By Carten Cordell │ Watchdog.org, Virginia Bureau
ALEXANDRIA — The see-saw campaign to be Virginia’s next governor saw another shift Wednesday, as the latest Quinnipiac University Poll showed Democrat Terry McAuliffe holding a 48 to 42 percent lead over Republican Ken Cuccinelli.
The poll surveyed 1,129 likely voters for the November election, with a 2.9 percent margin of error, and found that McAuliffe grabbed the edge by connecting with voters’ concerns.
“Democrat Terry McAuliffe is up 16 percentage points among voters who say empathy or understanding their problems is extremely important,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “It’s a tossup among voters who say honesty is extremely important. Voters care more about empathy than experience, which helps explain McAuliffe’s lead.”
When asked whether either candidate had an “understanding of the problems of people like you,” 38 percent of respondents felt McAuliffe did, while 42 percent did not. But on the same question, Cuccinelli fared much worse, with 51 percent saying the Republican did not understand their problems to 31 percent who felt he did.
It’s a subtle distinction in a race whose margins have grown more razor-thin as the campaign season wears on.
The candidates deadlocked on other issues as the poll showed a battle of attrition playing out.
Fifty-six percent of respondents said Cuccinelli has the right kind of experience to become governor, with 31 percent saying the Republican doesn’t. Those results outpaced McAuliffe, who saw 46 percent favor his experience to 34 percent who didn’t.
On the issue of honesty, which has dogged both campaigns thanks to a rash of attack ads and controversies, both candidates saw mixed results.
McAuliffe held a slim three-point lead when respondents were asked if he was honest or trustworthy — 39 percent said yes and 36 percent said no. Cuccinelli had an even slimmer margin, with 42 percent calling the candidate honest and trustworthy and 43 who didn’t.
“The campaign has been light on issues and big on personalities, and it is in the area of personal characteristics that McAuliffe has a small edge,” said Brown. “Trust matters, and at this point neither man is doing all that well in that category.”
In other races, the poll found voters knew little about who’s running. In the lieutenant governor’s race, the bulk of respondents knew little about Republican E.W. Jackson or his opponent, Democrat Ralph Northam.
Seventy-five percent of those polled had not heard of Jackson and couldn’t form an opinion, but that was better than Northam, of whom 87 percent of voters polled had not heard.
You can view the results of the poll here.
Email Carten Cordell at [email protected]