Virginia: McAuliffe Leads Cuccinelli By 8 Points In New Washington Post Poll

McAuliffe pulling away?


A new poll from The Washington Post cuts against recent polls of the Virginia Governor’s race that we’ve seen, showing Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe opening up a sizable lead over Republican Ken Cuccinelli:

Democrat Terry McAuliffe has vaulted into the lead over Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II in a Virginia governor’s race that has left many voters sour on both candidates, according to a new Washington Post/Abt-SRBI poll.

McAuliffe leads 47 percent to 39 percent among likely voters, with Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis’s 10 percent suggesting an unrest among voters not satisfied with either major-party contender. In a one-on-one matchup without Sarvis in the mix, the poll shows a narrower, 49-44 race between McAuliffe and Cuccinelli among likely voters — but still flips Cuccinelli’s 10-point lead from this spring.

The shift in the race has come almost exclusively from women voters, who prefer McAuliffe by a 24-point margin over Cuccinelli. The candidates were effectively tied among women in a May Washington Post poll.

McAuliffe’s strength among women is likely due in part to an intense campaign to portray Cuccinelli as a threat to women and the issues they care about most deeply. A new McAuliffe ad, for instance, features a Norfolk OB-GYN speaking directly to the camera about how she is “offended” by Cuccinelli’s position on abortion.

The challenge for Cuccinelli is stark: Nearly half of all voters view him unfavorably, and they trust his opponent as much as or more than the Republican on every major issue in the race, according to the poll.

“I really disagree with Cuccinelli’s politics, especially his anti-abortion stance,” said Gina Gabelia, 32, who lives in Ashburn and works at a non-profit.

As for McAuliffe, Gabelia said: “His advertisements make him sound like a standup guy, but who knows? … He has a good campaign manager.”

Cuccinelli has accused McAuliffe and other Democrats of waging a war on coal and working-class Virginians, but he trails by nine points among voters asked who they trust more on energy and the environment. He has burnished his reputation among conservatives by opposing President Obama’s health care law, but voters favor McAuliffe by eight points when it comes to health care. Cuccinelli does best when it comes to transportation and the economy and jobs; he is tied with McAuliffe on those issues.

The poll also found voters effectively split between candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general, meaning that Democrats have a chance to sweep all three statewide offices this year for the first time in nearly a quarter-century. A McAuliffe victory would also buck a four-decade Virginia tradition of electing a governor from the party that doesn’t occupy the White House.

Given that it differs from other recent polling, there’s reason to question this poll but it is consistent in several respects. First, it continues to show that both candidates have rather high negative ratings even among the people who say they support him. Second, McAuliffe continues to hold a strong lead over Cuccinelli among female voters, something that is likely to have a huge impact in places like Northern Virginia should it continue through Election Day. Finally, we see yet again that Libertarian nominee Robert Sarvis is polling at levels higher than the gap between the two major party candidates. Whether that is sustainable is, as I’ve noted, a question we won’t know the answer to until Election Day, but it suggests higher voter dissatisfaction with both major candidates which could result in a stronger than normally expected showing for Sarvis at the ballot box and lower turnout. Who that benefits is another question.

Things will start getting interesting in the campaign this week. On Wednesday, Cuccinelli and McAuliffe will meet in their first statewide televised debate of the campaign. Because of the rules set down by the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, Sarvis was not invited to this debate, though. Given that he’s demonstrating a significant level of support in the polls, that strikes me as mistaken. In any case, it will be interesting to see where the polls go from here.

Update: A new poll from NBC News and Marist College has McAuliffe up by five points over Cuccinelli, with Sarvis at 8%. This puts the RealClearPolitics poll average at a+4.4 advantage for McAuliffe in polls including Sarvis and a +4.0 advantage for McAuliffe in those that don’t.

FILED UNDER: 2013 Election, Environment, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , ,
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. Rick Almeida says:

    More likely, 2 of the 3 polls you touted just Saturday are outliers or flawed badly and this one shows regression to the mean. You should read Silver’s The Signal and the Noise…but I forget that “[You] understand statistics quite well.”

  2. When you have more than one poll showing the race moving in the same direction it’s more than just an outlier. This polling firm that WaPo is using is apparently untested in Virginia so, let’s wait and see what other polls have to say

  3. Ron Beasley says:

    What’s amazing that a state like Virginia could end up with two candidates that are both loathed by the voters of the state.

  4. gVOR08 says:

    So once again we’re reminded that the Rs shouldn’t worry too much about minority Blacks and Hispanics, since they’re also losing the majority, women.

  5. Press Watch says:

    If Virginia is that STUPID
    They can have McAuliffe

    It proves that you can’t fix stupid
    Virginia will be the laughing stock of the US

  6. Jc says:

    If Cooch gets elected will it eventually become illegal to get a blowjob in VA? I can’t risk that, handjobs suck. 🙂 Seriously, it will depend on turnout, but one of the things the constant barrage of TV ads does is remind people, who normally would not vote in a VA governors race, that a race is ongoing-long and short, higher voter turnout is advantage McAuliffe

  7. Kolohe says:

    I’m kinda disappointed that this election will demonstrate that there’s no political upside for helping get innocent people out of jail.

  8. Kari Q says:

    Polls that include third party candidates are almost always further from the actual numbers than those that do not. It’s possible that this election will be an exception, but I’d be surprised.

  9. Rick Almeida says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    When you have more than one poll showing the race moving in the same direction it’s more than just an outlier.

    I’m sorry, your comment shows you don’t really understand what you’re trying to analyze. 2 of the 3 polls you cited on Saturday were clearly and heavily against the long-term trend. See here for the trendlines going back to November 2012. Note that the graph has both trendlines and individual poll results, which lets us evaluate individual estimates as well as examine sample size, etc.

    2 of your 3 polls were so outside the overwhelming trend that they are, by definition, outlying. It doesn’t matter if there are 2, what matters is how they compare to the previously-established body of results. Now, those results could indicate that the trend has ended or changed, but the former is theoretically and and empirically unlikely. It is certainly possible that McAuliffe’s lead has narrowed as the election nears – that’s a well-established phenomenon.

    I have no idea why you insist on doubling down in these matters.

  10. Rob in CT says:

    @Press Watch:

    Actually, as far as I can tell from my admittedly distant viewpoint, nobody really likes either guy. If the GOP had been able to muster a better candidate, it’s plausible that they’d be in the lead.

    So, who is stupid again?

  11. DC Loser says:

    The current Lt. Governor, Bill Bolling, a moderate by today’s GOP standards, certainly would have stood a good chance of beating MacAuliffe. But he decided not to challenge the race after the right wing of the party scraped the primary and decided on a convention dominated by the hardcore right (and why E.W. Jackson became the Lt Gov. candidate) to get Cuccinelli on the ticket without putting it out to the voters. I’m sure Bolling is enjoying this spectacle.

  12. KM says:

    @Rick Almeida:

    I’m no statistician but I’d wager that Doug is pointing out that trend=/=concrete fact. A trend is a statistical history that in no way guarantees future performance. Also, the sentence “More likely, 2 of the 3 polls you touted just Saturday are outliers” is somewhat contradictory as 2 data points is the norm of 3 and the one is the outlier. In the overall scheme of things, yes they might be outliers to the greater data set but for the reference point we were discussion, 2/3 is majority.

    I agree that McAuliffe’s lead narrowing is expected and within norms. I’m just pointing out what Doug would have taken exception to, most likely. My two cents.

  13. Facebones says:

    Outlier: Poll result that one doesn’t like.

  14. gVOR08 says:

    @Press Watch: You said that if they elect McAuliffe

    Virginia will be the laughing stock of the US

    Too late .” Vaginal Probe” McDonnell’s got that covered.

  15. Rick Almeida says:


    Also, the sentence “More likely, 2 of the 3 polls you touted just Saturday are outliers” is somewhat contradictory as 2 data points is the norm of 3 and the one is the outlier.

    Perhaps I wasn’t as clear as I should have been. Viewed in the context of all the polls of this race done since November 2012, 2 of the 3 polls Doug highlighted were outlying. 2/3 is indeed “the norm”. 2/59 is not.

    I don’t think it’s appropriate to take 2 polls released on one day as a new norm, especially when the much larger body of work strongly suggests a different interpretation.

    You say that a trend is not a “concrete fact”. I’m not sure what you mean. Are you saying that the average of all the polls done does not indicate McAuliffe is favored to win? I would say that the average is, indeed, a fact. A prediction based upon it is a probabilistic estimate, but the underlying data points are facts. This is the essence of statistical inference, which is clearly not understood well by the general public.

  16. KM says:

    @Rick Almeida:

    I freely confess stats were never my strong suit so if I’m less then clear, forgive me. What I was attempting to argue was: 1) based on my understanding your your statement, the 2 out of 3 issue. Now that you’ve clarified it, that one’s addressed. 2) I have a skepticism regarding polling methodology and mindsets. As I don’t know the background for these two (different audience, cherry-picked respondents, subtly leading questions??), my line of inquiry towards what caused this “outlier” set. The thing is, trends change and change starts somewhere. What is an outlier today could the herald of change tomorrow. I don’t like when someone is quick to dismiss “outliers” – they tend to be interesting data points on their own and are worth investigating, just not inclusion into the main data set.

    Again, I believe McAuliffe is favored to win based on a number of factors – polls being one of them. I’m just curious as to why you were so quick to shut Doug down on this point.

  17. Rick Almeida says:


    Your point #2 is an empirical question, and you could investigate it, and therein lies the rub. There is no doubt that “change starts somewhere”, but someone who wants to argue that the outliers actually herald a change in the trend has a positive obligation to make a case.

    My argument is that the neither the body of data nor what we know about voting behavior support a hypothesis that the election is shifting substantially away from McAuliffe, and therein lies the motivation for my initial comment.

    I was “quick to shut Doug down” because he has a history of poor and potentially misleading attempts to analyze statistical data, such as in the Saturday post I criticized here, and he seems very reluctant to acknowledge mistakes – to the point of insisting (in my linked comment) that he actually understands the relevant concepts when his posts indicate the contrary.

  18. Barry says:

    @Kolohe: “I’m kinda disappointed that this election will demonstrate that there’s no political upside for helping get innocent people out of jail. ”

    Republican voters don’t like that.

  19. Anonymous says:
  20. you says:

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