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Virginians on the fence in governor’s race

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More Virginians are undecided in their choice for governor than support either Republican Ken Cuccinelli or Democrat Terry McAuliffe .

That is one of the results from a Roanoke College poll released Thursday, which also found Virginia residents aren’t too excited about the governor’s transportation plan and are almost evenly divided on lifting a 31-year-old moratorium on uranium mining in the commonwealth.

The poll, conducted by the college’s Institute for Policy and Opinion Research interviewed 583 Virginia residents between Jan. 14 and Jan. 22 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percent. 

The survey found 33 percent of respondents favor Cuccinelli in the governor’s race while 26 support McAuliffe, but 41 percent are undecided.

Including a possible run by Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling as an independent increases the percentage of respondents who are undecided (44 percent), followed by those who support Cuccinelli (25 percent), McAuliffe (19 percent) and Bolling (12 percent).

Examining the favorable ratings for each candidate, a majority of Virginia residents do not know enough about either McAuliffe (62 percent) or Bolling (60 percent) to have an opinion about them, and 46 percent don’t have an opinion of Cuccinelli.

Bolling’s breakdown is most favorable (18 percent favorable/ 9 percent unfavorable) compared to Cuccinelli (22 percent/ 24 percent) and McAuliffe (10 percent/16 percent).

“Looking ahead to the gubernatorial election, we see two or three candidates who are largely unknown to the general public,” Harry Wilson, director of the Institute for Policy and Opinion Research, said in a statement. “The unfavorable numbers for both Cuccinelli and McAuliffe suggest that both have to define themselves. Of course, they will also spend a lot of time trying to define their opponent. They are both fairly blank slates, though the unfavorable numbers could be a concern for both.”

Meanwhile, Virginia residents remain divided regarding how to deal with funding transportation in Virginia. Gov. Bob McDonnell’s proposal to eliminate the gas tax while raising the sales tax and some vehicle fees was opposed by almost half (49 percent) of respondents and favored by just one-third (33 percent).

Other proposals are also unpopular. Poll respondents opposed toll roads (60 percent); linking the gas tax to inflation (52 percent); and increasing fees for driver’s licenses and vehicle registration (48 percent). A plurality (49 percent) favored shifting money from the general revenue fund to increase funding for transportation.

“On transportation, it seems that citizens would like to have their problems solved at no cost to them,” Wilson said in statement. “That may be an appealing idea, but it is obviously not feasible. As for additional revenue, most Virginians won’t give it up willingly.”

The public is evenly split on lifting the ban on uranium mining in Virginia, with 39 percent favoring mining, while 38 percent are opposed.

President Obama’s favorable rating in the poll is 50 percent (42 percent unfavorable), almost unchanged since before his re-election. Gov. Bob McDonnell sits at a 48 percent favorable rating, also essentially unchanged from October. Sen. Mark Warner’s favorable rating tops the list at 53 percent, while recently elected Sen. Tim Kaine holds a 44 percent favorable rating.

Virginians’ views on the country and the commonwealth are somewhat more pessimistic than they were in October. A majority (61 percent) think the United States is on the wrong track while 30 percent think the country is headed in the right direction.

Perceptions of the commonwealth are more optimistic than the country (49 percent think Virginia is headed in the right direction; 35 percent think it is on the wrong track). Each is about three points more negative, compared to October.



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