2021 Virginia Democratic Primary Report - The Wason Center - Christopher Newport University

April 22, 2021

2021 Virginia Democratic Primary Report

"McAuliffe running away with Democrats’ governor bid; Herring has big lead on Jones for attorney general nod; Rasoul leads crowded lt. gov. field, but most undecided"

Summary of Key Findings

  1. Six weeks before Virginia Democrats’ June 8 primary, nearly half of the Democratic voters surveyed (47%) back former governor Terry McAuliffe for the party’s gubernatorial nomination. None of the other four primary candidates reach double-digit support: Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (8%); Sen. Jennifer McClellan (6%); former Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy (5%); Del. Lee Carter (1%). Undecided are 27%.
  2. Seeking his party’s nomination to a third term, Attorney General Mark Herring leads Del. Jerrauld “Jay” Jones, 42% to 18%, with 34% undecided. However, Jones has gained since our February poll, while Herring’s support has not changed.
  3. Del. Sam Rasoul leads a very crowded Democratic field for the lieutenant governor nomination, but almost two-thirds of Democratic voters surveyed are undecided (64%). Rasoul leads with 12%, and none of the other five candidates who remain in the race top 1-2% support.
  4. Enthusiasm is fairly high among Democrats, with 40% indicating they are very enthusiastic to vote in the primary, and 43% saying they are somewhat enthusiastic.


Governor nomination: With just over 6 weeks until Virginia Democrats’ June 8 gubernatorial primary, former governor Terry McAuliffe holds a commanding lead. McAuliffe has the support of 47% of Democratic voters, followed by Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (8%), Richmond Sen. Jennifer McClellan (6%), former Prince William Del. Jennifer Carrol Foy (5%) and Manassas Del. Lee Carter (1%). More than a quarter of voters remain undecided (27%).

McAuliffe is the best-known candidate in the field, with a favorable/unfavorable rating among Democratic voters of 56% to 14%, while 28% indicated no opinion. Fairfax follows with a closely divided favorable/unfavorable rating of 27% to 26%, with 45% indicating no opinion. Most voters say they have no opinion of McClellan (73%), Carrol Foy (78%) or Carter (86%). Among those who hold an opinion, however, McClellan has a 20% to 5% favorable/unfavorable rating and Carroll Foy has a 15% to 5% favorable/unfavorable.

“Name recognition is a big head start, but it’s better when voters’ impression is mostly favorable,” said Wason Center Academic Director Dr. Quentin Kidd.

Asked for their second choice for governor, Democratic voters are divided, with Fairfax receiving the highest support (11%), followed by McClellan (8%), McAuliffe (8%), Carrol Foy (7%) and Carter (1%).

Lieutenant governor nomination: Almost two out of three Democratic voters (64%) say they are undecided in the crowded contest for the party’s lieutenant governor bid, but Del. Sam Rasoul has emerged as the front runner with 12% support. Del. Elizabeth Guzman led the rest with the support of 4% of Democratic voters, but she withdrew from the race while the survey was in the field. None of the remaining candidates received more than 2% support.

Attorney general nomination: Seeking his party’s nomination for a third term as attorney general, incumbent Mark Herring (42%) has a solid lead over Norfolk Del. Jerrauld “Jay” Jones (18%), with 34% of Democratic voters undecided. Notably, Jones’s support has grown while Herring’s support has not changed since our February poll (42% Herring to 3% Jones, 50% undecided).

Enthusiasm: Overall enthusiasm among Democratic voters is fairly high, with 83% surveyed indicating they are very or somewhat enthusiastic to vote in the primary. “This gubernatorial field is the most diverse in the history of the Commonwealth, and that has drawn a great deal of interest in the race” said Wason Center Research Director Dr. Rebecca Bromley-Trujillo.

How the survey was conducted:

The results of this poll are based on 806 interviews of registered Virginia voters who are likely Democratic primary voters and have indicated they plan to vote in the upcoming June 8 Democratic primary, including 427 on landline and 379 on cell phone, conducted April 11-20, 2021. 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 46.1% and 53.9%. The margin of error for subgroups may be higher. All error margins have been adjusted to account for the survey’s design effect, which is 1.3 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 11%. Five callbacks were employed in the fielding process. Live calling was conducted by trained interviewers at the Wason Center for Civic Leadership Survey Research Lab at Christopher Newport University. The data reported here are weighted using an iterative weighting process on region, age, race, and sex to reflect as closely as possible the population of Virginia’s June 8, 2021 Democratic primary electorate.

For further information contact:

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

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

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