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Poll shows a tight race for governor

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A University of Mary Washington poll shows Democratic Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and Republican nominee Ed Gillespie are in a tight race for governor.

Northam holds a 5 percentage point lead in the poll, 44 to 39 percent of likely voters, but that difference is within the poll’s margin of error.

Libertarian candidate Cliff Hyra received the support of 3 percent of likely voters in the poll, with the other 14 percent undecided.

The statewide poll of 1,000 adult Virginia residents was conducted Sept. 5-12 by Princeton Survey Research Associates International.
“The latest Mary Washington survey demonstrates that both candidates have a lot of work to do between now and November,” Stephen J. Farnsworth, professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington and director of its Center for Leadership and Media Studies, said in a statement. “The large number of undecided voters at this stage demonstrates that either major party candidate can become the next governor of Virginia.”

Despite combative primaries among Democrats and Republicans earlier this year, both of major party candidates have locked down most of the likely voters with partisan preferences. Northam and Gillespie each have the support of 91 percent of those who identify with their party. Among likely voters who call themselves independent, 39 percent backed Gillespie as compared to 30 percent for Northam.

Gillespie had the support of 90 percent of the likely voters in the survey who said they voted for Donald Trump last year; Northam is winning 86 percent of last year’s Hillary Clinton voters who are likely to vote in this contest in November.

The Clinton ticket, which included U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, as the vice presidential nominee, won the commonwealth by 5.4 percentage points.
“Both campaigns have secured nearly all the party loyalists,” Farnsworth said. “Hesitation to support the eventual nominees in their respective parties has just about disappeared.”

Northam enjoys a double-digit advantage over Gillespie among likely voters in Northern Virginia (55 percent versus 27 percent), while Gillespie received 48 percent (compared to 38 percent for Northam) in the western part of the state.

Differences in other regions – Northwest Virginia (48 percent Gillespie, 40 percent Northam) and South Central Virginia (45 percent Northam, 40 percent Gillespie) – were within single digits, and the Tidewater region tied at 41 percent supporting each candidate. 

The survey revealed a gender gap among likely voters. Among women, 50 percent favored Northam, 33 percent backed Gillespie and 2 percent supported Hyra, with the rest undecided. Among men, 46 percent favored Gillespie, compared to 37 percent for Northam and 4 percent for Hyra, with the rest undecided.

Among likely voters who are white, 51 percent said they supported Gillespie and 37 percent favored Northam. Among likely voters who are African-American, Northam had a 67 percent to 10 percent advantage in the survey, with 19 percent undecided. Among likely voters who are Hispanic, Northam had a 57 percent to 30 percent advantage.

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