McAuliffe holds lead in Dem governor’s race, according to Roanoke College Poll

Updated: Jun. 4, 2021 at 9:42 AM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ/Roanoke College Poll Release) - Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Attorney General Mark Herring hold strong leads in the races for the Democratic nomination for governor and attorney general in Virginia, each registering 49% support from likely voters in Tuesday’s primary election, according to The Roanoke College Poll.

637 likely Democratic voters were interviewed between May 24 and June 1, and the poll’s margin of error is +3.9%.

The race for lieutenant governor is open, with Del. Hala Ayala leading Del. Sam Rasoul 16%-11%, with other candidates trailing and 45% still undecided.

Among gubernatorial candidates, the poll indicates former Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy trails McAuliffe with 11%; Sen. Jennifer McClellan has the support of 9% of likely voters, while Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (5%) and Del. Lee Carter (1%) lag behind. Del. Jay Jones is far behind Herring with 20% of voters saying they will vote for him for attorney general.

According to the poll, McAuliffe has a favorable/unfavorable rating of 73%/9% among Democratic voters. Justin Fairfax is seen favorably by 39%, but 22% hold a negative view of him. Most likely voters don’t know enough about Carroll Foy (60%), McClellan (63%) or Carter (85%) to have opinions about them, according to the poll. While 67% of Democratic voters don’t know enough about Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin to have an opinion, he is viewed favorably by only 5% and negatively by 27%.

The economy was most often mentioned by likely voters in the poll as the most important issue (18%), while 14% reported COVID as most important, followed by education (8%), health care (8%), economic inequality (7%), race relations (6%), climate change (6%), and gun control (5%). Voters are almost evenly split between preferring a candidate who best represents their interests (48%) or one who can win in November (44%).

A large majority of Democratic voters (92%) approve of the way Joe Biden is handling his job as president, according to the poll, while 5% disapprove. Job approval for Gov. Ralph Northam sits at 90% among respondents, while 5% disapprove of his performance.

Respondents were more likely to see the Virginia Democratic Party as too conservative (18%) rather than too progressive (5%), but 74% feel it is about right ideologically, according to the poll. Likewise, the national Democratic Party is seen as too conservative by 22%, too progressive by 13%, but 58% feel it is about right in terms of ideology.

Among the small group that disapproved of Northam’s performance, 39% think he is too liberal, while 28% think he is too conservative. Conversely, 40% of those who disapprove of Biden’s job performance think he is too conservative while 37% think he is too liberal.

“To the surprise of few, McAuliffe and Herring appear headed for victory on Tuesday,” said Dr. Harry Wilson, Senior Political Analyst of the Roanoke College Poll. “The race for lieutenant governor is there for the taking, with a large percentage of the electorate undecided on their decision. It is also clear that the Democratic primary electorate in Virginia is well-educated, upper-income and very liberal, but McAuliffe, arguably not the most far-left candidate, appears set to win the election.”

A copy of the questionnaire, topline, and crosstabs may be found here.

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