With a Month to Go, Democrats Expand Their Leads - The Wason Center - Christopher Newport University

October 9, 2017

With a Month to Go, Democrats Expand Their Leads

"Northam leads Gillespie by 7% in race for governor; Democrats Fairfax and Herring also lead down ballot."

Summary of Key Findings

  1. For Governor, Democrat Ralph Northam leads Republican Ed Gillespie, 49%- 42%.
  2. For Lieutenant Governor, Democrat Justin Fairfax leads Republican Jill Vogel, 48%-40%.
  3. For Attorney General, Democrat Mark Herring leads Republican John Adams, 51%-40%.
  4. Changes since the last survey favor all three Democrats, but only Herring, the incumbent Attorney General, has crossed the 50% mark.
  5. Crime and gang-related crime don’t appear to move most Gillespie or Northam voters, but far more Gillespie voters are concerned about illegal immigration.


With barely a month to go before Virginians choose their next governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general, all three Democratic candidates maintain statistically significant leads over their Republican rivals, according to a Wason Center survey of likely voters. At the top of the ticket, current Democratic Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam leads former Republican National Committee Chair Ed Gillespie, 49% to 42%, with Libertarian Cliff Hyra taking 3% of the vote and another 6% still undecided.

Democrat Justin Fairfax, a former federal prosecutor, leads Republican state Senator Jill Vogel in the Lieutenant Governor’s race, 48% to 40%, while current Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring breaks the 50% mark in leading former federal prosecutor and White House aide John Adams, 51% to 40%. In a generic House of Delegates test ballot, Democratic candidates lead Republican candidates, 49% to 38%.

The Wason Center surveyed 928 registered voters, including 616 who were determined to be likely voters, October 2-6. The margin of error for the likely voter model is +/- 4.3% at the 95% level of confidence. Likely voters are registered voters with a history of voting in recent statewide elections, who also say they definitely or probably will vote in the upcoming election.

In the Wason Center’s benchmark poll in this election, released September 25, Northam led Gillespie, 47% to 41%, and Fairfax and Herring similarly led Vogel and Adams.

“The movement we see in this tracking poll runs in the Democrats’ favor, and all three continue to hold their advantage,” said Quentin Kidd, director of the Wason Center.

In recent weeks the Gillespie campaign has opened up a line of attack against Northam centered on gangs, crime, and illegal immigrants. Gillespie voters appear to be no more concerned than Northam voters about crime generally or gang-related crime specifically, with very strong majorities of both indicating that crime and gang-related crime are not problems where they live. However, the two candidates’ voters diverge sharply on whether illegal immigration is a problem, with a third (33%) of Gillespie voters agreeing or strongly agreeing that illegal immigration is a problem where they live and only 6% of Northam voters saying the same.

“Gillespie's focus on crime and immigration appear to be attempts to appeal to his base, specifically those Republicans who voted for his primary opponent,” said Rachel Bitecofer, assistant director of the Wason Center.

For further information contact:

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

Dr. Rebecca Bromley-Trujillo, Research Lab Director
Office: (757) 594-9140

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