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Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy

Wason Center

November 6, 2017

Northam Holds 6-Point Lead Over Gillespie, 51%-45%, as Independents and Moderates Break for Democrat

Northam holds 6-point lead over Gillespie, 51%-45%, as independents and moderates break for Democrat.

Summary of Key Findings

  1. Democrat Ralph Northam shows a 6-point lead over Republican Ed Gillespie, 51% to 45%, dropping one point in the final tracking poll of likely voters in the Virginia governor’s race.
  2. Allocating undecided voters to reflect historical voting patterns in Wason Center surveys indicates a Northam victory on Tuesday, 51.3% to 46.8%.
  3. Northam’s lead is built on strong support in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, and among women, African-Americans and young voters. Northam and Gillespie are statistically tied in two traditionally reliable Republican segments, Southwest-Southside Virginia and voters 45 and older.
  4. Independents and ideological moderates break significantly for Northam.
  5. For lieutenant governor, Democrat Justin Fairfax leads Republican Jill Vogel, 50% to 45%, with a projected Election Day victory of 51.9% to 48.1%.
  6. For attorney general, Democrat Mark Herring leads Republican John Adams, 49%-45%, with a projected Election Day victory of 51.1% to 48.9%.

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

As Virginia voters prepare to choose their next governor, Democratic Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam holds a 6-point lead over former Republican National Committee Chair Ed Gillespie, 51% to 45%, in the Wason Center’s final tracking survey of likely voters. Libertarian Cliff Hyra takes 2% of the vote, with 2% undecided.

Historical voting patterns in Wason Center surveys in statewide Virginia elections show undecided voters breaking approximately 3 to 1 for the Republican candidate. Allocating the undecided voters in line with that pattern indicates Northam’s Election Day vote to be 51.3% and Gillespie’s to be 46.8%.

Northam’s lead dropped one point since the October 27 tracking poll, though he has never trailed Gillespie since the benchmark poll released on September 25.

In the lieutenant governor contest, Democrat Justin Fairfax, a former federal prosecutor, leads Republican state Senator Jill Vogel, 50% to 45%. Using the same formula to allocate the 5% of undecided voters indicates an Election Day vote favoring Fairfax over Vogel, 51.9% to 48.1%. Seeking a second term as attorney general, Democrat Mark Herring leads former federal prosecutor John Adams, 49% to 45%. Allocating the 6% of undecided voters indicates a vote favoring Herring, 51.1% to 48.9%.

Northam’s lead is demographically and regionally broad. Perhaps most importantly, he leads among independents by 13 points (51% to 38%) and moderates by 29 points (62% to 33%). He holds significant leads among women, black voters, younger voters, voters with incomes below $50,000, and in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. Gillespie leads among white voters and men, but the candidates are statistically tied among voters 45 and older and voters in Southwest-Southside, two normally Republican segments.

Likely voters are firmly in their partisan and ideological corners, with Northam getting 98% of Democratic and 91% of liberal votes and Gillespie taking 95% of Republican and 86% of conservative votes.

“While each candidate seems to have locked down his base, Northam appears to be winning the appeal to political independents and ideological moderates,” said Quentin Kidd, director of the Wason Center.

“It’s hard to see how Gillespie can make up this deficit when he has consistently trailed Northam among independents by more than 10 points,” said Rachel Bitecofer, assistant director of the Wason Center. “To put it into perspective, in 2013 the Republican nominee led among independents but still ended up losing the election by 2.6 percent.”

The telephone survey polled 839 likely voters, October 29-November 4, with an overall margin of error of +/- 3.5% at the 95% level of confidence. The margin of error is higher for subgroups. Likely voters are registered voters who voted in recent statewide elections, who say they are thinking about the upcoming election, are following news about the campaigns, and will definitely or probably vote in the upcoming election.

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