Virginia voters give Democrat Ralph Northam the edge over Republican Ed Gillespie by 42-38 percent in the race for governor, according to a new Fox News Poll. That four-point advantage is within the poll’s margin of sampling error. Libertarian Cliff Hyra receives 2 percent, and another 18 percent are undecided or plan to support someone else.
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This benchmark poll of the Virginia governor’s race comes as the major party candidates prepare to debate Tuesday. Northam is the state’s lieutenant governor, and Gillespie was the 2014 GOP nominee for U.S. Senate (he lost to Sen. Mark Warner by less than a percentage point).
Over half of registered voters (53 percent) are “extremely” (23 percent) or “very” (30 percent) interested in the governor’s race. Among just those interested voters, Gillespie tops Northam by one point (45-44 percent).
With less than two months to go, one quarter of Virginia voters say they could change their mind before Election Day (27 percent). Some 74 percent of Northam’s backers are certain they will vote for him. That’s just a touch more than the 70 percent of Gillespie’s supporters who feel sure to back him.
A majority of Virginia voters, 53 percent, disapprove of the job Donald Trump is doing as president. That includes 44 percent who “strongly” disapprove, which is more than the total percentage who approve of Trump’s performance (42 percent).
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Most, however, say the president isn’t a factor in their vote for governor (74 percent). And nearly equal numbers say their vote is intended to show support for Trump (10 percent) as say it’s to express opposition (13 percent).
In addition, 82 percent of Trump voters back or lean to Gillespie, while 84 percent of Hillary Clinton’s voters support or lean to Northam.
“Virginia is a bellwether state, and this election promises to be close,” says Republican pollster Daron Shaw, who conducts the Fox News Poll along with Democrat Chris Anderson.
“Gillespie is not especially tight with Trump, though, so the race may be of limited value for those who want to see these contests as a referendum on the current administration.”
Overall, two-thirds are happy with the way things are going in Virginia (67 percent). Those backing Northam (81 percent) are 31 points more likely than Gillespie supporters (50 percent) to be satisfied.
The Fox News Poll is conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R). The poll was conducted Sept. 17-18, 2017, by telephone (landline and cellphone) with live interviewers among a sample of 507 voters selected from a statewide voter file in Virginia. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points for the total sample.