Gillespie narrows gap, but still trails Warner by 13 points
Republican Ed Gillespie has gained ground in his bid to unseat Sen. Mark Warner, but the Democrat still holds a 13-point lead, according to the Roanoke College Poll.
The incumbent senator once held a 25 point lead in the race, which will be decided in the Nov. 4 general election. Warner now leads Gillespie 45 to 32 percent, with Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis polling 3 percent.
“Gillespie has narrowed Warner's lead, but he needs to pick up more momentum,” Harry Wilson, director of the Institute for Policy and Opinion Research, said in a statement.
Wilson said reports of Warner’s controversial efforts to prevent the resignation of Democratic state Sen. Phil Puckett “have not hurt as much as they might have…even among those relatively few Virginians who are paying attention to the story. It is the most partisan citizens who are following the story closely, and their positions are not likely to be swayed.”
Puckett’s resignation switched the Virginia Senate from Democratic to Republican control at a time when Gov. Terry McAuliffe was trying to expand Medicaid coverage to uninsured Virginia residents.
“Likely voters are disgruntled,” Wilson said. “Favorable ratings are down for everyone except Gillespie, who was previously very low.”
In fact, the poll of 738 likely Virginia voters showed they are united on one issue, distrust of both major parties. Forty-seven percent hold unfavorable views of Democrats while 46 percent dislike Republicans. Only one-third (33 percent) have favorable views of Democrats while the favorable nod for Republicans are even lower, 28 percent.
The poll asked voters about several current events, including the spread of the Ebola virus, concerns about the Islamic State (known as ISIS) and their views of the country and Virginia as a whole.
More than half of the respondents said they are at least somewhat concerned that there will be a major outbreak of Ebola in the Unites States. A larger percentage of those polled are concerned that ISIS will stage an attack in the United States, while 47 percent believe that President Obama isn't doing enough to stop the Islamic group.
Obama's job approval has dropped to 32 percent, the lowest seen in the Roanoke College Poll. The 54 percent disapproval is also an all-time high. Congressional approval is up slightly to a dismal 11 percent.
Virginians' views of the country have been essentially stagnant since the July 2014 Roanoke College Poll, the most pessimistic in more than two years. Only 22 percent think the country is headed in the right direction, while 67 percent said it is on the wrong track.
For the first time in the Roanoke College Poll, voters are more likely to be pessimistic than optimistic regarding the state of the commonwealth (41 percent right direction, 45 percent wrong track). At the same time, McAuliffe's job approval has declined to 41 percent, with 26 percent disapproving.
The poll, conducted on Oct. 20-25, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percent.