RICHMOND — Virginia’s race for governor continues to look like a close contest, as Democrat Ralph Northam has a slight but statistically insignificant edge over Republican Ed Gillespie in one new poll of likely voters and another new poll shows a dead heat.
Northam is the pick for 44 percent of likely voters and Gillespie gets 39 percent in the University of Mary Washington survey released Monday. That five-point difference is within the poll's margin of error of 5.2 percentage points for likely voters.
Libertarian candidate Cliff Hyra gets 3 percent of likely voters in the survey, with 14 percent undecided.
A poll of likely voters from Suffolk University in Boston finds the race evenly split at 42 percent for both Gillespie and Northam, with Hyra drawing 3 percent and 12 percent of likely voters saying they're undecided.
“Both candidates have a lot of work to do between now and November,” UMW political scientist Stephen J. Farnsworth said in a statement accompanying that school’s results.
Other polls ahead of the Nov. 7 election have also shown a tight race, with surveys from Quinnipiac University and Virginia Commonwealth University's L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs showing similar results last month.
The Suffolk poll also looked at the question of whether to support Confederate statues in public places, and found that 57 percent of Virginia voters favor preserving them while 32 percent say they should be removed.
Those positions tracked lines of party and race, with 91 percent of Republicans and 67 percent of white respondents saying the statues should be protected, while 61 percent of Democrats and 65 percent of black voters favoring removal. Sixty percent of independents were against removing the statues.
The Mary Washington survey showed that both candidates can count on the party faithful, with 91 percent of likely voters in each party saying they are committed to their nominee. Gillespie does better among likely voters who call themselves independents, with 39 percent to Northam’s 30 percent.
Northam’s overall edge comes from Northern Virginia, where the UMW poll shows him with the support of 55 percent of likely voters, compared with 27 percent for Gillespie. The Republican has a wide advantage in the western part of the state, with 48 percent support compared with 38 percent for Northam, but that region has far fewer voters than the Washington suburbs.
Other parts of the state are much closer, perhaps most surprisingly in Northam’s home region of Hampton Roads, where both candidates get 41 percent of likely voters.
Likely voters who are white favor Gillespie, at 51 percent to 37 percent for Northam, and male likely voters also favor Gillespie by a wide margin, with 46 percent to 37 percent for Northam.
Northam gets far more support among African American likely voters, with 67 percent compared to only 10 percent for Gillespie, and among Hispanic likely voters, with 57 percent to 30 percent for Gillespie.
Among women, 50 percent of likely voters support Northam, with 33 percent for Gillespie.
Democrats hold a thin advantage in the other statewide races in the UMW poll. For lieutenant governor, Democrat Justin Fairfax is favored by 45 percent of likely voters compared with 40 percent for Republican Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel (Fauquier). Incumbent Attorney General Mark Herring (D) gets support from 47 percent of likely voters compared with 40 percent for Republican John Adams.
The UMW survey was conducted from Sept. 5-12 with telephone interviews of a representative sample of 1,000 Virginians over age 18. Of those, 562 identified themselves as likely voters.
The Suffolk University poll was conducted Sept. 13-17 among 500 likely Virginia voters, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.
That survey looks at a number of issues in addition to the Confederate monuments, finding that 52 percent of Virginians surveyed support offshore drilling for oil and gas, with 35 percent opposed. Fifty percent also favor raising the minimum wage to $15 from $7.25 an hour, with 44 percent against the raise.
It found that 44 percent of likely voters said the state is headed in the wrong direction, while 42 percent said it was on a good track and 14 percent were undecided.