UMW Survey Shows Virginians Lean Toward McAuliffe in Governor’s Race

Democrat Terry McAuliffe has the support of 42 percent of likely voters in this year’s race for governor of Virginia, compared to 35 percent for Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, according to a new survey sponsored by the University of Mary Washington’s Center for Leadership and Media Studies.

Terry McAuliffe. Courtesy of Terry McAuliffe for Governor.

Terry McAuliffe. Courtesy of Terry McAuliffe for Governor.

Robert Sarvis, a Libertarian candidate who also is on the gubernatorial ballot, received 10 percent support among likely voters in the poll of 1,001 state residents conducted during Sept. 25-29.

Among registered voters, the margin between the two major party candidates was wider. A total of 43 percent of the registered voters said they supported McAuliffe and 33 percent backed Cuccinelli in the poll. Sarvis received the endorsement of nine percent of the 823 registered voters in the survey.

Among all residents surveyed, McAuliffe was favored by a 39 percent to 31 percent margin, with nine percent for Sarvis.

More than half (52 percent) of likely voters viewed Cuccinelli unfavorably, with 36 percent viewing him favorably. For McAuliffe, the ratings were 35 percent unfavorable and 38 percent favorable among the 559 likely voters in the survey.

Ken Cuccinelli. Courtesy of the Office of the Attorney General of Virginia.

Ken Cuccinelli. Courtesy of the Office of the Attorney General of Virginia.

The vast majority of likely voters said they did not know enough about Sarvis to evaluate him, with only seven percent assessing him favorably and five percent assessing him negatively.

McAuliffe captured the endorsement of 81 percent of Democratic likely voters, while Cuccinelli had the support of 74 percent of Republican likely voters. Three percent of likely Democratic voters backed Sarvis, as did seven percent of likely Republican voters. The Libertarian did best among independents, winning the support of 19 percent of that group.

Cuccinelli received the support of 34 percent of likely independent voters in the survey, as compared to 29 percent support among independents for McAuliffe.

In the race for lieutenant governor, 39 percent of likely voters surveyed said they would back Democratic Sen. Ralph Northam and 35 percent expressed support for Republican E.W. Jackson. Among registered voters, the results were 40 percent favoring Northam and 32 percent supporting Jackson.

The GOP fared best in the race for attorney general, where Republican Sen. Mark Obenshain received the support of 42 percent of likely voters, as compared to 36 percent who backed Democratic Sen. Mark Herring. Among registered voters, 38 percent supported Herring and 36 percent favored Obenshain. Republicans have won the last five elections for attorney general.

Robert Sarvis. Courtesy of Robert Sarvis for Governor.

Robert Sarvis. Courtesy of Robert Sarvis for Governor.

“The results show that Virginia has three competitive statewide races this year,”

said Stephen Farnsworth, professor of political science at UMW and director of the university’s Center for Leadership and Media Studies. “In addition, the strong showing by the Libertarian candidate for governor in this survey adds to the challenges all the gubernatorial candidates face as they need to adjust their strategies to a three-way-race.”

Farnsworth said that the results of the survey, conducted on the Center’s behalf by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, provide further evidence that Virginia will continue to generate significant national attention as the election approaches.

“When Virginia campaigns are close, as these races are, we can expect lots of national interest in – and campaign cash for — political activities in the Old Dominion,” Farnsworth said.

The survey also examined Virginia voter preferences among the potential candidates for president in 2016. Among the possible Democratic contenders, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was favored by 32 percent of registered voters, with U.S. Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia placing second with 18 percent support. Vice President Joe Biden was a distant third with eight percent support. Clinton, Warner and Biden also placed first, second and third in UMW’s March 2013 survey of registered voters.

Among the other potential Democratic candidates, three percent of registered voters backed Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, two percent backed New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and one percent favored Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

The poll examines Virginians' views by looking at the various regions of the Commonwealth.

The poll examines Virginians’ views by looking at the various regions of the Commonwealth.

For the Republicans, 23 percent of registered voters in Virginia said they would back New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, as compared to 10 percent who would support former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, nine percent favoring Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and eight percent each backing Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who generated significant attention during his marathon filibuster last month, only received the support of five percent of registered voters in this potential GOP competition.

Christie also led in the March 2013 UMW poll regarding the GOP candidate preferences of Virginia voters, with Ryan, Paul, Rubio, Bush and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell bunched further back. (The earlier survey was conducted before McDonnell’s financial controversy became public. He was not included in the latest list of potential GOP presidential candidates.).

The survey also revealed declining popularity for President Obama in Virginia. Among registered voters, 46 percent approved of the job he was doing and 47 percent disapproved. In the March 2013 UMW survey, 51 percent approved and 44 percent disapproved.

Further details on the survey’s findings regarding the race for governor, including key breakdowns by factors including party identification, age and region of residence, are found below.

The Fall 2013 Virginia Survey, sponsored by University of Mary Washington (UMW), obtained telephone interviews with a representative sample of 1,001 adults living in Virginia. Telephone interviews were conducted by landline (500) and cell phone (501, including 214 without a landline phone). The survey was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International (PSRAI). Interviews were done in English by Princeton Data Source from September 25 to 29, 2013. Statistical results are weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies. The margin of sampling error for the complete set of weighted data is ± 3.5 percentage points. For the subsample of registered voters (N=823), the margin of sampling error is ± 3.9 percentage points. For the subsample of likely voters (N=559), the margin of sampling error is ± 4.7 percentage points.

2013 1003 UMW VA Survey Fall 2013_Election Topline

The race for governor:

Among likely voters, women strongly favor McAuliffe by a 48 percent to 30 percent margin for Cuccinelli, with nine percent of the women expressing support for Sarvis. For male likely voters, Cuccinelli had 41 percent support, compared to 36 percent for McAuliffe and 10 percent for Sarvis.

Regional differences also were substantial. McAuliffe fared best in Northern Virginia, with the support of 55 percent of likely voters, as compared to 29 percent for Cuccinelli and six percent for Sarvis. McAuliffe also fared well in the Tidewater region, with 49 percent support, compared to 30 percent for Cuccinelli and seven percent for Sarvis. In south-central Virginia, which includes the Richmond area, Cuccinelli was favored by 35 percent of likely voters, as compared to 33 percent for McAuliffe and 17 percent for Sarvis.

Cuccinelli was the strongest in the northwest region of the state, where he was support by 49 percent of likely voters, as compared to 29 percent for McAuliffe and 11 percent for Sarvis. In the state’s western region, Cuccinelli was favored by 42 percent, as compared to 34 percent for McAuliffe and 10 percent for Sarvis.

McAuliffe was particularly strong among the likely voters under 30, winning 54 percent of their support, as compared to 24 percent for Cuccinelli and 17 percent for Sarvis. Older voters were more split: McAuliffe received 38 percent, compared to 32 percent for Cuccinelli and 14 percent for Sarvis in the 30-44 age group. The story was similar among likely voters between the ages of 45 and 64: 43 percent backed McAuliffe, 38 percent favored Cuccinelli and 8 percent favored Sarvis. Among likely voters 65 or older, McAuliffe had the support of 39 percent, versus 38 percent for Cuccinelli and 8 percent for Sarvis.

Among likely voters who are African Americans, 79 percent supported McAuliffe as compared to six percent for Cuccinelli and one percent for Sarvis. Among white voters, Cuccinelli received 43 percent support, as compared to 34 percent for McAuliffe and 11 percent for Sarvis. Sixty percent of Latino likely voters said they would vote for McAuliffe, with 23 percent backing Cuccinelli and 13 percent favoring Sarvis.

For more information, contact Stephen Farnsworth by cell at (703) 380-3025 or email him at sfarnswo@umw.edu.

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