The Virginia governor’s race is in a virtual dead heat, with President Donald Trump possibly nudging some voters into the Democratic column, according to a new poll released Monday.
Forty-four percent of likely voters favor Republican Ed Gillespie and the same number – 44 percent – say they support Democrat Ralph Northam, according to a news release from the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, N.J., which conducted the poll.
In eastern Virginia, Gillespie leads Northam by nine points — 50 percent to 41 percent. In the northern part of the state, Gillespie trails by 13 points, or 50 percent to 37 percent.
The telephone survey was taken between July 20 and July 23. The margin of error was 4.4 percentage points. Of the 502 likely voters who participated, 9 percent said they were undecided and 3 percent said they favored Cliff Hyra, the Libertarian candidate.
And while President Trump may not be the primary issue for the majority of the state’s voters, he is having an effect on the race, the release says.
Notably, four in 10 voters – or 40 percent — said Trump was a factor in their voting. Of that group, 26 percent said he was a major factor. Only 14 percent said he was a minor factor in how they’d vote.
Virtually all of Gillespie’s supporters – 99 percent – would vote for him even if Trump were not a factor, the release said.
By contrast, a smaller number – 88 percent – of Northam supporters said they would still back him if Trump were not an issue. Seven percent of possible Northam defectors would be undecided.
According to the release, those results — read together – suggest that but for Trump, Gillespie could have a five-percentage point lead over Northam, with 45 percent favoring Gillespie, 40 percent backing Northam and 12 percent undecided.
“A small but crucial portion of Northam’s support is coming from voters who are primarily anti-Trump,” Patrick Murray, director of the Polling Institute, said in the release. “Unless one of the candidates breaks out with a clear advantage on Virginia-centric issues, the president could wind up as a decisive factor in the outcome.”
The poll’s findings about Trump’s job approval shed some further light.
Among likely Virginia voters, 37 percent approve of Trump’s performance in the White House, while 57 percent disapprove. Fewer than 1 percent of Northam supporters approve of the president’s performance and 96 percent disapprove. For Gillespie voters, the president gets higher marks: 78 percent approve of his performance and 18 percent disapprove.
The poll also has insights into what likely voters want the candidates to talk about.
The top issues are: health care — 37 percent; jobs – 25 percent; the economy – 20 percent; and education – also 20 percent.
This article was published in partnership with WYDaily’s sister publication, Southside Daily.