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Virginia Statewide Likely Voter Poll - October, 2013

Executive Summary:

Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe holds a five (5) point lead over Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli in the November 5th General Election for Virginia Governor according to a Hampton University Center for Public Policy poll released today. The poll was conducted on September 25-26 and 28-29 and included 804 registered voters who said they were "likely" to vote in the November 5th contest.

McAuliffe Leads by Five Points; No one is Near 50%:

If the 2013 General Election for Governor were held today, 42% of likely voters indicated they would vote for Democratic candidate, Terry McAuliffe, while 37% said they would support Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli. Libertarian candidate, Robert Sarvis, received 8% support.

Sarvis is emerging as a factor in the Governor's race and is finding some traction with a small, but significant segment of the electorate that is dissatisfied with both McAuliffe and Cuccinelli.

Sarvis' support is still in the single digits, but spans voters who identify with different parties on the political spectrum. Fifty-eight (58%) percent of Sarvis supporters are Independents, 22 percent are Democrats and 21 percent are Republicans.

The gubernatorial race is very close and can go either way at this point. In order to win, Cuccinelli needs a breakout moment to overcome the single-digit lead that McAuliffe has had for weeks.

Race and the Governor's Race: Chart I

Race and The Governor's Race: Chart I

Both McAuliffe and Cucinelli are in a net negative position with more likely voters holding an unfavorable view rather than a favorable view towards them. Overall, McAuliffe has a favorable rating of 31 percent and an unfavorable rating of 37 percent. Cuccinelli has a favorable rating of 33 percent and an unfavorable rating of 47 percent.

Favorable/Unfavorable Ratings in the Virginia Governor's Race: Chart II

Favorable/Unfavorable Ratings in the Virginia Governor's Race: Chart II

Lieutenant Governor's Race:

Historically, the race for Lieutenant Governor is overshadowed by the race for Virginia's number one spot. However, this year the Lieutenant Governor's race is heating up amid controversial statements landing the candidates in a statistical tie.

With 39 percent of the vote, Republican candidate E.W. Jackson leads Democrat Ralph Northam who captured 38 percent of the vote from respondents polled. Twenty-three (23) percent of likely voters are undecided on the Lieutenant Governor's race leaving four weeks for improvement from both candidates.

Both candidates for Lieutenant Governor are not very well known by likely voters. Overall, Jackson has a favorable rating of 17 percent and an unfavorable rating of 18 percent. Sixty-seven percent of likely voters are not familiar enough with Jackson to rate him. Northam is even less well known that Jackson. Overall, he has a favorable rating of 14 percent and an unfavorable rating of 6 percent. Eighty percent of the voters are not familiar enough with Northam to rate him.

The Attorney General's Race:

In the Attorney General's race, Republican Mark Obenshain has 41percent voter support and Democrat Mark Herring has 37 percent. Similar to the ballot question in the race for Lieutenant Governor, both candidates are not very well known.

Overall, Obenshain has a favorable rating of 20percent and an unfavorable rating of 9 percent. Sixty-one percent of likely voters are not familiar enough with him to rate him. Herring has a favorable rating of 14 percent and an unfavorable rating of 6 percent. Therefore, 80 percent of likely voters are not familiar enough with Herring to rate him.

Twenty-three (23) percent of likely voters remain undecided in race for Attorney General of Virginia.

The Race and Gender Gaps:

The main factors accounting for McAuliffe's lead at this point are race and gender. McAuliffe's support is strong among women and African-Americans. These two voter segments are providing him with the lead. Among women voters, McAuliffe has 47 percent, Cuccinelli has 32 percent and Sarvis has 7 percent. Among white women, the two are statistically tied, McAuliffe 41 percent Cuccinelli 40 percent voter support. Sarvis has 7 percent. However, among African-American women, McAuliffe leads with 71 percent to Cuccinelli's 2 percent voter support. Sarvis has 7 percent.

Based on historic averages, African-Americans will account for approximately sixteen (16) percent of all voters on election day. McAullife's support among this key voter group is providing him with the lead. Among African-American voters, McAuliffe has 73 percent, and both Cuccinelli and Sarvis have 5 percent each. Among white voters, Cuccinelli has 45 percent voter support, McAuliffe 37 percent and Sarvis 8 percent.

While McAuliffe has net negative ratings among white voters, 30 percent rate McAuliffe favorably and 40 percent unfavorably, he has net positive ratings among African-American voters. Thirty-nine (39) percent of African-Americans rate McAuliffe favorably and 21 percent unfavorably.

Ken Cuccinelli is at a distinct disadvantage among African-Americans. Only 10 percent rate him as favorable while 52 percent rate him as unfavorable. Among white voters, 37 percent rate Cuccinelli as favorable and 46 percent as unfavorable.

Regional Breakdown:

McAuliffe dominates in the fast growing Washington D.C. suburbs with 50 percent voter support. Cuccinelli has 29 percent and Sarvis has 9 percent. The Washington D.C. suburbs will account for 25 percent of the overall vote and is McAuliffe's home base.

In the Northern Virginia exurbs, Cuccinelli's home base, Cuccinelli has a strong lead with 45 percent voter support. McAuliffe has 33 percent and Sarvis has 8 percent.

In the greater Richmond area, Cuccinelli has 35 percent, McAuliffe has 43 percent and Sarvis has 9 percent.

The race is tighter in Central Virginia, McAuliffe has 47 percent, Cuccinelli has 51 percent and Sarvis has 4 percent.

In the Hampton Roads/Tidewater area, McAuliffe has 49 percent, Cuccinelli has 30 percent and Sarvis has 8 percent.

In Southwestern Virginia, Cuccinelli has 48 percent, McAuliffe has 31 percent and Sarvis has 9 percent.

Finally, in Southeastern Virginia, McAuliffe has 46 percent, Cuccinelli has 37 percent and Sarvis has 8 percent.

Voter Support in the Governor's Race by Region: Chart III

Voter Support in the Governor’s Race By Region: Chart III


Democrat McAuliffe is maximizing voter support among Democrats who slightly outnumber Republicans and Independents in Virginia. McAuliffe also receives more votes from Republicans, according to our poll, than Cuccinelli receives among Democrats. The race is tied among Independents, who tend to solidify their decisions closer to election day. The split in support among Independents shared by McAuliffe and Cuccinelli is a big part of what is keeping the race very close.

Among Democrats, McAuliffe has 83 percent, Sarvis has 5 percent and Cuccinelli has 4 percent.

Among Republicans, Cuccinelli has 78 percent, McAuliffe has 9 percent and Sarvis has 5 percent.

Among Independents, Cuccinelli has 33 percent, McAuliffe has 33 percent, and Sarvis has 15 percent.

If reasonable predictive models hold true, Democrats will likely account for 35 percent of the electorate. Independents will account for 33 percent; and Republicans will account for 33 percent.

If voter turnout reflects these numbers, then the Governor's race will remain exceedingly close.

Issues of Importance, Creating Jobs and Improving Education:

Voters were given the opportunity to rate the "issues [that] should be the top priority of the next Governor," and overwhelmingly, respondents chose "working to improve the economy and create jobs" as their number one choice for the next Governor of Virginia to prioritize. Thirty-seven (37) percent of the respondents listed it as the most importance issue facing Virginians.

Capturing the second spot was "improving public education," which 24 percent of those polled identifying that as the most important issue. Ten (10) percent of those polled said that "Healthcare/Obamacare" should be a priority of the next Governor.

Reducing taxes, government spending, improving traffic flow and lessening congestion, and, eliminating corruption in government received much lower numbers of support from respondents, despite some of the current budget battles taking place in Washington, D.C.

Voters Mixed on Confidence in the Candidates:

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's voter support is hampered by high unfavorable ratings, but he fares well against Terry McAuliffe in a series of questions about confidence in the gubernatorial candidates.

When asked which of the two main candidates for Governor would be better at "having the right kind of experience in state Government to be Governor," 42 percent have more confidence in Cuccinelli. Only 35 percent of respondents believe McAuliffe has the right kind of experience to be Governor.

Likely voters polled were also asked, which of the two main candidates for Governor would be better at "looking out for working and middle class families?" Forty-two (42) percent of respondents indicated McAuliffe, while 36 percent indicated Cuccinelli.

Forty-seven (47) percent of respondents chose Cuccinelli as the candidate for Governor who would be better at "cutting taxes." Only 26 percent chose McAuliffe.

When asked which of the two main candidates for Governor would be better at "protecting Virginia's finances and maintaining the budget surplus," 41 percent indicated Cuccinelli is the better choice. Only 34 percent believe McAuliffe to be the best choice in handling finances.

Finally, Virginia voters likely to participate in the upcoming election for Governor are split on the best candidate to create jobs and strengthen the business climate in the Commonwealth. Forty (40) percent indicated McAuliffe was the best choice. Thirty-eight (38) percent said that Cuccinelli would be the best choice in this regard.

Candidate Attributes in the Virginia Governors Race: Chart IV

Candidate Attributes in the Virginia Governors Race: Chart IV

Voters Show Optimism:

The overall mood of the voters in Virginia is good. When asked whether "things in Virginia are generally going in the right direction," 50 percent of likely voters agree that things are going in the right direction. Only 33 percent indicated "things are on the wrong track."

Survey respondents are even more optimistic about the "region" in which they live. Sixty-two (62) percent said closer to home "things are going in the right direction" and only 29 percent said locally "things are on the wrong track."

This may be the reason that Governor Bob McDonnell's approval ratings remain so high. Despite the negative publicity surrounding Governor McDonnell lately, 55 percent approve "of the job Bob McDonnell is doing as Governor." Thirty (30%) percent of respondents disapprove, fifteen (15%) percent of likely voters were "not sure".

Virginia Voters Want Term Limits

Members of the General Assembly of Virginia may be shocked to learn that the people they represent overwhelmingly support term limits. Of the likely voters, 80 percent say "members of the General Assembly in Richmond [should] have term limits." Only 13 percent said they do not support term limits. Seven (7) percent were undecided.

Forty-seven percent (47 percent) of survey respondents agreed that if term limits for members of the General Assembly were to be instituted, the limit should be for two terms. Twenty-three (23) percent said that terms should be limited to three terms.

President Barack Obama:

Despite having won two state wide elections in Virginia, President Barack Obama's approval rating has fallen in the Commonwealth. Among survey respondents, President Obama received a 47 percent approval rating with 50 percent disapproving of the job he has done overall. Three (3) percent were not sure. When asked how "Barack Obama is doing in handling the economy," 45% approved, 51% disapproved, and 4% not sure. As it relates to President Obama's "handling foreign policy", 44% approved, 50% disapproved, and 6% were unsure.


The statewide survey was conducted by a professional call center for the Center for Public Policy of Hampton University under the general direction of Kelly Harvey-Viney, JD. Live interviews were conducted via telephone (20% cell phone and 80% land line) from September 25-26 and 28-29, 2013. Interviews were stratified by counties and cities to reflect historic voter trends. This survey was conducted using a listed sample purchased from SSI, Inc, (Survey Sampling International). Weighting techniques were used to achieve representative age groupings. The overall margin of error for the entire sample of 800 likely voters is +/- 2.9% at a 95 percent confidence interval. The margin of error for subgroups like geographic regions is higher.

The party and geographic breakdown of the survey is as follows: 36% Democrat; 31% Independent; and 33% Republican.

Geographic breakdowns by region are as follows: 25% Washington D.C. suburbs; 10% Northern Virginia exurbs; 18% Richmond area; 6% Central Virginia; 17% Hampton Roads/Tidewater; 5% Southeast; and 19% Southwest.

Ronald Lester of Lester and Associates (Democratic pollster) and Kellyanne Conway of the Polling Company (Republican Pollster) served as technical consultants in the design and analysis of the survey.