The Roanoke College Poll:

Dr. Harry Wilson works with a student during the Roanoke College Poll.

Dr. Harry Wilson works with a student during the Roanoke College Poll.

SALEM, Va - Republican state Senator Robert Hurt holds a six-point lead (46%-40%) over Democratic incumbent Tom Perriello in Virginia's Fifth Congressional district according to a poll conducted by The Institute for Policy and Opinion Research at Roanoke College.  Independent candidate Jeffrey Clark is a distant third with 1% of the vote, and 13% remain undecided with two weeks until Election Day.

The Poll includes interviews conducted with 567 likely voters (registered voters who said they were likely to vote) in the Fifth Congressional district between October 5 and October 14. The Poll has a margin of error of + 4.1 percent. 

The percentage of undecided voters remains high this late in the campaign - 13% of likely voters have yet to make a decision in the contest for U.S. Representative.  Perriello holds a slight advantage among undecided voters, 19%-16%, while 92% of the Hurt's supporters and 86% of Perriello's supporters say it is very certain they will vote for that candidate.  Hurt voters were more likely to have paid a lot of attention to the campaign (54%-42%) and are more likely to be very interested in the campaign (66%-50%) when compared with Perriello voters.  There is a significant gender gap in this campaign with men supporting Hurt (52%-31%) and women supporting Perriello (48%-40%).  The majority (80%) of those who are undecided said they are very likely to vote.  The undecided voters also trend toward being Independents who are moderate or conservative.

Applying a more restrictive definition of likely voter (registered, self-reported "very likely" to vote, and voted in 2008) increases the Hurt lead to 49%-39% (N=465), with a 4.5% margin of error. 


Sources of Support

Hurt leads among the politically important Independents (44%-35%), but he trails Perriello among moderates (56%-31%).  Hurt's lead is based on the conservative nature of the district.  He has a strong lead among conservatives (74%-14%), and just over half the respondents describe themselves as conservative. 

Perriello holds on to most Obama voters from 2008 (84%), while Hurt carries 80% of McCain supporters.  Only 13% of Hurt supporters say their vote is a vote against the President, and 17% say it is a vote against Perriello.  The plurality sees their support as an endorsement of Hurt. 

Issues in the Campaign

The economy is the dominant issue in the campaign with jobs running second and health care third.  Those who said the economy was most important support Hurt (51%-34%) as do those who cited jobs (48%-41%), while those who named health care support Perriello (51%-34%). 

The Poll also asked about the impact of the NRA's endorsement of Perriello, a potentially important factor for an electorate in which 61% of respondents reside in a household that contains a firearm.   A majority of respondents said it made no difference to them (80%), while the rest were almost evenly split between saying it made them more likely to vote for Perriello (11%) or less likely to vote for him (9%).  The percentage saying it made no difference was higher than in the gubernatorial election last year despite a much higher percentage of gun owners.  About 90% of respondents had heard something about the Tea Party movement and were more likely to agree with the movement (47%) than disagree with it (33%).

Respondents were more likely to see Perriello rather than Hurt as running a negative campaign (46%-27%). 

Voters are willing to spread the blame for the current economic situation in the U.S.  Almost equal numbers of respondents found Democrats in Congress (18%), bankers and mortgage brokers (18%), former President George W. Bush (17%) and President Obama (16%) to be most responsible for the economic situation.

Governor McDonnell and President Obama

Governor Bob McDonnell remains popular in the district, with an overall approval rating of 60%.  At the same time, President Barack Obama's approval rating sits at 34% with 54% disapproving of the way he is handling his job as President.  Hurt leads among those who approve of McDonnell (69%-19%) and those who disapprove of Obama (76%-9%).  While Perriello leads among those who disapprove of McDonnell (74%-17%) or approve of Obama (84%-5%), those are smaller groups of likely voters. 


"These results suggest that it will be very difficult for Rep. Perriello to retain his seat," said Dr. Harry Wilson, the director of the Institute for Policy and Opinion Research.

 "Rep. Perriello is facing an uphill battle in so far as his district is relatively conservative and generally disapproves of President Obama.  Sen. Hurt holds a significant lead among the key independent group.  While Perriello leads among moderates and liberals, the district is more conservative, and Hurt has a strong lead with that group.  Perriello has to hope for a very large turnout among the core Democratic voters as well as the so-called 'Obama voters.'  That said, the race is certainly not yet over."


Interviewing for The Roanoke College Poll was conducted by The Institute for Policy and Opinion Research at Roanoke College in Salem, Va. between October 5 and October 14, 2010.  The sample consisted of 567 likely voters in Virginia.  The Random-Digit Dial (RDD) 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 567 likely voters are subject to a sampling error of plus or minus approximately 4.1 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 4.1 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.

A copy of the questionnaire and all frequencies may be found on the Roanoke College website.


Released: October 18, 2010
Contact Name: Dr. Harry L. Wilson, Director
Contact Phone: Office: (540) 375-2415; Home: (540) 992-1333; Cell: (540) 293-4206
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