Perriello Leads by 8, Republican Dead Heat in new Virginia Poll from Change Research
Our new poll of 3232 people in Virginia yields some surprising results.
On the Democratic side, Tom Perriello has a clear, 8-point lead, 54–46, over Ralph Northam. Former congressman Perriello does well among a wide array of Democrats: young voters, former Bernie Sanders supporters, black voters, and voters unenthusiastic about the economy.
On the Republican side, we see a very tight race (in contrast to other polls suggesting Ed Gillespie will rout his opponents), and we give a very slight edge to Corey Stewart. Stewart’s advantage comes from his enthusiastic base: his supporters are both more likely to vote and less likely to change their minds. We project Stewart ahead of former RNC Chair Ed Gillespie, 42–41, with Frank Wagner in third place at 16%.
The poll was conducted June 8–10 and has a margin of error of +/- 2%.
The Democratic Primary
Tom Perriello’s lead among young voters is huge: he leads by nearly 30 points among voters under 45. Voters under 45 made up 44% of the Virginia electorate last November, and our models predict that they will make up 39% of the electorate on Tuesday.
That huge lead among younger voters puts Ralph Northam in a tough position: he would have to win by 20 points among voters 45 and older. Northam’s margin among the oldest voters — those 65 and up — is indeed above 20 points. But Northam’s lead is far smaller among those between 55 and 64, and voters between 45 and 54 are evenly split between the two Democratic candidates.
Perriello also fares quite well among minority voters, leading by 20% or more among blacks, Hispanics, and Asian Americans. Collectively, these three groups make up nearly half of the Democratic electorate in Virginia.
Whites planning to vote in the Democratic primary are evenly split between Perriello and Northam.
Perriello also does well among those who supported Bernie Sanders in 2016, leading among Sanders supporters by nearly 30 points. Those who voted for Hillary Clinton in the primary election support Perriello and Northam evenly.
Perriello also does especially well among men, among those who think Virginia’s economy is not doing well, and among those with only a high school education.
Northam fares well among readers of the Washington Post and those who watch network TV news. He has a large lead among voters with graduate degrees. Northam also does well among those who give good marks to Virginia’s economy, and with voters who give high ratings to Terry McAuliffe’s performance.
Democratic numbers were drawn from 1165 self-described registered voters who plan to definitely, probably, or maybe vote in the Democratic primary.
The Republican Primary
Both pundits and pollsters have been on record saying that Ed Gillespie will easily beat his two Republican opponents. Our data suggest a much closer race.
Overall enthusiasm on the Republican side is light — and Corey Stewart may fill the void. Survey data suggest we’ll see about 30% more votes in the Democratic primary than on the Republican side. Among those who say they’ll definitely vote, 64% of Democrats are sure of their choice, compared to just 54% of Republicans.
Corey Stewart, a former Trump surrogate who has tied himself to the president, bucks that trend. Among those who say they’ll definitely vote Republican, Stewart has 28% definite support. Ed Gillespie and Frank Wagner have 19% and 7% support, respectively.
Support for Trump ties closely with support for Stewart. 14% of Virginia’s electorate rates Trump’s performance a 9 or 10 out of 10. These Trump fans overwhelmingly plan to vote Republican on Tuesday, and they strongly support Corey Stewart, giving him a 15-point lead.
By contrast, those who rate Trump’s performance a 7 out of 10 are nearly as fervently Republican, but give Gillespie a double-digit lead.
Among voters who cite illegal immigration as their greatest concern, 34% say they’ll definitely vote for Stewart, compared to 17% for Gillespie.
Overall, Stewart’s biggest advantage is the level of enthusiasm among his supporters. 58% of those who prefer Stewart say they’ll definitely vote for him if they vote, compared to just 38% of those who prefer Gillespie. And 80% of those who prefer Stewart say they’ll definitely vote, compared to 70% of those who prefer Gillespie.
All is not lost for Gillespie, however. Our numbers show that significantly more voters (45% to 41% among Republicans) prefer Ed Gillespie to Corey Stewart. If they stick with Gillespie, and if they show up to vote, Gillespie will win. Below is the graph for voters who are probable but not definite:
In short: Corey Stewart has more strong support, but there are many voters who say they’ll “probably” vote in the Republican primary and — if they vote — will “probably” vote for Ed Gillespie. If 60% of those people show up and 70% of the voters cast a ballot for Gillespie, Gillespie will lose. If 90% show up and almost all of them vote for Gillespie, then Gillespie will win.
Republican numbers were drawn from 919 registered voters (as self-described) who said they’d definitely, probably, or maybe vote in the Republican primary.
The poll was conducted online among Virginia residents, from June 8–10. Respondents were asked which primary they’d likely vote in and how likely they were to vote. 3623 adults were surveyed. Unregistered respondents were excluded from the ultimate sample, leaving a total of 3232 voters. Post stratification was performed on age, race, gender, party plus 2016 presidential vote, and — among Democrats only — whether the respondent voted for Clinton or Sanders in 2016.
About Change Research
Change Research is led by two veteran data scientists (both Stanford alums who were early at LinkedIn) and a longtime political and communications leader. Change Research empowers candidates and causes to better serve their constituents with sophisticated polling technology, dramatically increasing the sample size and accuracy of online surveys while slashing costs. Change Research brings powerful polling techniques within reach of all candidates regardless of their budget and technical expertise.
Change Research’s first two forecasting polls were extremely accurate, assessing results within one point both in Montana and in Georgia’s special district 32 state senate election. This is Change Research’s first primary poll.