Governors’ Races: Democrats Lead by 6 in Virginia, 16 in New Jersey Heading Into Election Day

Change Research
Nov 6, 2017 · 4 min read

In the final days before the year’s biggest electoral contests in Virginia and New Jersey, Democrats hold leads in both states. But while Democrat Phil Murphy has a comfortable edge in New Jersey, Virginia is close and getting closer, with a small chance of an upset there on Tuesday.

Change Research ran two online polls — of 3,648 voters in Virginia and 2,040 voters in New Jersey — both administered November 1–5.

In Virginia, our models project that Democrat Ralph Northam will defeat Republican Ed Gillespie, 52 to 46. But the former Republican National Committee Chairman has momentum: among those who say they decided in the last week, Gillespie leads 60–32.

New Jersey Democrat Phil Murphy’s numbers can leave him more confident: our models project he will win 58–42 over Republican Kim Guadagno. Among late deciders in the Garden State, Murphy has a slight edge over the Lieutenant Governor.

Other races in each state tell similar stories. In Virginia, Democrat Justin Fairfax holds a 50–45 lead over Republican Jill Vogel, while Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring is the favorite to win reelection over Republican John Adams, as he has a 51–45 edge. Virginians plan to vote for Democratic candidates for the House of Delegates by a 6-point margin over Republicans (we did not poll respondents on individual races). In New Jersey, where both houses of the state legislature have elections on Tuesday, 36% of voters intend to vote exclusively for Democrats, while 23% plan to vote for all Republicans.

In most cases, Northam’s support tracks Hillary Clinton’s 2016 support closely, while Gillespie’s support tracks Donald Trump’s 2016 support. Just 2% of self-described Trump voters plan to vote for Northam, and just 1% of Clinton voters plan to vote for Gillespie. Northam fares several points better than Clinton did in the Hampton Roads area, while Gillespie fares several points better than Trump did in Northern Virginia.

Virginia’s gubernatorial race has been contentious and at times dirty, and voters’ feelings about the two campaigns reflect that: 50% disapprove of the way Gillespie has run his campaign — including 30% who strongly disapprove — while 41% disapprove of Northam’s campaign, 23% strongly. In New Jersey, the numbers on both sides are relatively tame: 33% disapprove of the way Guadagno’s campaign has been run, about half of those strongly, while 34% disapprove of Murphy’s campaign — again, about half strongly.

The two states have very different feelings about their current Governors: Republican Chris Christie is extremely unpopular in New Jersey, with just 16% approving (rating him 6 or better out of 10), and 43% rating him as terrible (1 out of 10). In Virginia, by contrast, 49% approve of Democrat Terry McAuliffe, and just 18% rate him as terrible.

On the other hand, both states feel similarly unhappy about President Trump. 48% of voters in New Jersey give the President a terrible rating, while 46% of Virginians do the same. Virginians’ feelings about Trump are colored by the tragedy in Charlottesville in August. Just 35% of Virginians approve of the way he handled it. 47% of all voters in Virginia strongly disapproved, and 7% of those who voted for the President a year ago voiced some disapproval of how he behaved.

New Jerseyans’ feelings about the President go beyond mere disapproval, with 58% believing he has done something for which he could be impeached. A plurality, 37%, believe there is ample evidence to impeach Trump now, and another 21% believe he has done something impeachable, but that it still needs to be proven. In Virginia, 54% believe Trump has done something impeachable. Among people who voted for Trump in 2016, 4% in Virginia and 6% in New Jersey believe he has done something impeachable. By contrast, under 1% of Clinton voters in each state believe he should definitely not be impeached.

Polling was conducted online November 1–5, using Change Research’s patent pending Bias Correct technology. Post stratification was done on age, gender, ethnicity, and self-reported 2016 Presidential vote, with additional weighting based on predicted likelihood of voting in this election.


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