Cuccinelli has name identification advantage over Bolling, McAuliffe in 2012

May 8, 2012

If having people know who you are is half the battle in politics, then Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II has an advantage in the race to be Virginia’s next governor.

Thirty-one percent of Virginians have a favorable impression of Cuccinelli (R), and 31 percent do not, according to a new poll by The Washington Post.

His likely rivals for the governor’s mansion — Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) and Terence R. McAuliffe (D) — have favorable ratings in the 20s, and more than 50 percent have no opinion of either of them.

The outspoken attorney general has garnered national attention for suing the federal government over health care, advising colleges that they could not adopt policies protecting gay people and subpoenaing climate change documents from the University of Virginia.

Cuccinelli’s favorable ratings are higher — better than 40 percent — among people who support more conservative policies on health care, abortion and guns. His unfavorable ratings are around four in 10 among those who hold more liberal positions on the same issues, according to the poll.

Bolling, who stepped aside in 2009 to allow Gov. Robert F. McDonnell to run unopposed in the GOP primary, has been campaigning for governor for years. Cuccinelli surprised him — and Virginia political watchers — when he announced in December that he would challenge Bolling.

Fifty-one percent of likely voters had favorable impressions of Cuccinelli and Bolling in an October 2009 poll. But in the new survey, their numbers dropped by about 20 percentage points. (Some of that, however, may have to do with the polls. In 2009, the favorable rating questions came after questions in which respondents were cued to the candidate’s party identification.)

McAuliffe, a businessman and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, is pondering a run for governor. He will not officially announce his intentions until after the November elections.

Cuccinelli’s favorable ratings within his party (45 percent) are better than for Bolling (26 percent) or McAuliffe (31 percent), the poll showed.

McAuliffe, who ran for governor in 2009 but lost in a three-way Democratic primary, has made the rounds across the state for months, quietly meeting with possible supporters and campaigning for Virginia Democrats.

His spokesman said McAuliffe would not run for governor if U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D) does.

The poll shows that Warner remains the most popular elected official in the state. A solid majority of Virginians — 63 percent — approve of the way he is handling his job, similar to his 61 percent rating last year. Twenty-six percent disapprove. He will face reelection to the Senate in 2014.

The poll was conducted by telephone April 28 to May 2 among a random sample of 1,101 Virginia adults, including 964 registered voters and users of both conventional and cellphones. Results from the full survey have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Peyton M. Craighill is polling manager for the Washington Post. Peyton reports and conducts national and regional news polls for the Washington Post, with a focus on politics, elections and other social and economic issues.
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