A new survey shows Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II and businessman Terry McAuliffe essentially tied in the race for governor, a slightly different result from a recent Washington Post poll that found Cuccinelli opening up an early lead.
The NBC News/Marist College poll shows McAuliffe (D) getting 43 percent support to 41 percent for Cuccinelli (R) among registered voters , while Cuccinelli has a 45-42 edge with likely voters. Both results are well within the survey’s margin of error. The Washington Post survey released this weekend had Cuccinelli up narrowly among registered voters, 46-41, and ahead 51-41 among likely voters.
Both polls give Cuccinelli a clear edge with those most determined to head to the polls. In the Marist survey, Cuccinelli leads 50-38 among respondents who say there’s an “excellent” chance they’ll vote in November.
The clearest difference between the two results is the size of the gender gap. The Marist poll has McAuliffe leading by 16 points among women voters and down 15 points among men. The Post survey showed McAuliffe up by just 1 point with women voters and trailing by 10 among men. McAuliffe hopes to win a majority of women in November, just as President Obama and other recent victorious Democrats have in Virginia, in part by casting Cuccinelli as too extreme on abortion issues.
A good portion of the electorate is still up for grabs. Only 50 percent of those in the Marist Poll who prefer a candidate say they “strongly” support their choice. And 46 percent said they had never heard of McAuliffe or didn’t know enough to form an opinion of him, while 32 percent said the same of Cuccinelli.
“The contest is close, the candidates are not well defined, and they still need to connect with voters,” Lee M. Miringoff, director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, said in a news release.
Like the Post poll, the Marist survey gives high marks to Gov. Robert McDonnell (R). The poll pegs his job approval rating at 61 percent among registered voters, up from 51 percent in a March 2012 Marist poll. And if McDonnell were allowed to run for a second term — he is barred from doing so by the Virginia constitution — he would be leading McAuliffe by 15 points among registered voters in a hypothetical matchup, Marist finds.
But 58 percent of Virginia voters say they do not want McDonnell to run for president in 2016, while just 24 percent say he should make a bid. He trails Hillary Clinton (D) in a hypothetical presidential matchup, 52-41, but leads Vice President Biden, 49-42.