Chase, McAuliffe lead gubernatorial races, Wason Center poll finds
About half of all voters say they're still undecided
Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and state Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, lead the packs in pursuit of their parties’ gubernatorial nominations, according to a poll released Friday by the Wason Center for Civic Leadership at Christopher Newport University.
McAuliffe, who has outraised other Democrats in campaign funds, leads the field with 26% of the vote — although 49% of Democratic voters surveyed said they are undecided. Chase has a narrower lead of 17% among likely Republican voters polled. On the GOP side, 55% say they’re undecided.
Here’s the breakdown among the other Democratic candidates:
- Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax — 12%
- Former Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy and state Sen. Jennifer McClellan — tied at 4% each
- Del. Lee Carter — 1%
And on the Republican side:
- Del. Kirk Cox — 10%
- Pete Snyder, entrepreneur — 6%
- Glenn Youngkin, former CEO of The Carlyle Group — 3%
Chase’s hard-right stance and ardent support of former President Trump, which has led her into trouble with fellow Republicans and Democrats, is a sharp contrast next to the more moderate Cox, the former speaker of the House of Delegates. As voters get to know other candidates, the tension “could crack the party and open the door for Snyder or another contender,” Wason Center Research Director Rebecca Bromley-Trujillo said in a statement. Quentin Kidd, the center’s academic director, notes that McAuliffe “opens with a head start, but he’s a long way from closing the deal.”
McAuliffe has the highest name recognition and has a favorable/unfavorable rating of 25% to 21%, while Chase’s ratings are 9% favorable and 14% unfavorable. Chase was censured last month by the state Senate in part for her participation in a pro-Trump rally Jan. 6 in Washington, D.C., before the violent breach of the U.S. Capitol, as well as a laundry list of other actions and words. She is suing the legislative body to have the censure resolution expunged from the record, claiming that it was a violation of her civil rights to free speech.
In a poll of 508 likely voters conducted Feb. 6-11 by YouGov, McAuliffe and Chase held stronger leads than in the Wason poll, based on interviews with 1,005 Virginia registered voters conducted Jan. 31-Feb. 14. McAuliffe carried 33% of Democratic votes, and 21% of undecided Democratic voters say they lean toward voting for the former governor. Chase had 19% of likely Republican votes in the YouGov survey, followed by Snyder with 10% and Cox with 6%, and 10% of undecided Republican voters said they lean toward the Chesterfield senator.
In the other statewide races, the Wason poll found that 42% of Democratic voters say they support Attorney General Mark Herring, who is running for a third term. Only 3% said they support Del. Jerrauld “Jay” Jones, and 50% say they are undecided. Virginia Beach attorney Chuck Smith leads the Republican field of AG candidates with 10%, and Del. Glenn Davis leads the field for the lieutenant governor nomination, with 8% of Republican voters saying they support him. Among Democratic voters, 78% say they are undecided on the crowded lieutenant governor field, and no candidate has a significant lead.
Virginia’s Democratic Party will hold primary elections on June 8 for the three statewide offices, while state Republicans currently have a May 1 convention scheduled to choose their nominees — although a hearing is taking place Friday in Richmond Circuit Court on Chase’s civil suit to prevent the party from hosting a convention, which she says is not fair to voters during pandemic restrictions on large gatherings.
In other questions, Democrats lead Republicans 49% to 37% in a generic ballot for the House of Delegates, in which all 100 seats are up this year. Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam has a 54% approval rating, and 47% of Virginians polled say the state is heading in the right direction, although 41% say it is going in the wrong direction, falling along partisan lines.