5/8: Tight Race for Governor in Virginia

NBC News/Marist Poll

In the race for governor in Virginia, Democrat Terry McAuliffe — 43% — and Republican Ken Cuccinelli — 41% — are in a close contest among registered voters including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate.  One percent are for another candidate, and 16% are undecided.

Among the probable electorate, including voters who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate, Cuccinelli has 45% to 42% for McAulifffe.  13% are undecided.

Click Here for Complete May 8th, 2013 Virginia NBC News/Marist Poll Release and Tables

“The contest is close, the candidates are not well defined, and they still need to connect with voters,” says Dr. Lee M.  Miringoff, Director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion.  “But, keep an eye on those who say they are going to vote.”

Key points:

  • Party ID.  There is a wide partisan divide.  91% of registered Democrats support McAuliffe while 91% of registered Republicans back Cuccinelli.  Among independent voters statewide, Cuccinelli — 36% — and McAuliffe — 36% — are locked in a dead heat.  However, a notable proportion of independent voters — 27% — are undecided.
  • Intensity of Support.  50% of registered voters in Virginia who prefer a candidate are strongly committed to their choice.  33% are somewhat behind their pick while 13% might vote differently.  Four percent are unsure.  Looking at the candidates’ supporters, 53% of those behind Cuccinelli strongly support him.  This compares with only 47% of McAuliffe’s backers who express a similar degree of support.
  • Gender.  There is a wide gender gap.  McAuliffe — 50% — leads Cuccinelli — 34% — among women.  14% of women voters are undecided.  However, Cuccinelli — 49% — is ahead of McAuliffe — 34% — among men.  17% are undecided.
  • Age.  McAuliffe — 48% — has the advantage over Cuccinelli — 35% — among registered voters under the age of 30.  Among those 30 to 44 years old, Cuccinelli receives 44% to 37% for McAuliffe.  Looking at those 45 to 59 McAuliffe has 45% to 41% for Cuccinelli.  Among Virginia registered voters 60 and older, McAuliffe — 43% — and Cuccinelli — 42% — are neck and neck.

Table: 2013 Gubernatorial Tossup (Virginia Registered Voters including leaners)

Table: Intensity of Support (Virginia Registered Voters with a Candidate Preference)

Slim Majority Satisfied with the Field

52% of Virginia registered voters are satisfied with the candidates from which they have to choose for governor this year.  One-quarter — 25% — are not satisfied, and 23% are unsure.  About six in ten Democrats — 58% — and Republicans — 61% — are satisfied while only a plurality of independents — 42% — feel the same.

Table: Satisfied with Gubernatorial Candidates (Virginia Registered Voters)

More Information Needed about Candidates, Say Many

Looking at the favorability ratings of the candidates, 31% of residents have a positive impression of McAuliffe.  23% have an unfavorable opinion of him, and a plurality — 46% — have either never heard of him or are unsure how to rate him.  Registered voters have similar impressions.  32% of voters have a positive impression, 24% have a negative one, and 44% have either never heard of McAuliffe or are unsure how to rate him.

While Cuccinelli is better known among Virginians, he also needs to improve his standing.  40% have a favorable view of Cuccinelli while 26% have an unfavorable one.  34% have either never heard of him or are unsure how to rate him.  Similar proportions of registered voters share these impressions.  42% of voters have a favorable view of Cuccinelli, 27% have an unfavorable one, and 32% have either never heard of him or are unsure how to rate him.

Table: McAuliffe Favorability (Virginia Adults)

Table: Cuccinelli Favorability (Virginia Adults)

Impressions of the Candidates

How do Virginia residents compare the gubernatorial candidates?

  • 27% of adults think McAuliffe is too liberal.  Five percent say he is too conservative, and 32% think he is about right.  Almost four in ten though — 36% — are unsure where he stands politically.
  • As for Cuccinelli, 6% of state residents see him as too liberal while 25% think he’s too conservative.  38% say he is about right while more than three in ten — 31% — are unsure how to assess him ideologically.
  • When asked which candidate better understands the problems of people like themselves, 33% give Cuccinelli the nod and 29% pick McAuliffe.  31% are unsure.
  • Who do Virginians trust more to do what’s best for the state?  37% choose Cuccinelli while 31% say McAuliffe.  26% are unsure.
  • When it comes to social issues such as abortion, 31% of adults say Cuccinelli is closer to their position, and 30% say the same about McAuliffe.  34% are unsure.
  • Residents divide about which candidate cares more about the middle class.  30% select Cuccinelli.  McAuliffe is the choice of 29%, and 34% are unsure.
  • Which candidate do residents say shares their values?  Cuccinelli — 34% — has the advantage over McAuliffe — 28%.  31%, however, are unsure.

Table: McAuliffe Ideology (Virginia Adults)

Table: Cuccinelli Ideology (Virginia Adults)

Table: Candidate that Better Understands Problems (Virginia Adults)

Table: Candidate Trust More to Do What’s Best for Virginia (Virginia Adults)

Table: Candidate that is Closer on Social Issues (Virginia Adults)

Table: Candidate that Cares More About the Middle Class (Virginia Adults)

Table: Candidate that Shares Values (Virginia Adults)

Cuccinelli’s Performance as Attorney General

How do Virginia residents think Cuccinelli is doing as the state’s Attorney General?  49% approve while 23% disapprove.  28% are unsure.  Among registered voters, a majority — 51% — approve, 24% disapprove, and 25% are unsure.

By party, 74% of Republicans approve of the job Cuccinelli is doing in office, and only 6% disapprove.  49% of independent voters have a positive impression of the job Cuccinelli is doing as Attorney General, and 25% have a negative one.  Among Democrats, a plurality — 41% — disapprove while 32% approve.

Table: Cuccinelli Approval Rating (Virginia Adults)

Six in Ten Approve of McDonnell’s Job Performance

60% of Virginia adults approve of the job Governor Bob McDonnell is doing in office.  22% disapprove, and 18% are unsure.  Registered voters have similar views.  61% of registered voters give McDonnell a thumbs up.  24% of voters disapprove, and 15% are unsure.

When the NBC News/Marist Poll last reported this question in March 2012, 51% of registered voters in Virginia approved of the job he was doing in office.  30% disapproved, and 19% were unsure.

58% of Virginia adults currently have a favorable impression of McDonnell.  23% have an unfavorable one, and 19% are unsure.  Registered voters parallel these views.  60% of voters have a positive opinion of the governor, 24% have a negative one, and 16% are unsure.

Table: Governor Bob McDonnell Approval Rating (Virginia Adults)

Table: Governor Bob McDonnell Favorability (Virginia Adults)

Virginians Wouldn’t Mind Another Term for Governor McDonnell, But Say “No” to 2016 Prez Run

If Bob McDonnell was not limited to one term as governor, he would be the favorite for re-election against Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe.  In a hypothetical matchup, Governor McDonnell receives the support of 51% to 36% for McAuliffe among all registered voters.  One percent chooses another candidate, and 12% are undecided.

McDonnell’s gubernatorial support among voters in Virginia does not carry over to a bid for president.  58% of voters statewide do not want McDonnell to run for president in 2016.    24% would like to see him make a run, and 18% are unsure.  Democrats — 73% — and independents — 59% — do not support a McDonnell presidential run.  Republicans divide.  41% of registered Republican voters would like to see him on the presidential campaign trail while 43% would not.

How does McDonnell fare against Democrats Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden?  In a hypothetical matchup, Hillary Clinton — 52% — has the advantage over Bob McDonnell — 41% — among registered voters in the state.  Seven percent are undecided.

In fact, 60% of Virginia residents have a favorable impression of Hillary Clinton.  33% have an unfavorable view, and 7% are unsure.  There is little difference of opinion among registered voters.  60% of voters have a positive impression of Hillary Clinton, 34% have a negative one, and 6% are unsure.

In contrast, when matched against Joe Biden, McDonnell receives the support of 49% to Biden’s 42%.  Nine percent are undecided.

Table: Hypothetical 2013 Toss Up McAuliffe/McDonnell (Virginia Registered Voters)

Table: Want Bob McDonnell to Run for President in 2016? (Virginia Registered Voters)

Table: Hypothetical 2016 Toss Up Clinton/McDonnell (Virginia Registered Voters)

Table: Hillary Clinton Favorability (Virginia Adults)

Table: Hypothetical 2016 Toss Up Biden/McDonnell (Virginia Registered Voters)

Six in Ten Optimistic About the Direction of the State

60% of Virginia residents think the state is moving in the right direction.  33%, however, believe it needs a new course.  Seven percent are unsure.  Registered voters share similar views.  61% of registered voters think Virginia is on the correct course, and 32% say the state is headed in the wrong direction.  Seven percent are unsure.

Table: Direction of Virginia (Virginia Adults)

Majority Approve of Obama’s Performance and Like Him, Too; Political Parties Not as Popular

A slim majority of Virginia residents — 51% — approve of the job the president is doing in office.  45% disapprove, and 4% are unsure.  Registered voters reflect the views of adults.

Similarly, 53% of residents have a favorable impression of the president while 43% have an unfavorable impression of him.  Three percent are unsure.  Registered voters agree.  54% have a favorable view of the president, 44% have an unfavorable opinion, and 3% are unsure.

The Democratic and Republican parties do not fare as well.  44% of Virginians have a favorable impression of the Democratic Party.  45% give the party a thumbs down. 11% are unsure.  The opinions of registered voters differ little from residents.  44% have a positive view of the Democratic Party, 46% have a negative one, and 10% are unsure.

As for the GOP, only 36% of residents have a favorable opinion of the Republican Party.   A majority of Virginia residents — 52% — have an unfavorable view.  12% are unsure.  Registered voters concur.  37% have a positive view of the Republican Party, 53% have a negative impression, and 11% are unsure.

Table: Obama Approval Rating (Virginia Adults)

Table: Obama Favorability (Virginia Adults)

Table: Democratic Party Favorability (Virginia Adults)

Table: Republican Party Favorability (Virginia Adults)

Stricter Gun Laws Say Majority

55% of Virginia residents think laws covering the sale of firearms should be stricter than they are now.  Six percent say they should be less strict while 36% think they should be kept as they are.  Three percent are unsure.

Gun owners feel differently.  Nearly six in ten — 57% — want gun laws to remain as they are.  30% of gun owners think laws covering the sale of firearms should be stricter, and 11% would prefer these laws be less strict.  Two percent are unsure.

Table: Gun Law Covering the Sale of Firearms (Virginia Adults)

Across-the-Board Spending Cuts No Personal Impact for Majority, But Hurt Economy

Although a majority — 54% — of Virginia residents say the across-the-board automatic spending cuts that went into effect on March 1st have not had an impact on them or their family, personally, 43% say they have felt at least some impact from the cuts.  This includes 12% who say the cuts have impacted them a great deal, 10% who say quite a bit, and 21% who report some impact.  Three percent are unsure.

Almost half — 49% — think these cuts will mostly hurt the economy.  18% think the across-the-board cuts will help the economy, and 26% think they will have no impact.  Eight percent are unsure.

Table: Personal Impact of Automatic Spending Cuts (Virginia Adults)

Table: Impact of Automatic Spending Cuts on the Economy (Virginia Adults)

How the Survey was Conducted

Nature of the Sample