News & Politics

Virginia Voters Continue to Loathe Their Choices for Governor

Democrat Terry McAuliffe continues to lead Republican Ken Cuccinelli, but voters continue to have immensely unfavorable views toward both of them.

A poll released today shows that Virginia voters are as depressed as ever with the mainstream choices for their next governor. The survey, published by Politico, gives Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe a nine-point edge over Republican Ken Cuccinelli, the state’s attorney general. While McAuliffe’s campaign is surely pleased that the former Democratic National Committee boss is cementing his lead, the more revealing numbers in the poll show that neither major candidate is well liked by the electorate.
Fifty-six percent overall, and 23 percent who said they voted for Mitt Romney in last year’s presidential election, said they have an unfavorable view of Cuccinelli. McAuliffe isn’t much better off—49 percent of respondents, and 20 percent of people who voted for President Obama last year, have an unfavorable opinion toward him.
Meanwhile, Libertarian candidate Rob Sarvis continues to poll unusually well for a third-party candidate, netting 12 percent in a three-way contest. Even if Sarvis’ double-digit figures plummet on Election Day, Cuccinelli won’t be any better off. A head-to-head matchup between the major candidates gave McAuliffe a 52-42 lead.
Politico’s poll, which was conducted by the Democratic-leaning firm Public Policy Polling and Republican-leaning Harper Polling, found a much less pronounced gender gap between McAuliffe and Cuccinelli than polls taken last month. In the new survey, McAuliffe leads among female voters by an eight-point margin in a three-way race, and 10 percent running only against Cuccinelli. A Washington Post poll released September 24 showed McAuliffe with a 24-point lead among women. (McAuliffe’s campaign has focused on Cuccinelli’s opposition to abortion and Virginia Republican officials’ attempts to introduce legislation requiring invasive procedures.)
Aside from 2009, when Bob McDonnell trounced his Democratic opponent, Creigh Deeds, by a 17-point margin, polls inevitably tighten in Virginia as Election Day approaches. The last two Democrats to win, Tim Kaine in 2005 and Mark Warner in 2001, did so with five-point spreads. McAuliffe’s lead is greater than that right now, but he is far more unpopular than Kaine and Warner ever were as candidates. A poll taken in late October 2005 gave Kaine favorability marks of 62 percent.
But McAuliffe and Cuccinelli can take heart that they are not the most despised subjects of Politico’s poll. That distinction goes to the federal government shutdown, of which 62 percent of respondents disapprove. Virginia voters also mostly blame Republicans in Congress for the ongoing budget impasse, which has caused thousands of federal workers who live in the commonwealth to be furloughed from their jobs. Republicans in Congress were blamed by 50 percent of those polled, while 35 percent pinned the shutdown on Obama and Senate Democrats. The member of Congress perhaps most associated with instigating the shutdown, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, is looked down upon by 45 percent of voters.
The poll was conducted October 5-6 and surveyed 1,150 likely voters.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.