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Poll Shows Virginia Governor's Race Still a Virtual Dead Heat

Washingtonpost.com Staff
September 1997

A Mason-Dixon Political/Media Research poll on the Virginia governor's race found the candidates in a dead heat in early September.

Support for former state attorney general James S. Gilmore (R) crept up from 43 percent of those polled in July to 44 percent in September. During the same period, numbers for Lt. Gov. Donald S. Beyer Jr. (D) crept up from 42 percent to 43 percent. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent -- so the 1 point spread between them is negligible.

The copyrighted poll was conducted Sept. 8-10, with 813 likely Virginia voters interviewed by telephone. Detailed responses follow:

General Election Matchup:
If the election were held today, who would you choose?

Beyer (D) Gilmore (R) Undecided
September 1997 43% 44% 13%
July 1997 42% 43% 15%
May 1997 41% 43% 16%


Do You Recognize the Name?
Yes No
Gilmore (R) 91% 9%
Beyer (D) 95% 5%


Do You Have a Favorable or Unfavorable View of the Candidates?
(of those who recognized the names) Favorable Unfavorable Neutral
Gilmore (R) 32% 17% 42%
Beyer (D) 39% 22% 34%

Taxes, Gambling and State Services

The survey also asked questions about gambling in Virginia, taxes, state services, gubernatorial priorities and the debate among business leaders over tax increases. Those questions and answers are detailed below.

Gambling in Virginia | Taxes and Services | Gubernatorial Priorities | The Tax Increase Debate


Gambling in Virginia

Question: Would you favor or oppose legalizing casino gambling, such as blackjack, poker and slot machines, in Virginia?



Favor
Oppose
Undecided
Voters
Statewide

29%
66%
5%
Among
Men

35%
63%
2%
Among
Women

23%
69%
8%
Among
Whites

30%
65%
5%
Among
Blacks

26%
67%
7%


Question asked of those who said they favor legalized gambling: What do you consider to be your main consideration for favoring legalized casino gambling?
(Note: The responses were not read by the pollsters as options to the respondents.)

Good for the economy
People should be allowed to gamble
Would hold down taxes
Increase tourism
Good for Virginia's image
Other/Don't know
56%
17%
14%
6%
3%
4%


Question asked of those who said they oppose legalized gambling: What do you consider to be your main consideration for opposing legalized casino gambling
(Note: The responses were not read by the pollsters as options to the respondents.)

Gambling is immoral
Would hurt families
Would increase crime
Harmful to Virginia's image
Bad for the economy
Other/Don't know
29%
26%
19%
13%
7%
6%


Question: Pollsters told respondents: "I'm going to list several other types of gambling. After I read each one, please tell me if you favor or oppose having it legal in Virginia."


The State Lottery
Bingo parlors
At-the-track horse race betting
Off-track horse race betting parlors
Riverboat casinos
Slot machines at race tracks
Favor
63%
46%
46%
33%
32%
27%
Oppose
30%
37%
46%
63%
59%
68%
Undecided
7%
17%
8%
7%
9%
5%


Taxes and Services

Question: In terms of the services that you receive, would you say that taxes in Virginia are: much too high, a little too high, about right or too low?



Much too high
A little too high
About right
Too low
Not sure

Statewide
29%
33%
31%
4%
3%

Men
33%
37%
25%
3%
2%

Women
25%
29%
37%
5%
4%
Northern
Virginia

24%
36%
35%
4%
1%

Downstate
31%
32%
30%
4%
3%


Question: Some Northern Virginia business leaders are saying that the state needs to spend more money on public education and roads, even if it means an increase in taxes. Do you agree or disagree with their position?



Agree
Disagree
Not sure

Statewide
46%
46%
8%

Men
38%
53%
9%

Women
54%
39%
7%
Northern
Virginia

52%
37%
11%

Downstate
44%
49%
7%


Question: If a candidate for public office supported a state tax increase in order to increase spending for public education and roads, would you be more likely to vote for that candidate, less likely to vote for that candidate, or would it have no real effect on your vote?



More likely
Less likely
No effect
Not sure

Statewide
35%
34%
28%
3%

Men
28%
38%
32%
2%

Women
42%
30%
24%
4%
Northern
Virginia

39%
30%
27%
4%

Downstate
34%
35%
28%
3%


Gubernatorial Priorities

Question: Which of the following should Virginia's next governor put a higher priority on?
(Note: The pollsters rotated the order of the following responses as they read them to the poll respondents.)

  • Cutting taxes and controlling government spending, OR
  • Increasing spending on schools, roads and social services?



Cut taxes
Increase spending
Not sure

Statewide
57%
35%
8%

Men
68%
26%
6%

Women
46%
44%
10%
Northern
Virginia

49%
47%
4%

Downstate
60%
31%
9%


The Tax Increase Debate

Question: The Northern Virginia business leaders that are supporting a state tax increase for schools and roads include several major developers. Do you think these business leaders are supporting a tax increase primarily to benefit Virginia's long-term public interest, or do you think they are supporting a tax increase primarily to benefit their own self-interest?



Public Interest
Their interest
Both (not read)
Not sure

Statewide
14%
66%
9%
11%

Men
17%
63%
9%
11%

Women
11%
69%
9%
11%
Northern
Virginia

19%
56%
18%
7%

Downstate
12%
70%
6%
12%


Question: Increasing state spending on road construction could benefit developers by accelerating the building of housing subdivisions, retail centers and office complexes in some parts of Virginia. Do you think the business leaders who are supporting a tax increase for roads are also linking it to schools primarily to benefit Virginia's long-term public interest, or are they linking it to schools primarily to benefit their own self-interest by trying to make their tax increase proposal more popular?



Public interest
Their interest
Both (not read)
Not sure

Statewide
12%
63%
12%
13%

Men
14%
66%
7%
13%

Women
10%
60%
17%
13%
Northern
Virginia

17%
53%
19%
8%

Downstate
10%
65%
10%
15%


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