McAuliffe Claims Big Lead in Latest Wason Center Poll

By Brian Carlton

April 22, 2021

Herring, Rasoul also hold leads as we head into the final month before the primaries.

NEWPORT NEWS- A number of Democrats want to see former governor Terry McAuliffe back in his old seat. That’s one of the key takeaways from the Wason Center’s latest poll

Released at 6 am on April 22, the poll shows 47% of the 806 people surveyed support McAuliffe. Coming up second is current Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax at 8%, with State Sen. Jennifer McClellan at 6%, former Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy at 5% and Del. Lee Carter at 1%. Out of those polled, 27% were still undecided. 

It’s not just that McAuliffe is better known, however. 

“Name recognition is a big head start, but it’s better when voters’ impression is mostly favorable,” said Wason Center Academic Director Dr. Quentin Kidd.

And McAuliffe certainly has that. His favorable rating stands at 56% to just 14% unfavorable. The rest had no opinion. Basically, a majority of Democrats polled seem to like the job he did during his last term as governor. Nobody else is even close, the Wason poll says. Fairfax is second at just 27% favorable. 

As for the other three candidates, it shows at least for these polled voters, they haven’t made an impression yet. A total of 73% had no opinion, good or bad, about McClellan. Jennifer Carroll Foy followed at 78% and 86% couldn’t say anything good or bad about Carter. 

Who’s Casting a Vote?

To compare, a couple things changed from the first Wason Center poll in February. McAuliffe’s lead increased, going from 26% to 47%. Fairfax lost support, dropping from 12% to 8%. Both McClellan and Carroll Foy slightly gained, as they were each at 4% in February. Lee Carter, meanwhile, remains at 1%.

One thing that separates the Wason Center poll is these are registered Virginia voters surveyed. Specifically, these are Virginia voters who have indicated they plan to vote in the upcoming primary. As primaries typically have a smaller turnout, those actually planning to cast a ballot can provide valuable information. 

But then there’s also what we don’t know. Not everyone who voted in the poll provided their demographics. However, out of those who did, 63% were white, with 23% Black and 14% labeled as “other.” Another question asked if you consider yourself to be Hispanic or Latino and 93% said no. Just 4% said yes. 

In a state where Black voters came out in strong numbers last November and with a growing Latino population, those two things can’t be ignored. 

Looking at the data and comparing this poll to others done in the last two months, you see shifts based on location and sample size. Polls done in Northern Virginia, like Arlington and Fairfax, have been more evenly balanced between three candidates. Another traditional poll, done by U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly, puts McAuliffe in the same position as this one from the Wason Center, however.

What About The Other Races? 

So now let’s turn to the other races. Much like McAuliffe in the governor’s race, current Del. Sam Rasoul has a lead for lieutenant governor. However, 64% of those polled still haven’t made up their mind. Rasoul has 12% and the second place candidate, current Del. Elizabeth Guzman, dropped out to run for re-election in her current seat. No other candidate in the lieutenant governor’s race finished with more than 2% of the vote. 

For Wason Center pollers, it’s the same issue some candidates for governor face. They just don’t know who these people are yet. 

One thing that has changed significantly is support for Norfolk Del. Jay Jones. He’s running against incumbent attorney general Mark Herring and his campaign is clearly getting their message out. In Feb.’s Wason Center poll, Jones had 3% of the vote. Now he’s at 18%, with 34% of those polled still undecided. Herring’s support literally remains the same. He had 42% in the Feb. poll and that stays true this time.

The Democratic primary will be held June 8. Early voting starts this Friday.

Brian Carlton is Dogwood’s managing editor. You can reach him at [email protected].

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