Most Virginia voters are undecided about this year’s governor’s race but there’s a heated battle taking place on the Democratic side, and either Democrat would comfortably beat any one of the four Republican candidates, a poll released Thursday found.
Six in 10 Democratic- and Republican-leaning voters are undecided, according to Quinnipiac University’s polling of the 2017 Virginia governor’s race.
Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and former congressman Tom Perriello each drew support from 19 percent of Democratic leaning voters.
It’s a sign that Northam has yet to lock up support two years after declaring his candidacy. Perriello entered the race last month.
In the four-person GOP field, former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie led with support from nearly a quarter of Republican-leaning voters. Corey Stewart, chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, drew 7 percent of respondents, while State Sen. Frank Wagner (Virginia Beach) took 5 percent and distillery owner Denver Riggleman attracted 2 percent.
All four Republican candidates for governor are scheduled to meet Saturday for their first debate in Charlottesville.
The poll found both Perriello and Northam would beat the Republican candidates in hypothetical head-to-head matchups. Perriello had slightly larger margins than Northam, while Gillespie fared the best of Republicans in a general election.
“Although none of the candidates — Democrat or Republican — is very well known to the Virginia electorate, the Old Dominion obviously has a blue tinge at this point,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, in a statement. “The fact that relatively unknown Democrats are scoring better than relatively unknown Republicans indicates that for now at least this Democratic brand is more attractive to Virginia voters.”
The poll also found just over half of respondents approve of the job performance of Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) and two-thirds are happy with the state’s direction. The Republican-controlled state legislature was much less popular, with 4 in 10 respondents disapproving of its direction.
“The fact that two-thirds of Virginia voters are satisfied with the way things are going in the state probably helps the Democratic side in the governor’s race. But that two-thirds satisfaction translates to only a 51 percent job approval for Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe — solid but not spectacular,” Brown said.
Virginia has no party registration, and voters can cast ballots in either major party’s June primary.
Pollsters surveyed 989 Virginians between Friday and Wednesday, with a margin of about 4.7 percentage points.
Another survey this month, by the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University also found that voters were largely undecided.
That poll had Northam leading with support from 26 percent of Democratic-leaning voters to Perriello’s 15 percent, while nearly 6 in 10 were undecided.
And it placed Gillespie at the top of the four-person field with the backing of a third of Republican-leaning voters and his competitors in the single digits. Half of those voters were undecided.
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