Democrat Terry McAuliffe narrowly leads Republican Ken Cuccinelli in the hotly contested race for Virginia governor. Among likely voters in Virginia including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate, McAuliffe receives 43% to 38% for Cuccinelli. Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis garners 8% of the vote. One percent supports another candidate, and 10% are undecided.
When NBC News/Marist last reported this question in May, Cuccinelli — 45% — and McAuliffe — 42% — were in a virtual dead heat among likely voters including those who were undecided yet leaning toward a candidate. Less than 1% supported another candidate, and 13% were undecided.
POLL MUST BE SOURCED: NBC4/NBC News/Marist Poll
“None of the candidates has reached a comfort level with voters,” says Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, Director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “Look no further than how voters compare the candidates on key issues. With the exception of social issues, no one breaks 40% on any area of concern to voters.”
- Party ID. 89% of likely voters who are Democrats support McAuliffe while 83% of Republicans are for Cuccinelli. Among independent voters in Virginia, the candidates are in a close contest. 36% back McAuliffe while 34% are for Cuccinelli. Sarvis receives 15% of independents, 5% of Republicans, and 2% of Democrats.
- Gender. There is a gender gap. Half of women who are likely to vote — 50% — support McAuliffe while 32% are behind Cuccinelli. However, Cuccinelli leads among men with 44% compared with 36% for McAuliffe.
- Intensity of Support. A majority of likely voters with a candidate preference — 59% — says they strongly support their choice of candidate for governor. 31% are somewhat behind their selection while 9% might vote differently. One percent is unsure. 59% of those who are behind McAuliffe are strongly committed to their choice of candidate for governor. This compares with 60% of Cuccinelli’s supporters who have the same level of support for him.
Among registered voters in Virginia including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate, 41% support McAuliffe, 35% are for Cuccinelli, and 8% back Sarvis. One percent wants another candidate to be elected, and 14% are undecided. In that previous survey, registered voters divided. 43% backed McAuliffe, 41% were for Cuccinelli, 1% supported another candidate, and 16% were undecided.
Cuccinelli’s Favorable Rating Slides… McAuliffe Still Unknown to Three in Ten
Cuccinelli’s favorable rating is now upside down. 45% of Virginia residents have an unfavorable view of him while 31% have a favorable impression of the candidate. 23% have either never heard of Cuccinelli or are unsure how to rate him. Similar proportions of registered voters share these views. 47% of voters have an unfavorable opinion of Cuccinelli while 34% have a favorable one. 19% have either never heard of him or are unsure how to rate him.
In NBC News/Marist’s May survey, Cuccinelli’s rating was right side up. Four in ten Virginia adults — 40% — had a positive view of Cuccinelli. 26% had an unfavorable one, and 34% had either never heard of him or were unsure how to rate him. Among registered voters, 42%, at that time, thought highly of Cuccinelli, 27% had a lesser opinion of him, and 32% had either never heard of him or were unsure how to rate him.
When it comes to McAuliffe, 38% of Virginia residents have a favorable impression of him. 32% have an unfavorable one, and a notable 30% have either never heard of him or are unsure how to rate him. Among registered voters statewide, 41% think well of McAuliffe, 34% have a negative view of him, and 26% have either never heard of him or are unsure how to rate him.
In the spring, McAuliffe was even less-known to Virginia residents. While 31% had a positive opinion of the candidate and 23% had an unfavorable impression of him, a plurality — 46% — had either never heard of him or were unsure how to rate him. Among registered voters, 32%, at that time, viewed McAuliffe favorably. 24% had an unfavorable opinion of him, and 44% had either never heard of him or were unsure how to rate him.
How does Sarvis fare in the realm of public opinion? The candidate is not well-known to most Virginians. 66% of adults statewide have either never heard of Sarvis or are unsure how to rate him. 20% have a favorable view of him, and 15% have an unfavorable impression of him. Similar proportions of registered voters share these views. 63% of voters have either never heard of or are unsure how to rate Sarvis. 21% have a positive opinion of him, and 16% have a negative view of him.
The Impact of Controversy
The McAuliffe and Cuccinelli campaigns have had to address controversies surrounding their candidates. How have these controversies affected Virginians’ opinions of the candidates?
When it comes to McAuliffe’s past work at the automotive company Green Tech, about six in ten residents — 61% — do not know enough about the situation to form an opinion. 16% say McAuliffe’s association with the company has fostered a more negative opinion of the candidate while 2% say it makes them feel more positively toward him. About one in five — 21% — report it has not impacted their view of McAuliffe. Similar proportions of registered voters share these views.
Looking at Cuccinelli’s association with Star Scientific and its CEO, Jonnie Williams, a plurality — 47% — says they don’t know enough about the connection to form an opinion. Nearly three in ten — 28% — report they have a more negative attitude toward the candidate while just 2% say it has positively affected their opinion of him. About one in four residents — 24% — says it has not had much of an impact on their view of Cuccinelli. Again, similar proportions of registered voters have these opinions.
When it comes to McAuliffe’s political views, about four in ten adults in Virginia — 39% — believe his ideology is about right. 29% think he is too liberal, and only 7% say he is too conservative. A notable 25% are unsure.
When NBC News/Marist reported this question last spring, 32% of residents reported his ideology was about right. 27% said he was too liberal while 5% thought he was too conservative. 36%, at that time, were unsure.
A plurality of adults statewide — 37% — thinks Cuccinelli is too conservative. 32% report his ideology is about right, and only 9% say he is too liberal. About one in five — 21% — is unsure about Cuccinelli’s political views.
In May, 38% considered Cuccinelli’s political views to be about right. This compares with 25% who said he was too conservative, 6% who thought he was too liberal, and 31% who were unsure.
Issues and Image: McAuliffe Bests Cuccinelli on Most… Candidates Closer on Trust, Business, and Experience
When it comes to issues and candidate qualities, how do Virginians view the gubernatorial candidates?
- A plurality of residents — 44% — says McAuliffe comes closer to their views on social issues such as abortion. This compares with 26% who report Cuccinelli better reflects their views. Five percent think neither of the candidates identifies with their personal views on social issues, and less than 1% of residents believe both candidates share their opinion. 24% are unsure. In May, there was little consensus. 31% thought Cuccinelli aligned with their personal position on social issues while 30% had this view of McAuliffe. One percent said both reflected their views while 4% reported neither identified with their views on social issues. 34%, at that time, were unsure.
- Nearly four in ten adults — 38% — think McAuliffe cares more about the middle class while 29% have this view of Cuccinelli. One percent believes both candidates have the best interests of the middle class in mind while 10% think neither cares about the middle class. 22% are unsure. In that previous survey, residents divided. 30% thought Cuccinelli cared more about the middle class while 29% had this impression of McAuliffe. One percent reported both candidates were concerned about middle class residents while 6% said neither candidate was concerned. 34% were unsure.
- 39% of residents in Virginia think McAuliffe shares their values while 31% believe Cuccinelli does. One percent says both candidates reflect their core principles while 10% report neither does. 19% are unsure. When NBC News/Marist last reported this question, 34% said Cuccinelli shared their values. This compares with 28% who had this impression of McAuliffe at that time. One percent reported both candidates represented their ideals while 6% said neither did. 31%, then, were unsure.
- Which candidate better understands residents’ problems? 39% think McAuliffe is the candidate who can better relate to the problems facing Virginians. This compares with 33% who have this view of Cuccinelli. Less than 1% of residents say both candidates can identify with the average person in Virginia while 10% report neither can relate to their problems. 18% are unsure. In May, there was no consensus. About one-third — 33% — said Cuccinelli better understood residents’ problems. 29% thought McAuliffe could better relate to the issues confronting residents of Virginia. Less than 1% said both candidates understood residents’ challenges while 7% reported neither could empathize with them. 31% were unsure.
- Which candidate for governor do residents trust more to do what’s best for Virginia? 39% choose McAuliffe, and 34% have confidence in Cuccinelli. Less than 1% of Virginians believe both candidates will improve the state while 10% trust neither. 16% are unsure. In May, Cuccinelli — 37% — edged McAuliffe — 31% — on this question. Less than 1% trusted both candidates while 5% had confidence in neither candidate. 26% were unsure.
- However, when it comes to the candidate who would be better for business in Virginia, 37% think Cuccinelli is the man for the job while 35% have this opinion of McAuliffe. Less than 1% of residents say both candidates can help bolster business in Virginia while 6% think neither candidate can handle the issue. 22% are unsure.
- When it comes to the candidate who has the experience to be governor, 38% think Cuccinelli has the necessary experience while 34% say the same about McAuliffe. Two percent think both candidates have the know-how to be governor while 7% say neither is prepared to assume the role. 20% are unsure.
Majority Supports Same-Sex Marriage
Where do Virginians stand on the issue of same-sex marriage? 55% of adults statewide favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to enter into same-sex marriage. This includes 36% who strongly support gay marriage. 37% oppose same-sex marriage which includes 10% who strongly oppose it. Eight percent are unsure.
Northam and Jackson Neck and Neck in Lieutenant Governor’s Contest
In the race for Virginia’s lieutenant governor, Democrat Ralph Northam receives the support of 44% of likely Virginia voters including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate. Republican E.W. Jackson has the support of 41% while 1% backs another candidate. 13% are undecided.
How strongly do likely voters with a candidate preference support their choice of candidate for lieutenant governor? 46% are firmly committed to their choice of candidate. 41% say they somewhat support their selection while 11% might vote differently. Two percent are unsure. Among likely voters who back Northam, 47% strongly support him. This compares with 44% of Jackson’s backers who are firmly committed to him.
Among registered voters statewide, 42% are for Northam while 40% are for Jackson. One percent supports another candidate, and 16% are undecided.
More than One in Four Voters Undecided in Attorney General’s Race
Among likely voters including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate, Democrat Mark Herring has the support of 39% in the contest for attorney general. This compares with 34% for Republican Mark Obenshain. One percent backs another candidate seeking the office, and 26% are undecided.
42% of likely voters with a candidate preference for attorney general strongly support their choice. 40% are somewhat committed to their candidate selection while 16% might vote differently. One percent is unsure. Among those who back Herring, 43% are firmly behind him. A similar proportion of Obenshain backers — 42% — has this level of support for their candidate for attorney general.
Among registered voters in Virginia including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate, 38% support Herring. 32% back Obenshain, and 2% are for another candidate. A notable 28% are undecided.
McDonnell’s Approval Rating Declines, Yet He Remains Popular
51% of Virginians approve of the job Governor Bob McDonnell is doing in office. 33% disapprove, and 16% are unsure. 55% of registered voters statewide think highly of McDonnell’s job performance while 33% disapprove. 12% are unsure.
There has been a drop in the proportions of Virginia residents and registered voters who approve of how McDonnell is performing his job. When NBC News/Marist reported this question in May, 60% of residents had a positive view of how McDonnell was doing in office while 22% disapproved. At that time, 18% were unsure. Among registered voters, 61% approved of how the governor was doing in his role while 24% disapproved. 15% were unsure.
McDonnell’s favorability rating has also suffered. 49% of adults in Virginia have a favorable view of McDonnell. 32% have an unfavorable one, and 19% have either never heard of him or are unsure how to rate him. 52% of registered voters think well of McDonnell. 33% have a lesser view of him, and 15% are unsure.
In May, 58% had a favorable opinion of Governor McDonnell. 23% had a negative impression of him, and 19% were unsure. Among registered voters in Virginia, 60% had a positive opinion of McDonnell. 24% had an unfavorable one, and 16% were unsure.
McDonnell is limited to one term in office, but if he could run for a second term, 47% of registered voters would support his re-election bid while 42% would back McAuliffe. Two percent would cast their ballot for another candidate, and 9% are undecided. In that previous survey, a majority of registered voters — 51% — said they would back McDonnell in a race for governor. This compares with 36% who reported they would support McAuliffe. One percent was for another candidate, and 12% were undecided.
Nearly Six in Ten Think State is Moving in the Right Direction
58% of Virginians think the state is on the right course. 36% believe it is on the wrong one, and 6% are unsure. Among registered voters statewide, 59% say Virginia is traveling along the proper path while 36% say it needs a new direction. Five percent are unsure.
In May, 60% of adults thought the state’s trajectory was correct. This compares with 33% who said Virginia needed a new path. Seven percent were unsure. Among registered voters, 61% said Virginia was moving in the right direction, 32% believed it was traveling in the wrong direction, and 7% were unsure.
Virginia Residents Divide over Obama’s Job Performance
Nearly half of Virginia residents — 48% — approve of the job President Barack Obama is doing in office. 46% disapprove, and 6% are unsure. Similarly, 48% of registered voters have a positive view of the president’s job performance. 47% of voters disapprove, and 5% are unsure.
In NBC News/Marist’s May survey, a slim majority of adults — 51% — gave the president high marks. 45% believed he fell short, and 4% were unsure.
When it comes to President Obama’s favorability rating, a majority of adults — 52% — has a positive impression of the president. 45% have an unfavorable opinion of Obama, and 4% are unsure. Similar proportions of registered voters share these views.
There has been little change on this question since May when 53% of adults statewide had a favorable view of President Obama. 43% had an unfavorable one, and 3% were unsure.