New Poll: Governors Race Tightening

In a new survey of Virginia voters, Republican gubernatorial nominee Bob McDonnell’s lead over Democrat Creigh Deeds has shrunk to five points.

McDonnell is ahead 42-37 in the poll of 600 registered voters — the first in Virginia conducted by Clarus Research Group. The margin of error is +/- 4 points.

Interestingly, Clarus finds 20 percent of those surveyed are still undecided.

The poll also shows that 52 percent of respondents had heard of the controversy surrounding McDonnell’s thesis. Of those people, 63 percent said the thesis had no effect on their views of the candidates. Thirty-one percent said it made them view McDonnell lesss favorably.

McDonnell is thumping Deeds in southwest and western Virginia, according to the poll, while Deeds has a modest lead in NoVa.

A full breakdown from Clarus is after the jump.

 Virginia Governor’s Race Tightens, According to New Nonpartisan Poll

McDonnell leads by 5 points, “thesis story” solidifies Democrats for Deeds

In a new statewide poll of Virginia’s voters, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell posts a 5-point lead over Democratic rival Creigh Deeds. In the survey, McDonnell polls 42 percent to Deeds’ 37 percent with 20 percent undecided.

The poll was conducted by Clarus Research Group, a nonpartisan polling firm based in Washington, D.C., September 10-14, 2009.

McDonnell’s margin, at 5 percent, is smaller than it had been in other publicly reported polls conducted between the first week of August and the first week of September, when McDonnell’s average lead was 10.2 percent.

In the Clarus poll, Republicans lead in all three statewide races that will be on the November ballot.

“The McDonnell thesis story has not – so far – damaged McDonnell as badly as Democrats had hoped, but it hasn’t left him unscathed, the way many Republicans had hoped,” said Ron Faucheux, president of Clarus Research Group.

The story’s major impact has been to solidify the Democratic base for Deeds. It has had less impact on independents – McDonnell beats Deeds by 7 points among them.”

A big factor in this election will be Election Day turnout, especially by race,” said Faucheux. “If African American turnout approaches the 2008 presidential election levels, it would be a major boost to Deeds’ chances.”

The electorate is highly polarized along partisan and racial lines. McDonnell defeats Deeds by 24 points among whites and Deeds defeats McDonnell by 77 points among African Americans. Neither Deeds nor McDonnell get more than 5% cross-over votes from the other candidate’s party.

The survey’s sample size was 600 registered voters with a margin of error = +/- 4 percent. The poll was conducted via telephone by live interviewers. It was not sponsored or paid for by an outside client. Clarus is not working for any candidates in the 2009 Virginia elections and conducted this survey for its own use. For more information about Clarus, and its president, Ron Faucheux, go to (Percentage totals are rounded and may not add up to 100.)

Other findings from the poll:

McDonnell leads by a 15-point margin in the southwest/western part of the state while Deeds leads in northern Virginia by 5 points.

McDonnell has a 9-point lead among men and the candidates are tied among women voters.

52 percent of all voters said they had heard about the McDonnell thesis story. Among them, 5 percent said the story made them feel more favorable toward McDonnell, 31 percent said it may them feel less favorable, and 63 percent said it had no effect.

Of women who said they had heard about the thesis story, 5 percent said it made them more favorable toward McDonnell, 35 percent less favorable, and 58 percent said it has no effect. Of men who said they had heard about the thesis story, 5 percent said it made them more favorable toward McDonnell, 27 percent less favorable, and 67 percent said it has no effect.

Of those voters who said they had heard about the thesis story and said it made them feel LESS favorable toward McDonnell: 76 percent were Democrats, 8 percent were Republicans and 16% were independents.

Of those who had said they had heard about the thesis story and said it had NO EFFECT on how they feel about McDonnell: 6 percent were Republicans, 34 percent were independents, and 29 percent were Democrats.

Good news for McDonnell: Despite the thesis story and related attacks, he remains the frontrunner with a lead (5 points) beyond the poll’s 4-point margin of error.

Good news for Deeds: The thesis story has solidified his Democratic base and may have opened a window of opportunity to make this a competitive race.

Bad news for McDonnell: The thesis story has hurt, and may hurt more over time. Despite his current lead, McDonnell polls well below 50 percent. There remain a high percentage of undecided independent voters who will determine the winner. Twice as many independents are undecided than are Democrats and Republicans.

Bad news for Deeds: 83 percent of independent voters are white; at this point, Deeds is only polling 28 percent of the vote among all white voters statewide.

Gov. Tim Kaine does well enough in job approval (53 percent) to make it difficult for Republicans to run against him. However, Kaine’s positives are low enough to make it difficult for Deeds to ride in on the incumbent’s coattails the way Kaine, himself, did four years ago when Mark Warner was the highly popular incumbent governor.

Incumbent Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) leads Democratic challenger Jody Wagner, 38-32 percent, with 31 percent undecided.

Republican Ken Cuccinelli leads Democrat Steve Shannon for Attorney General, 35-30 percent, with 35 percent undecided.

Senator Mark Warner has the highest job approval rating of any elected official tested in the state, at 61 percent. Senator Jim Webb, also a Democrat, has a 47 percent approval rating and President Barack Obama has an approval rating of 48 percent.

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