From the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University:
Northam leads Gillespie, 47%-41%, for Va. governor; regional and demographic trends favor Democrats
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Democrat Ralph Northam holds a 6-point lead over Republican Ed Gillespie in the campaign to be Virginia’s next governor, according to a new survey by the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University. Northam, now lieutenant governor, is the choice of 47% of the likely voters surveyed, while former Republican National Committee Chair Gillespie is the choice of 41%. Libertarian Cliff Hyra polled at 4%, with 8% undecided. The survey’s margin of error is +/- 3.7%.
Regional and demographic voting trends evident in recent Virginia elections form the basis of Northam’s advantage, with strong support in populous Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. Gillespie’s strongest support is in the rural South-Southwest region as well as in Richmond-Central Virginia. Northam has an 18-point margin over Gillespie among women and voters under age 45. Gillespie has a 7-point advantage among men.
“Northam is doing well where he needs to do well,” says Quentin Kidd, director of the Wason Center. “A plus-11 advantage in Northern Virginia and plus-20 in Hampton Roads are hard for a Republican to overcome in the rest of the state.”
The same voting trends favor Democrats by virtually identical margins in the other statewide races. Democrat Justin Fairfax, a former federal prosecutor, leads Republican state Senator Jill Vogel in the lieutenant governor’s race, 46% to 42%, while current Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring leads former federal prosecutor and White House aide John Adams, 47% to 42%, in the campaign for attorney general.
“Right now, the Democratic field clearly has an advantage,” says Rachel Bitecofer, assistant director of the Wason Center. “The question is whether they can turn out their voters on Election Day, something the party traditionally struggles with in off-year elections.”
On issues, both Northam and Gillespie voters ranked K-12 education, making the economy less dependent on federal spending, and transportation as high priorities. Gillespie voters also ranked tax cuts as a high priority, while Northam voters ranked Medicaid expansion and coastal flooding and sea level rise as high priorities.
Other findings include:
- “In a generic House of Delegates ballot, voters favor a Democrat, 47% to 40%.” In Northern Virginia, where there are a number of competitive House of Delegates races, that lead is 52%-38%. In Hampton Roads, where there are also competitive House of Delegates races, it’s 53%-34%.
- “Northam’s lead over Gillespie is built on strong support from women (+18), voters under 45 (+18), voters in Northern Virginia (+11) and Hampton Roads (+20), and ideological moderates (+26). Gillespie leads regionally in Richmond-Central Virginia
(+8) and rural South and Southwest Virginia (+5), and among men (+7). Each has the overwhelming support of his party’s base, and they split independents (38% to 38%).”
- “Republican voters say cutting taxes is a high priority, while Democratic voters say expanding Medicaid and addressing tidal flooding and sea level rise are high priorities. Improving the quality of K-12 education clearly tops the list of issues all voters
want the next governor to focus on.”