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A Survey of 804 Likely Voters - Virginia, Statewide - August, 2014

Executive Summary:

With Libertarian Robert Sarvis in the race for the United States Senate seat in Virginia, Democrat U.S. Senator Mark Warner has a 25-point lead and is in a very strong position to win re-election over former Republican National Committee chairman and Republican candidate Ed Gillespie, according to a Hampton University poll released today. In a two-way ballot test, Warner's lead is slightly reduced, but still significant, leading 23 points ahead of Gillespie.

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe receives high approval ratings from constituents who believe he is doing a good job as Governor, while President Barack Obama is getting low marks from Virginians on key issues.

The poll was conducted by the Hampton University Center for Public Policy from July 27-30, 2014 and included 804 registered voters who said they were "likely" to vote on November 4, 2014 in the Virginia General Election.

The Ballot Question:

Senator Mark Warner is a very strong candidate in the three-way ballot test. The results show Warner (53%) with a 25-point lead over Ed Gillespie (28%) and also reveals that Libertarian Robert Sarvis (5%) is pulling votes away from the Republican (14% remain undecided).

The gap closes slightly in the two-way ballot race where Warner leads by 23 points. When asked "if the election for U.S. Senate were held today, for whom would you vote?"  Fifty-five percent (55%) of the respondents chose Warner, and thirty-two percent (32%) say they would support Gillespie (while 13% were not sure for whom they would vote).

Warner performs very well in the Washington D.C suburbs (56%) and Hampton Roads (61%) and in non-traditional areas for Democrats such as Southwestern Virginia where Warner has 50%, and Gillespie 34%, Sarvis is grabbing only 1% and 16% remain undecided in the region. In Central Virginia where Warner leads with 39%, Gillespie is close behind with 36%, while Sarvis has 7% and 18% remain undecided.

Warner's candidacy is strengthened by overwhelming support among Democrats (89%) and Blacks (74%). Gillespie's strongest support comes from whites (38%) and whites over the age of sixty (41%).

Respondents say they are certain of their candidate of choice when they exercise the right to vote on November 4th. When asked "how certain are you that you will vote for the candidate?" sixty-six percent (66%) of Warner voters are "very certain" they will vote for him, and sixty-two percent (62%) of Gillespie voters are "very certain" they will vote for him.

Voters Show Optimism:

Voters continue to express confidence in the affairs of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Nearly fifty percent (48%) of the respondents agree that in Virginia, things "...are generally going in the right direction." This represents a slight drop when compared to the 50% reported in the September 2013 Center for Public Policy survey.

However, 37% of respondents say "things are on the wrong track." That is only a small four point increase (33%) from the September 2013 Center for Public Policy (CPP) survey.

Likely voters are more optimistic about the "region" of the state in which they live.  Sixty-two percent (62%) say "things are going in the right direction." This number is unchanged from the September 2013 CPP survey. Thirty percent (30%) say "things are on the wrong track" when asked about the "region of Virginia" in which they live (CPP survey, September 2013 – 29%).

Favorable Ratings:

We asked likely voters whether they had favorable or unfavorable impressions of several Virginia politicians, and the President of the United States. Forty-nine (49%) percent rate President Obama favorably and 47% view him unfavorably.  Overall, 47% of likely voters rate Governor McAuliffe favorably and 29% unfavorably.

U.S. Senator Mark Warner received high favorable ratings. Sixty-two percent (62%) view him favorably, while 24% have an unfavorable impression.  Only 19% percent rate Republican U.S. Senate candidate Ed Gillespie favorably and 14% unfavorably.

Q6. Favorable and Unfavorable Ratings

Mark Warner Ed Gillespie
July 2014 July 2014
Favorable 62% 19%
Unfavorable 24% 14%
Don't know 14% 68%

Two other sitting members of the Virginia leadership had surprisingly low ratings. Only 12% rate Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam favorably (7% unfavorably) and his numbers are nearly the same from the September 2013 CPP survey (see chart below). The Attorney General Mark Herring has increased his favorable numbers from the September 2013 survey slightly, up seven points with 21% rating him favorably (14% percent unfavorably).

Q6. Favorable and Unfavorable Ratings

Barack Obama Terry McAuliffe Ralph Northam Mark Herring
Favorable 49% 50% 47% 31% 12% 14% 21% 14%
Un-Favorable 47% 46% 29% 37% 7% 6% 14% 6%
Don't Know 4% 4% 23% 32% 80% 81% 65% 81%

Mark Warner:

Mark Warner is well known and well liked among likely voters surveyed. Overall, he is rated favorably by 62% of likely voters. Twenty-four percent (24%) rate him unfavorably and 14% do not have an opinion.

The numbers in each of the regions polled are similarly high. The Hampton Roads area rates the Senator very favorably (69%). Warner also is rated highly by voters in some Republican strongholds like Central, Southeastern and Southwestern Virginia. Here is how the numbers breakdown "favorably" and "unfavorably" for Warner according to the seven regions surveyed:

  • In the Hampton Roads area,
    • Favorable – 69%
    • Unfavorable – 18%
    • Don't know – 14%
  • In Central Virginia,
    • Favorable – 67%
    • Unfavorable – 25%
    • Don't know – 9%
  • In Southeastern Virginia,
    • Favorable – 65%
    • Unfavorable – 23%
    • Don't know – 13%
  • In Southwestern Virginia,
    • Favorable – 60%
    • Unfavorable – 28%
    • Don't know – 13%
  • In the D.C. suburbs,
    • Favorable – 62%
    • Unfavorable – 22%
    • Don't know – 15%
  • In the area of Richmond,
    • Favorable – 59%
    • Unfavorable – 29%
    • Don't know – 12%
  • Finally, in Northern Virginia,
    • Favorable – 56%
    • Unfavorable – 30%
    • Don't know – 14%

Ed Gillespie:

In his first run for public office, Gillespie lacks name recognition among likely voters polled. Nineteen percent (19%) responded they have "never heard" of Ed Gillespie. So the next few months will be vital to Gillespie as he undertakes the task of increasing his visibility throughout the state of Virginia.

Overall, nineteen percent (19%) of likely voters rate Gillespie favorably and 14% percent unfavorably. While one–third of likely voters can answer the question calling for a rating of Gillespie, two-thirds cannot. Sixty-eight percent (68%) responded that they either "don't know", had "no opinion" or had "never heard" of him, making campaign stumping a priority for this newcomer.

Governor Terry McAuliffe:

Governor Terry McAuliffe receives high marks from likely voters for his job performance in his first year in office in all seven major regions of the state. Overall, McAuliffe has a 55% job approval rating. Twenty-six percent (26%) of likely voters say they disapprove and 19% say they "don't know" when asked to 'approve or disapprove' of the job McAuliffe is doing as Governor of Virginia.

McAuliffe is most popular in the Hampton Roads area where he has a 62% job approval rating. Nineteen percent (19%) disapprove and 19% say they "don't know."  High approval ratings also come from the Washington, D.C. area where McAuliffe has a 58% job approval rating (19% say they disapprove and 23% say they "don't know").  In Central Virginia where McAuliffe has a 57% job approval rating, 22% say they disapprove and 20% say they "don't know". The regional breakdown continues in the chart below.

Regional Breakdown

Q15. Overall, do you approve or disapprove of the job Terry McAuliffe is doing as Governor?

Hampton Roads
DC Suburbs Central Virginia Richmond area Northern Virginia South-eastern South-western
Approve 62% 58% 57% 54% 53% 45% 44%
Disapprove 19% 19% 22% 32% 32% 34% 35%
Don't know 19% 23% 20% 15% 15% 21% 22%

Governor McAuliffe's own party members overwhelmingly approve of the performance of the new leader. Democrats give McAuliffe a 74% job approval rating, while only 8% say they disapprove and 18% say they "don't know."  Independents are also high on McAuliffe's job performance, giving the Governor a 54% job approval rating, while 29% say they disapprove and 17% say they "don't know." Among Republicans, McAuliffe has a 29% job approval rating while 48% say they disapprove and 22% say they "don't know."

Along racial lines, the Governor receives high job approval numbers as well. Among Blacks, McAuliffe has a 63% job approval rating while 20% say they disapprove and 17% say they "don't know."  McAuliffe has a 53% job approval rating among whites, while 28% say they disapprove and 19% say they "don't know." 

President Barack Obama:

President Barack Obama receives a net negative overall job approval rating. Fifty-two percent (52%) of the respondents disapprove of the job Obama is doing as President, while 43% approve and only 5% say they "don't know."

This is only a slight change from the Center for Public Policy September 2013 survey where 50% disapproved of his job performance and 47% approved of the job he was doing as President. Three percent (3%) were unsure or did not know enough to answer

Of the seven regions surveyed, the President's highest approval ratings come from the Washington, D.C. area where 53% believe he is doing a good job versus the 41% who disapprove. Six(6%) say they "don't know." The remaining regions all give the President lower approval ratings for his job performance, and high disapproval ratings.

Q12. Overall, do you approve or do you disapprove of the job Barack Obama is doing as the President of the United States?

Approve 53 39 45 35 39 35 41
Disapprove 41 59 49 59 51 62 52
Don't Know 6 2 6 6 10 3 7

The responses from likely voters in our survey about the job performance of the President were predictable along party lines. Among Democrats, President Obama has an 84% job approval rating, with only 10% disapproving and 6% saying they "don't know". Among Republicans, President Obama has a 6% job approval rating while an overwhelming 91% say they disapprove and 3% say they "don't know".  While Independents give the President a 28% job approval rating, and 66% say they disapprove, 6% say they "don't know".

As to the debate over how to solve the problem of illegal immigration in the United States continues, we asked respondents to rate the President's handling of the issue of immigration. More than half of the likely voters in our survey (55%) are not satisfied with how President Obama is dealing with the issues of immigration. Only 35% approve and 10% say they "don't know."

With President Obama leading diplomatic efforts by the United States as its commander in chief in a variety of embattled countries around the globe, Virginians give the President and his efforts with foreign policy low marks. Once again, 55% of the respondents disapprove of how the President is handling foreign policy and only 36% approve. Nine percent (9%) "don't know". These numbers mark a five point increase in the disapproval ratings of the President's handling of foreign policy from the Center for Public Policy September 2013 poll that asked the same question. At the time of that poll, the results showed that 50% Disapprove, 44% Approve, and 6% "don't know".

The numbers from this survey show early opinions of likely voters. There are three months remaining in this election cycle. The General Election for the U.S. Senate race is Tuesday, November 4, 2014.


The statewide survey was conducted by a professional call center for the Hampton University Center for Public Policy under the general direction of Kelly Harvey-Viney. Live interviews were conducted via telephone (22% cell phone/78% land line) from July 27-30, 2014. 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). The overall margin of error for the entire sample of 804 likely voters is +/- 2.9% at a 95 percent confidence interval. The margin of error for subgroups like geographic regions is higher.