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.