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In last Quinnipiac poll, McAuliffe up by 6 points in Virginia gubernatorial race

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe’s lead grows in the final Quinnipiac poll of election season. Republican Ken Cuccinelli, right, trails among women by 14 points, while the two candidates are essentially tied among men. (Steve Helber/AP)

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Terry McAuliffe has a six percentage point lead in what may be the last major independent survey of the Virginia governor’s race.

A Quinnipiac University poll released Monday shows McAuliffe at 46 percent, Republican Ken Cuccinelli II at 40 percent and Libertarian Robert Sarvis picking up 8 percent among likely voters. With polls opening in less than 24 hours, the survey offers one of the final snapshots of the contest before the voting starts.

Just last week, a Quinnipiac survey showed McAuliffe ahead by 4 points, leading Cuccinelli and his allies to argue that the race was tightening. But other polls have shown larger leads — the last Washington Post poll had McAuliffe ahead 12 points — and the vast majority of surveys taken in the past couple of months have put the Democrat ahead, with his lead ranging between five and nine points.

Some of the difference between varying surveys can be attributed to the partisan breakdowns they use in their samples. The Quinnipiac poll breakdown was 32 percent Democrats, 27 percent Republicans and 33 percent Independents.

Like other polls, the Quinnipiac survey shows McAuliffe benefiting from a wide gender gap. He leads among women by 14 points, while the two candidates are essentially tied among men.

Cuccinelli remains more unpopular overall, with a 38 percent favorable and a 52 percent unfavorable rating. McAuliffe’s favorability score is 42-45.

Cuccinelli supporters appear to be more enthusiastic about their candidate, but it might not be enough, said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

“To make a comeback in the final hours, Cuccinelli will need to take virtually all the undecided, peel off a few percent from Sarvis, and hope that his turnout operation is superior to that of McAuliffe,” Brown said. “Obviously, that is a long-shot formula for victory.

“The good news for Cuccinelli is that his supporters seem more enthusiastic about their guy than are the McAuliffe backers, but there just doesn’t seem to be enough of them to get Cuccinelli over the top.”

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