RC Poll: McAuliffe holds slim lead over Cuccinelli; down-ticket races also tight
Democrat Terry McAuliffe has opened a six-point lead over Republican Ken Cuccinelli (40%-34%), while 16 percent of likely voters in Virginia remain undecided in the 2013 gubernatorial election, according to The Roanoke College Poll. Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis was supported by 9 percent of respondents.*
The Roanoke College Poll interviewed 1,046 likely voters in Virginia between September 30 and October 5 and has a margin of error of +3 percent.
In the down-ticket races, Democrat Ralph Northam narrowly leads Republican E. W. Jackson for lieutenant governor (Northam-39%, Jackson-35%, Undecided-26%), and Republican Mark Obenshain holds a statistically insignificant lead over Democrat Mark Herring for attorney general (Obenshain-38%, Herring-35%, Undecided-26%).
The Virginia Race for Governor-2013
Both candidates remain "underwater" in terms of favorable/unfavorable ratings (Cuccinelli-31% favorable, 46% unfavorable; McAuliffe-32% favorable, 36% unfavorable). While the percentage of respondents who said they did not know enough about the candidates to have an opinion about them is less than half of what it was in the July Roanoke College Poll and has declined several points since September, most of that shift for each candidate continues to go to the unfavorable category. Just over two-thirds of likely voters (68%) said they know some or a great deal about Cuccinelli's qualifications to be governor, while fewer (59%) said the same about McAuliffe.
One small ray of sunshine for the candidates-slightly more supporters for each now say their vote is a vote of support for their candidate rather than a vote against the other candidate when compared to the September Roanoke College Poll. Still, nearly half of those who said they would vote for McAuliffe (46%) said their choice was more a vote against Cuccinelli than for McAuliffe. Only 25 percent of Cuccinelli supporters said their vote was a vote against McAuliffe.
Respondents were more likely to say that Cuccinelli has high moral and ethical standards (36%) than to say that McAuliffe has high moral and ethical standards (25%). Nearly equal numbers said the candidates do not have high standards (Cuccinelli--30%, McAuliffe-29%).
Based on television advertising, likely voters thought that McAuliffe is running a more negative campaign than Cuccinelli (25%-21%), but more (32%) said they were equally negative. At the same time, they thought McAuliffe's ads were more truthful than Cuccinelli's (30%-27%), although a plurality (45%) said that not much of what they see in TV ads in general is accurate. Nearly as many (41%) thought some of what is contained in those ads is accurate. Only 7 percent thought most of the content is accurate.
Both candidates garner the support of demographic groups in predictable ways. McAuliffe does better among blacks, younger voters, women, and of, course, among Democrats and liberals. Cuccinelli has more support among whites, older voters, those with higher incomes, as well as Republicans and conservatives. In what are typically thought to be crucial constituencies, McAuliffe leads among moderates (49%-23%) and independents (34%-30%). Regional differences have also begun to appear in expected directions. Those results may be found here.
Issues in the campaign
Likely voters were asked to rate the importance of various issues on a 1-10 scale where 10 is most important. While voters tend to state that all issues are important, some distinctions are evident. The economy and jobs received an average score of 8.97, followed by education (8.36), government spending (8.22), health care (8.12), taxes (7.80), gun control (7.04), transportation (6.77), and abortion (6.47).
A majority of respondents appear to be single-issue voters. When asked if they would vote for a candidate with whom they agreed on the most important issue for them, but with whom they disagreed on several other issues, 56 percent said they would vote for that candidate.
Elected officials' approval ratings and favorable/unfavorable views
President Barack Obama's favorable rating is 46 percent (46% unfavorable). Gov. Bob McDonnell's rating is 42 percent (30% unfavorable). Each of those reflects a steady favorable rating since September with a slight increase in unfavorable ratings.
Obama's job approval rating is nearly unchanged since September, with 39 percent approving and 49 percent disapproving of the job he is doing. McDonnell's approval rating is slightly down again at 43 percent. Congressional approval has perhaps bottomed-out at 6 percent.
"Terry McAuliffe may be solidifying his position as the 'lesser of the evils' in this election," said Dr. Harry Wilson, director of the Institute for Policy and Opinion Research. "Both candidates are still viewed negatively, but that is more true of Ken Cuccinelli."
"Cuccinelli continues to be the lightning rod in the race. Those who say they will vote for him are really voting for him. While McAuliffe's numbers are better in this area, his supporters still tend to say they are voting against Cuccinelli. It will be interesting to see how that plays out with regard to voter turnout, which may be the key to this election."
"Libertarian Robert Sarvis is drawing support from across the political spectrum, although he is more popular among younger voters and those who identify as independents. Attracting 9 percent support with a campaign budget that is, comparatively speaking minuscule, and with little media attention is a testament both to his attractiveness as a candidate and to dissatisfaction with Cuccinelli and McAuliffe."
*Likely voters were defined as registered voters who said they were very likely or somewhat likely to vote in November. All references to likely voters in this release, other than this paragraph, employ that definition. Looking at other voter models-including only those registered voters who said they were very likely to vote, McAuliffe leads Cuccinelli (40%-36%), with Sarvis at 8 percent (N=859). Including only those registered voters who said they were very likely to vote and voted in 2012, the percentages barely change (McAuliffe---40%, Cuccinelli-37%, Sarvis-8%; N=802). Including likely voters and adding in those who said they are leaning toward a candidate reduces McAuliffe's lead over Cuccinelli (41%-36%), while Sarvis rises to 9 percent, and 13 percent remain undecided.
Interviewing for The Roanoke College Poll was conducted by The Institute for Policy and Opinion Research at Roanoke College in Salem, Va. between September 30 and October 5, 2013. A total of 1,046 likely voters in Virginia were interviewed. The sample included both land lines and cell phones and was created so that all cell phone and residential telephone numbers, including unlisted numbers, had a known chance of inclusion. Cell phones constituted 33 percent of the completed interviews.
Questions answered by the entire sample of 1,046 likely voters are subject to a sampling error of plus or minus approximately 3 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 3 percentage points above or below the figure that would be obtained by interviewing all likely voters in Virginia who have a home telephone or a cell phone. Where the results of subgroups are reported, the sampling error is higher.
Quotas were used to ensure that different regions of the Commonwealth were proportionately represented. The data were statistically weighted for gender, race, and age.
A copy of the questionnaire and all frequencies and crosstabs may be found on the Roanoke College web site.
- Dr. Harry Wilson
- (540) 375-2415 (office), (540) 992-1333 (home), (540) 293-4206 (cell)