Governor’s Race: Poll and Comments

Quinnipiac University polled 989 Virginian voters from February 10-15 about this year’s race for governor.  The poll slightly skewed Democratic (46.7% of the respondents said they were Democrats or leaned Democratic, 42.4% said they were Republicans or leaned Republican, with 10.9% being independents or other); nevertheless, it provides an early and interesting look at Virginia’s governor’s race.

Based on their results, the race for the Democratic nomination is tied with both Tom Perriello and Ralph Northam each being the first choice of 19% of the Democratic voters.  Northam has a lead amongst the Democrats who consider themselves strongly or somewhat liberal whereas Perriello draws more support from Democrats who consider themselves at least somewhat conservative.  However, with 61% of Democrats being undecided (most because they simply do not know enough about the candidates), this race could get very interesting.  The primary is June 13, 2017, so Perriello and Northam have almost four months to introduce themselves to primary voters.

The Republican race is much different with four contenders.  Despite splitting the vote four ways, Republican leader Ed Gillespie was the first choice of 24% of the Republican voters.  This is significantly more than the other three contenders put together (Corey Stewart was a distant second at 7%, Frank Wager had 5%, and Denver Riggleman had 2%).  However, it is much too early to call the race – while Gillespie has a very large lead, 59% of the Republicans are undecided.

The poll also tested early voter preferences for potential November contests.  I disagree with one of the original researcher’s conclusions.

Although none of the candidates – Democrat or Republican – is very well known to the Virginia electorate, the Old Dominion obviously has a blue tinge at this point,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. “The fact that relatively unknown Democrats are scoring better than relatively unknown Republicans indicates that for now at least this Democratic brand is more attractive to Virginia voters.

This is where the slightly Democratic skew of the poll comes into play.  Since Quinipiac polled more Democrats than Republicans (462 were Democrats or leaned left vs. 419 Republicans or leaned right), of course this poll would show that the Democratic options would beat the Republican options.  The results of the head-to-head matches among the independent voters is much more interesting to me as independents will likely decide the outcome of the November election.

Keep in mind these are small numbers, so the margin of errors are relatively large.  However, when only looking at the independent voters, a different picture occurs.  Now, the individual candidate makes a difference.  Among independents, Northam leads Stewart and Riggleman, but both Gillespie and Wagner have an advantage over Northam.  Perriello does better than Northam, leading over three of the Republican candidates in the eyes of independents, but also falls below Gillespie.

This does not look like a “blue tinge” to me.  Instead it seems like this race could go either way, with Gillespie having a small advantage at this point in time.

We Have Great Students

At UMW, we strongly encourage our students to travel abroad at least once as part of their education.  This is an expensive option and challenging to accomplish on a student budget.  However, traveling is very broadening and in an increasingly interconnected world, it is important for tomorrow’s leaders to better understand other cultures.

Several years ago, two of my students asked me which country was my favorite.  Outside of the United States, I love Australia and have had the good fortune to visit it several times.  After I told them about why I loved visiting Australia, they asked me to sponsor a UMW trip there over Winter Break.  I was a bit skeptical if we could get enough students for such an expensive trip (the airfare alone is over $2,000 during this time period – peak summer season in that part of the world), but I agreed.  We ending up recruiting six students and visited Australia over the 2014-15 Winter Break.  The students had such a great time learning about Aussie culture that their word-of-mouth created the demand for the next trip.  We took another trip with 13 students over the 2016-17 Winter Break (a summary about the 2016-2017 trip is available here).

During these trips, I learn so much about our students.  For example, one of our students had never flown before.  She certainly picked a challenging set of first flights!  One of the legs is over 14 hours long.  However, she handled it well and now has the skills to travel internationally on her own.  In addition to learning how organizations market themselves in Australia and New Zealand, we also did some fun activities such as kayaking three miles in the ocean to hike on a island.  After we had finished the first part of the excursion and were exploring the island, one of the students told me another student did not know how to swim.  Think of that – this brave young student was willing to kayak three miles in the ocean despite not knowing how to swim.  Further, she did not complain or even tell her professor it was an issue.  I would have never known if another student had not shared.

I am thrilled that these students had the opportunity to learn from how other cultures and businesses operate.  I am equally impressed with the lessons we can learn from the behavior of our own students.  As the two examples I shared illustrate, our students are willing to bravely try new activities, even when these activities are well outside their experience or comfort zones.  I feel blessed to have the opportunity to help our students have these experiences (and share them) and look forward to taking another group of students Down Under over the 2018-19 Winter Break.

Changing Virginian Demographics

UVA’s demographers have posted a great summary of the changing Virginian demographics.  While still growing, growth has slowed because many Virginians are leaving for other states.  Further, most of the growth continues to be in metropolitan Virginia (Northern Virginia, Richmond and Hampton Roads) which now make up 93% of Virginia’s entire population.

Read the entire summary at