Republican George Allen has opened an eight-point lead on Democrat Tim Kaine in a likely Senate race matchup, according to a poll by Roanoke College.
However, poll respondents generally have unfavorable views of the entire Republican presidential field. In potential election scenarios, President Obama leads all Republican candidates except former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, with whom he is statistically tied.
“The continuous bashing of Republican candidates by other Republican candidates appears to have resulted in low approval ratings of all [of] them,” Harry Wilson, director of the Institute for Policy and Opinion Research at Roanoke College, said in a statement. “They continue to emphasize social issues on the campaign trail, while Virginians remain focused on the economy.”
The poll was based on interviews with 607 Virginia residents between Feb. 13-26. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
In the race to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Jim Webb, Allen, a former governor and senator, leads Kaine, also a former governor, 45 percent to 37 percent. Allen’s 8-point lead is up from a three-point margin in a September poll.
That 8-point margin is unchanged when looking only at registered voters. Allen also leads among political independents (43 percent to 38 percent) but trails Kaine among moderates (50 percent to 33 percent).
The potential candidates are tied among women (both at 40 percent), but Allen leads among men (49 percent to 33 percent).
“The likely Allen/Kaine race still has many undecided voters, and most polls continue to show it to be a close race,” Wilson said in a statement. “These results should be good news for Allen, but it is a long time between now and November.”
In the presidential campaign, all of the remaining Republican presidential candidates fared poorly in poll, with “unfavorable” numbers trumping “favorable” impressions in each case.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum scored the best with 35 percent favorable and 47 percent unfavorable, followed by Romney (28 percent and 47 percent, respectively), U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (26 percent and 54 percent), and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (21 percent and 64 percent).
Obama’s ratings were an even split, 44 percent favorable and 44 unfavorable, while Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell’s numbers were 57 percent favorable and 26 percent unfavorable.
In potential November matchups, Obama is statistically tied with Romney (42 percent to 43 percent), but leads Santorum (45 percent to 39 percent), Paul (45 percent to 35 percent) and Gingrich (48 percent to 37 percent).
In September, Romney led Obama by 8 percentage points. Screening for registered voters increases Romney’s margin to 3 percentage points, still within the margin of error.
Approval of Congress among Virginians remains dismal at 11 percent, the same level seen in September.
While social issues have been prominent in Republican presidential primaries and the Republican-controlled Virginia General Assembly, Virginians are still focused on the economy. When asked the most important problem facing the country today, the top three issues were the economy in general (43 percent), unemployment (24 percent) and the national budget deficit (9 percent). All other issues combined made up only 24 percent of responses, with none exceeding 4 percent.
Virginians are still most likely to blame former President George W. Bush for current economic conditions (23 percent), while 22 percent blame financial institutions and 19 percent blame Obama. The “blame” percentages show a slight increase for Obama and slight decreases for Bush and banks since September.
On a related issue, those disagreeing with the tea party movement now outnumber supporters 48 percent to 38 percent, a margin slightly greater than in last September’s 37 percent to 29 percent.
The poll respondents are somewhat more optimistic about the direction of the country compared to September (25 percent think the United States is on the right track compared to 15 percent in September), but two-thirds (67 percent) still think the country is headed in the wrong direction.
Perceptions of the commonwealth, which are more optimistic, remain largely unchanged from September. Forty-seven percent now say Virginia is headed in the right direction, while 40 percent say it is on the wrong track, compared to 49 percent and 42 percent, respectively, in September. .
Another Roanoke College poll of likely voters in the March 6 “Super Tuesday” Virginia Republican primary will be released later this week.
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