Home 2017 Races With the Caveat that Most Polls Are Crap…Northam 47%-Gillespie 39%

With the Caveat that Most Polls Are Crap…Northam 47%-Gillespie 39%

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Yeah, I admit it, my confidence in the science – or is it an art? or is it a bad joke? – of polling has taken a serious hit in recent years.  For instance, in 2014, the polls wildly missed Mark Warner’s near-loss to Ed Gillespie (the Real Clear Politics average had Warner up 9.7 points). Then in the 2017 Virginia gubernatorial primaries, the public polls missed bigly yet again, with almost everyone (except for the brand-new Change Research) consistently showing showing Ed Gillespie up by 20 points or so and most public polls (other than PPP) showing the Democratic primary to be neck and neck, or with Tom Perriello holding a slight edge. That includes Quinnipiac Polling, whose last poll – albeit well before the election, back in April – had Gillespie up 16 points over Corey Stewart and Tom Perriello up 5 points over Ralph Northam. Neither was even close. And yes, I’m well aware that stuff changed between April and June, but still…really?

Also worth noting is that Quinnipiac’s April 2017 poll had Tom Perriello leading Ed Gillespie by 13 points (46%-33%) and Ralph Northam leading Gillespie by 11 points (44%-33%).

With that vote of (no) confidence, here are highlights from Quinnipiac’s just-released Virginia general election poll:

  • Northam leads Gillespie 47%-39% overall, with female voters favoring Northam by a huge, 54%-33% margin, while male voters favor Gillespie 47%-39%. Can we say “gender gap?!?”
  • I’m not sure why Northam’s lead would have slipped slightly from Quinnipiac’s last poll (from 11 points to 8 points), but again, my confidence in polling isn’t exactly at a high right now…
  • White voters favor Gillespie by a 48%-40% margin, while everyone else backs Northam 65%-20%. Can we say “racial gap?!?”
  • Democrats AND Republicans appear unified, with Gillespie up 91%-4% among GOP voters and Northam up 94%-1% among Dems. Independent voters are basically split evenly, at 40% Gillespie-38% Northam.
  • 39% of voters still haven’t heard enough about Ralph Northam or Ed Gillespie to have an opinion and/or choose one of the candidates.
  • It’s simply bizarre that anyone could think the Republicans, with their horrendous economic record both nationally and here in Virginia, could be better for the economy than Democrats, yet Gillespie edges out Northam (40%-37%) on that question. Amazing.
  • By a 46%-25% margin, voters say that support for Trump makes them less likely to cast their ballot for a candidate who supports the guy Ralph Northam correctly calls a “narcissistic maniac.”
  • Only 7% of voters say the state of Virginia’s economy right now is “poor,” while 63% say it’s either “excellent” (4%) or “good” (59%). So we’ll see how Gillespie et al’s constant dissing of Virginia’s economy plays with voters…
  • By a 47%-37% margin, Virginia voters approve of Gov. McAuliffe’s job performance. Again, there’s a huge gender gap, with women approving of McAuliffe 53%-31% while men are evenly divided (42%-43%). There’s also a huge racial gap, with non-whites approving of McAuliffe 57%-23%, while whites are evenly split (43%-43%). Sensing a pattern here?
  • Sen. Mark Warner clocks in with a solid 55%-31% (+24 points) job approval rating; far below where he was years ago, but still very good for politicians these days…
  • Sen. Tim Kaine’s approval rating is lower than Warner’s, but also healthy at 52%-38% (+14 points). By a 47%-38% margin, voters say that Sen. Kaine deserves to be reelected.
  • This question isn’t worded well, as it refers to the “Virginia state legislature,” not the “Virginia House of Delegates,” which is what’s on the ballot this year (note that the State Senate isn’t on the ballot until 2019), but it finds that voters prefer – by a 48%-41% margin – that Democrats control the “state legislature.” Which is pretty good, but not eye-popping or anything.
  • Cindy

    My intention is to ignore any and all polls from here on out, and just default to the assumption that we will lose this election (whichever election we’re talking about) unless we get astronomical turnout. And then I will do everything in my power to work towards us getting astronomical turnout.

    • Probably not a bad idea! 🙂

  • dave schutz

    Polling has gotten more difficult: a huge fraction of the population now has only cell phones and chooses not to open the call if it’s from an unfamiliar number. It’s worth remembering that for the 1936 election, the Literary Digest pollers predicted that Landon would get 57% of the vote against Roosevelt’s 43% – problem for them was that a whole lot more of the people with telephones were Reeps. We’re kind of in the same territory today, have no idea what kind of systematic differences there are between the people who still have land lines / people who have cells and will answer an unfamiliar number and those who don’t. So I’m sympathetic to poll takers – even while I am skeptical on their accuracy.
    Also, some recent polling has been pretty good – the Trump-Clinton election came out with a margin quite a lot like what had been predicted by a number of polls, and Clinton had had polls – which her campaign inexplicably ignored – showing that the Blue Wall states were looking very close.