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Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy

Wason Center

October 27, 2017

Northam Hits 50%, Gaining Over Gillespie, 50%-43%; Democrats Fairfax and Herring Also Lead Down-Ticket

Northam hits 50%, gaining over Gillespie, 50%-43%; Democrats Fairfax and Herring also lead down-ticket.

Summary of Key Findings

  1. Democrat Ralph Northam hits the 50% mark, as latest Wason Center tracking poll shows a 7-point lead over Republican Ed Gillespie, 50% to 43%.
  2. Northam leads among men and women, young and old, and among African-American voters. Gillespie leads among white voters.
  3. Northam’s lead is built on strong regional support in Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads, and Richmond-Central Virginia. Southwest-Southside Virginia is Gillespie territory.
  4. For lieutenant governor, Democrat Justin Fairfax leads Republican Jill Vogel, 47%-44%, but the race is tightening.
  5. For attorney general, Democrat Mark Herring leads Republican John Adams, 49%-44%. This contest is also tightening.

For further information contact:

Dr. Quentin Kidd, Director
qkidd@cnu.edu
Office: (757) 594-8499
Mobile: (757) 775-6932

Dr. Rachel Bitecofer, Assistant Director
rachel.bitecofer@cnu.edu
Office: (757) 594-8997
Mobile: (541) 729-9824

Analysis

In the closing weeks of the campaign to become Virginia’s next governor, Democratic Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam has hit the 50% mark for the first time in Wason Center polling, leading former Republican National Committee Chair Ed Gillespie, 50% to 43% among likely voters. Libertarian Cliff Hyra polled at 3%, with 4% undecided.

In the lieutenant governor contest, Democrat Justin Fairfax, a former federal prosecutor, leads Republican state Senator Jill Vogel, 47% to 44%. Seeking a second term as attorney general, Democrat Mark Herring leads former federal prosecutor and White House aide John Adams, 49% to 44%. Both leads appear to be narrowing, however, as the Republicans gain and the Democrats decline in this survey.

This is the third poll in the Wason Center’s 2017 tracking series. In the benchmark poll, released September 25, Northam’s lead stood at 6% (47% to 41%), and it grew to 7% (49% to 42%) in the first tracking poll, released October 9, before narrowing to 4% (48% to 44%) in the second tracking poll, released October 17.

Northam’s lead is demographically and regionally widespread. He leads among men and women, black voters, young and old voters, voters with incomes above and below $50,000, and in Northern Virginia, Richmond-Central Virginia, and Hampton Roads. Gillespie leads among white voters overall and regionally in Southwest-Southside. Likely voters are firmly in their partisan and ideological corners, with Northam getting 96% of
Democratic and 87% of Liberal votes and Gillespie taking 93% of Republican and 82% of Conservative votes. Independents break for Northam 48% to 35% and Moderates break for Northam 59% to 34%, results that may indicate a “Trump Effect” in Northam’s favor.

As with Northam vs. Gillespie, the composition of the Democratic electorate compared to the Republican electorate gives Fairfax and Herring similar advantages, with both Democrats leading on the strength of support from Northern Virginia and among women, younger voters, and African-American voters.

“As we approach Election Day and the structure of the likely electorate becomes clearer, the advantage appears to be opening up for the Democratic ticket,” said Rachel Bitecofer, assistant director of the Wason Center. “We’re also seeing mounting evidence of a Trump effect at the top of the ticket.”

This tracking poll imposes the tightest screen yet in the Wason Center tracking series, approximating as closely as possible the November 7 electorate. It is based on interviews with 812 likely voters conducted October 20-25, and carries a margin of error of +/- 3.8% at the 95% level of confidence. To be considered a likely voter, registered Virginia voters had to have voted in at least two of the last four statewide elections or have been newly registered since March 2016 and voted in the 2016 presidential election. Additionally, participants had to indicate that they were thinking about the upcoming election, following news about the campaigns, and were certainly or probably going to vote in the upcoming election. This screening results in a projected turnout of approximately 44%, which fits the trend of recent Virginia gubernatorial elections.

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