McAuliffe Retains Lead In Final Virginia Polls

Heading into the final day of campaigning, what are likely the last polls to be released in the Virginia Governor’s race continue to show Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe with a consistent lead, and now signs of the kind of narrowing that Cuccinelli supporters were likely hoping for.

First up, Public Policy Polling shows a seven point McAuliffe lead, and for the first time, some real slippage in support for Libertarian Robert Sarvis:

PPP’s final Virginia poll finds Democrats leading in all three statewide races. In the Governor’s race Terry McAuliffe has the advantage with 50% to 43% for Ken Cuccinelli and 4% for Libertarian Robert Sarvis. In the Lieutenant Governor’s race Ralph Northam is headed for a blowout win, getting 52% to 39% for E.W. Jackson. The intrigue will be in the Attorney General contest where Mark Herring is only up 47/45.

McAuliffe is likely to win on Tuesday because voters see him as the lesser of two evils. Both candidates are deeply unpopular with Cuccinelli posting a 39/52 favorability rating, and McAuliffe’s coming in at 36/52. But among voters who dislike both candidates- and they account for 15% of the electorate- McAuliffe leads Cuccinelli 61/16. Those voters who don’t like either major party standard bearer are responsible for McAuliffe’s entire lead in this poll.

Beyond that McAuliffe leads because he has a 47/39 advantage with independents and because he has a more unified party, with 82% of Democrats saying they’ll support him to 79% of Republicans for Cuccinelli. Moderate voters prefer McAuliffe 66/24. McAuliffe is keeping it unusually close for a Democrat in Virginia with white voters, trailing only 52/42, and he has the requisite dominant lead with African Americans at 86/11.

And, this morning, we got the final Quinnipiac poll that shows McAuliffe with a six point lead:

In the final day of the hard-fought Virginia governor’s race, Democrat Terry McAuliffe has a 46 – 40 percent likely voter lead over Republican State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, with 8 percent for Libertarian Party candidate Robert Sarvis, according to a Quinnipiac University poll completed last night and released today.

This compares to a 45 – 41 percent McAuliffe lead in an October survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University. Today, 5 percent of likely voters remain undecided and 5 percent of those who name a candidate say there’s a good chance they will change their mind by tomorrow’s Election Day.

There is a large gender gap as McAuliffe leads 50 – 36 percent among women, with 9 percent for Sarvis, while men are divided with 44 percent for Cuccinelli, 42 percent for McAuliffe and 8 percent for Sarvis. Democrats go 93 – 1 percent for McAuliffe, with 3 percent for Sarvis, while Republicans go 85 – 5 percent for Cuccinelli, with 7 percent for Sarvis. Independent voters are divided 40 – 40 percent, with 14 percent for Sarvis.

“Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli made the race to become Virginia’s next governor interesting. But barring a late surge of Republicans returning to the fold and independents jumping on the GOP train, Terry McAuliffe has a small but steady lead that is formidable entering the final day of the campaign,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

“All year long, Cuccinelli has suffered from an inability to unite the Republican base, and if today’s data holds true for another 24 hours, analysts may look back at his 85 percent of the GOP vote as his fatal flaw, while McAuliffe was getting 93 percent of the Democratic vote.”

Cuccinelli wins the enthusiasm race among Virginia likely voters: 54 percent of his backers strongly favor him, compared to 39 percent of McAuliffe supporters and 14 percent of Sarvis backers. Among Sarvis supporters, 74 percent say they back the Libertarian because they dislike the other candidates.

With Sarvis out of the race, McAuliffe leads 49 – 42 percent.

Both polls also show Democratic nominee Ralph Northam handily beating Republican E.W. Jackson Jr. in the Lt Governor’s race, with the Attorney General’s race a much tighter affair. With these polls, the RealClearPolitics average has McAuliffe up +6.7 points in a three way race and +6.0 in a head-to-head race with Cuccinelli. In other words, absent some kind of massive change in the voter turnout models, it looks like Tuesday will be a bad night for Virginia Republicans.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. JohnMcC says:

    Gosh, if only a REAL conservative had been running in Va.

  2. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    McAuliffe is likely to win on Tuesday because voters see him as the lesser of two evils.

    Really? Why is he the lesser of two evils? Why is he considered an “evil” at all? From what I’ve read here, the guy’s a total cypher. Blank slate.

  3. Ron Beasley says:

    I think the thing that may have hurt the Republicans in Virginia even more than nominating Cuccinelli as nominating the total wingnut, E.W. Jackson, for Lt Governor. Cuccinelli could have perhaps backed off of the wingnuttery a but Jackson would not. Virginia now represents the U.S. as a whole and this should result in them to once again re-evaluate their strategy. But can they with the teahardists in control. It’s doubtful!

  4. rachel says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: Simple: it’s better to have a “a total cypher” and a “blank slate” running your state than someone who has shown ample evidence that he is a panty-sniffing prig.

  5. CSK says:


    So, so true. If only Cuccinelli had advocated for the public execution of contraception providers, say, he’d be beating McAuliffe 80-20.

    You do realize, John, that there are people who would read what I just wrote, take it seriously, and nod their heads solemnly in agreement.

  6. Neil Hudelson says:


    You realize John was being facetious, right?

  7. agorabum says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: I think the phrase that comes off is primarily ‘oily’; it generally comes out of him being a money-raising guy, which involves a lot of back-slapping, rubber chicken dinners – he’s a party operative, not an ‘aw shucks’ guy who is a scrappy local pol taking a shot at the big stage.
    His positions are pretty standard democratic / pro-business / DLC positions. But he just isn’t one of those naturally charismatic folks, and the media recalls not being charmed by him during his time as the DNC head, as well as repulsed by his money-raising skills. So they call him ‘evil.’

  8. Stan says:

    What strikes me about this election is the total reversal of electoral loyalties. I first became aware of political parties during the Truman vs Dewey election held during my last year of middle school. I haven’t looked it up, but I’d be willing to bet that Virginia’s more affluent suburbs voted for Dewey and the rural southwest for Truman or for Strom Thurmond. At present educated professionals go for the Democrats and the white working class for the Republicans. I understand the reasons for this, but it still seems amazing.