Virginia General Election - Part 1 - The Wason Center - Christopher Newport University

September 24, 2020

Virginia General Election - Part 1

"Biden leads Trump by 5 points among likely Va. voters; his lead grows to 8 points among enthusiastic voters; Warner leads Gade by 13 points in U.S. Senate contest"

Summary of Key Findings

  1. Democrat Joe Biden leads Republican Donald Trump by 5 points, 48%-43%, among likely Virginia voters. Among the most enthusiastic likely voters, Biden’s lead grows to 8 points, 51%-43%.
  2. In the U.S. Senate race, Democrat Mark Warner leads Republican Daniel Gade by 13 points among likely Virginia voters, 52%-39%. Warner’s lead drops to 11 points among the most enthusiastic likely voters, 52%-41%.
  3. Biden’s lead over Trump is built on a 6-point enthusiasm advantage among Democratic voters over Republican voters. Biden also has a 27-point advantage over Trump among women in the most enthusiastic voters, and holds Trump to a draw among voters 45 and older.
  4. Voters strongly support the proposed constitutional amendment to establish a redistricting commission, 48%-28%, with support across all demographic groups. Despite opposition by the state Democratic Party, 64% of likely Democratic voters support the amendment. Republicans oppose it, 42%-32%.
  5. Voters strongly disapprove of the direction of the country is heading, 76%-16%, with 56% disapproving of the job Donald Trump is doing as president. While 47% disapprove of the direction the Commonwealth is going, Governor Ralph Northam’s approval rating is steady at 53%.


Presidential Race: With Election Day just six weeks away, Joe Biden is positioned to win in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Among likely voters, Biden leads President Donald Trump by 5 points, 48%-43%. Another 2% support another candidate, and 7% remain undecided. These results resemble the gap between Hillary Clinton and Trump in 2016, when Clinton won the state with nearly 50% of the vote to Trump’s 44%.

The gap between Biden and Trumps expands to 8% when looking at the most likely voters. Among the most enthusiastic voters, Biden is ahead of Trump 51% to 43%. These results demonstrate Virginia’s continued shift toward Democratic candidates statewide, which has been ongoing since the 2008 presidential election.

Biden’s lead is built on a 6-point enthusiasm advantage that Democratic voters have over Republican voters and a 27% advantage among women, where Biden holds a 61% to 34% lead. Further breaking down the most enthusiastic likely voters, Biden holds Trump to a draw among voters 45 and older, a bloc Trump has done well among in the past. Biden also has big advantages among younger voters (56%-38%), Black voters (75%-14%), and college-educated voters (66%-30%). Trump’s advantage is among non-college-educated voters (54%-37%), where he has a 17-point advantage over Biden, and among white voters (53%-43%) and men (52%-40%).

U.S. Senate: Democrat Mark Warner has a sizeable lead over his Republican challenger Daniel Gade among both likely voters (52% to 39%) and very likely voters (52% to 41%). This differs from the more tightly contested race in 2014, when Warner defeated Republican Ed Gillespie by just over 1%. Warner’s lead over Gade is built on strong support among the traditional Democratic coalition of women, Black voters, younger voters, and college- educated voters, but Warner also leads among independents and voters 45 and older. Gade has a slight lead among men and white voters and a significant lead among non-college-educated voters.

Constitutional Amendment: Virginia voters appear poised to pass the state constitutional amendment that would change how redistricting is done, with support at 48% and opposition at 28% (24% are undecided). Support is strong among Democratic voters, Black voters, and college-educated voters. Republican voters oppose the amendment and independents are largely split on the question. “Considering that the Democratic Party of Virginia opposes this amendment, there seems to be a real disconnect with voters at the grassroots about reforming the way legislative districts are drawn,” said Wason Center Research Director Rebecca Bromley-Trujillo.

State of things: Virginia voters assess both the state of the country and the state of the Commonwealth negatively, with 76% saying the country is headed in the wrong direction (only 16% say right direction) and 47% saying Virginia is headed in the wrong direction (43% say right direction). Assessments of both the country and the Commonwealth have worsened compared to recent years. Approval of President Trump’s job performance stands at 40%, consistent in Virginia since he took office. Governor Northam’s job approval stands at 53%, steady for the last 12-15 months.

How the survey was conducted:

The results of this poll are based on 796 interviews of registered Virginia voters who have voted in at least two general elections in the last four years, including 163 on landline and 633 on cell phone, conducted September 9-21, 2020. Percentages may not equal 100 due to rounding. The margin of error for the whole survey is +/-3.9% at the 95% level of confidence. This means that if 50% of respondents indicate a topline view on an issue, we can be 95% confident that the population’s view on that issue is somewhere between 46.4% and 53.6%. The margin of error for the enthusiastic voter model (n=700) is +/- 3.6 at the 95% level of confidence. All error margins have been adjusted to account for the survey’s design effect, which is 1.1 in this survey. The design effect is a factor representing the survey’s deviation from a simple random sample and takes into account decreases in precision due to sample design and weighting procedures. Sub-samples have a higher margin of error. In addition to sampling error, the other potential sources of error include non-response, question wording, and interviewer error. The response rate (AAPOR RRI Standard Definition) for the survey was 10%. Five callbacks were employed in the fielding process. Live calling was conducted by trained interviewers at the Wason Center for Public Policy Survey Research Lab at Christopher Newport University. The data reported here are weighted using an iterative weighting process on region, age, race, sex, and education to reflect as closely as possible the population of Virginia’s 2020 electorate.

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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