assume that Bush can hold in Virginia, it will take more resources than his campaign would wish to spend here, and that impacts what they have available to spend in the rest of the country. The fact that Bush is in a statistical dead heat in a state traditionally carried by Republicans and one in which President Clinton is not particularly popular indicates some serious problems for the Texas Governor. The fact that Gore’s favorable ratings equal those of Bush is a very good sign for the vice-president.”

“The lack of a dominant issue in either the Senate or Presidential campaign makes it difficult for any candidate to make up ground quickly,” Wilson said. “The Republican candidates benefit when the focus is on taxes and questions of character, but the public is not focused on those issues. On the other hand, the Democrats benefit from health care and entitlement programs. And while they lead on education the Republicans still have a chance there.”

Methodology
Interviewing for The Roanoke College Poll was conducted by The Center for Community Research at Roanoke College in Salem, Va., between September 9 and September 17, 2000. The sample consisted of 454 registered voters in Virginia. The sample of phone numbers was prepared by Survey Sampling Inc. of Fairfield, Conn., and was created so that all residential telephone numbers, including unlisted numbers, had a known chance of inclusion.

Questions answered by the entire sample of 454 registered voters are subject to a sampling error of plus or minus approximately 4.5 percent at the 95 percent level of confidence. This means that in 95 out of 100 samples like the one used here, the results obtained should be no more than 4.5 percentage points above or below the figure that would be obtained by interviewing all registered voters who have a telephone. Where the results of subgroups are reported, the sampling error is higher.

The data are weighted on sex to reflect the demographic composition of the likely Virginia electorate. We chose not to weight on race because we feel that African-American turnout will not match the percentage of African-Americans in the state and the percentage in this poll matches estimates from the 1997 gubernatorial election exit poll. Support for Robb and Gore would be 1-2 percent higher if we had weighted for race.

A copy of the questionnaire will be provided upon request.

Allen

Robb

Undecided

# of cases

Total

43.0%

39.2%

15.5%

454

Sex

Male

49%

39%

13%

208

Female

39%

42%

19%

220

Race

White

49%

35%

16%

344

African-American

7%

76%

17%

54

Party Identification

Democrat

5%

82%

12%

131

Republican

86%

7%

7%

145

Independent

31%

38%

30%

86

Ideology

Liberal

13%

75%

12%

85

Moderate

29%

50%

20%

157

Conservative

74%

14%

12%

153

Age

18-29

28%

55%

18%

51

30-44

43%

40%

17%

145

45-64

47%

39%

15%

155

65-and over

51%

38%

11%

71

Region

Northern Virginia

41%

43%

16%

93

Tidewater

46%

41%

14%

101

Richmond

47%

45%

8%

49

Shenandoah Valley

48%

36%

16%

31

Southwest Virginia

41%

34%

26%

54

Southside

43%

35%

22%

63

Central Virginia

41%

53%

6%

32

Income

<$20,000

27%

46%

27%

41

$20,000-$35,000

41%

33%

27%

64

$35,001-$50,000

42%

38%

20%

76

$50,001-75,000

52%

43%

5%

84

$75,001-$100,000

43%

36%

21%

47

>$100,000

46%

48%

7%

59

Gore

Bush

Nader

Buchanan

Undecided

# of Cases

Total

42.5.%

42.3%

1.1%

.2%

11.3%

452

Sex

Male

39%

47%

1%

0%

10%

213

Female

47%

37%

1%

1%

13%

222

Race

White

37%

48%

1%

<1%

12%

348

African-Amer.

80%

9%

0%

0%

9%

56

Party ID

Democrat

88%

3%

1%

1%

6%

129

Republican

5%

89%

1%

0%

5%

149

Independent

45%

29%

2%

0%

21%

86

Ideology

Liberal

80%

7%

2%

0%

11%

85

Moderate

55%

27%

1%

0%

15%

157

Conservative

13%

76%

1%

0%

9%

157

Age

18-29

60%

31%

0%

0%

10%

52

30-44

41%

43%

1%

0%

13%

145

45-64

41%

44%

1%

0%

13%

156

65-older

39%

47%

4%

1%

7%

74

Region

NoVA

47%

38%

2%

0%

10%

93

Tidewater

44%

45%

1%

0%

8%

106

Richmond

48%

42%

1%

0%

8%

50

Shen. Valley

29%

45%

0%

0%

26%

31

SW VA

39%

44%

0%

0%

15%

54

Southside

37%

48%

2%

0%

14%

63

Central

50%

43%

0%

3%

3%

30

Income

<$20,000

43%

38%

0%

2%

14%

42

$20-35,000

48%

36%

2%

0%

14%

64

$35-50,000

34%

44%

1%

0%

19%

74

$50-75,000

42%

49%

0%

0%

7%

83

$75-100,000

45%

45%

4%

0%

6%

47

>$100,000

45%

45%

0%

0%

10%

58

Negative Campaigning
For the past several electoral cycles, and perhaps much longer, the media, candidates, academics, and citizens have been discussing the nature and pervasiveness of negative campaigning. Charges are made back and forth between campaigns, but no one has effectively defined the phenomenon.
As part of the statewide Virginia poll, we asked several questions that required respondents to help us define negative campaigning. We presented several scenarios and asked the respondents to determine if they constituted negative campaigning. The questions and responses follow.

Many people today talk about the negative tone of political campaigning. I’d like you to tell me if you think the following types of advertisements or statements are negative campaigning. First, when a candidate says something critical about an opponent’s voting record or issue position that is true. Is that negative campaigning?

Yes 25%
No 69%
Unsure 7%

How about when a candidate says something critical about an opponent’s personal life that is true. Is that negative campaigning?

Yes 73%
No 20%
Unsure 7%

How about when a candidate criticizes one vote of his opponent that is an accurate statement but might not be typical of his opponent’s voting record?

Yes 53%
No 31%
Unsure 17%

How about when a candidate criticizes his opponent for switching positions on an issue over time. Is that negative campaigning?

Yes 32%
No 57%
Unsure 11%

Analysis
“It seems that a candidate’s personal life is now ‘off limits’ according to most voters,” said Dr. Harry Wilson, the Center’s director. “Voters haven’t ruled out criticism of your opponent’s voting record or issue positions, but they don’t like it when candidates take a particular vote out of context. Criticism for switching positions is also still acceptable. The big (unanswered) question is how do voters determine the difference between fact and fiction when it comes to assessing political ads. Most likely they perform that task through the lens of their existing biases and preferences."