Mr. Cuccinelli held a sizable advantage over Mr. Bolling among every demographic, though 34 percent said they did not know who they favored, wouldn’t vote, or planned to vote for somebody else, according to the poll released by Quinnipiac University. The attorney general performed particularly well with people who said they identified with the tea party, who favor him 67 percent compared to 8 percent who preferred Mr. Bolling. A quarter of tea partiers were undecided.
The poll was conducted from May 30 to June 4. The question on the 2013 primary was asked of 549 Republicans with a margin of error of 4.2 percent.
Aside from the Republican primary question, the poll surveyed 1,282 registered voters, and has a margin of error of 2.7 percentage points.
Twenty-eight percent of those polled identified themselves as Republicans. Out of the remaining respondents, 31 percent said they were Democrats, 33 percent were independents, and 8 percent said “other” or didn’t know.
Among all voters, 36 percent approved of Mr. Bolling’s job performance, while about a fifth disapproved and just under half were undecided. Meanwhile, 46 percent approved of Mr. Cuccinelli’s job performance, compared to about a third who disapproved and a quarter who were undecided.
The numbers provide more evidence that Mr. Bolling, who enjoys the backing of Gov. Bob McDonnell in his 2013 run, still faces an uphill climb among the Republican electorate. He could face an even tougher battle if the Republican State Central Committee votes to hold a convention to elect the party’s candidate rather than a primary. In October 2011, the SCC voted to hold a primary for the 2013 race.
A convention, attended by the most ardent party enthusiasts, would likely benefit Mr. Cuccinelli, a darling of the more conservative wing of the GOP. Mr. Cuccinelli favors a convention, while Mr. McDonnell and Mr. Bolling are on the record as favoring a primary. The party plans to reconsider the 2011 decision at its annual convention next weekend.
Mr. McDonnell himself had a 53 percent job approval rating. Nearly a third of respondents disapproved of his performance and 17 percent were undecided. Mr. McDonnell’s approval rating, which would be the envy of many politicians in Washington and across the country, has hovered between 55 percent and 62 percent in Quinnipiac polls between last June and February before dipping to 53 percent in March.
“Although Gov. McDonnell’s numbers have come down from their highs in the 60s, he still ranks among the nation’s more popular governors,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
Moreover, a poll released this week by Rasmussen reports put Mr. McDonnell’s job approval at 64 percent.
Nevertheless, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat, got the highest marks in the Quinnipiac poll, with a 60 percent approval rating. Respondents were nearly equally split on whether they disapproved or had no opinion of his performance. Retiring U.S. Sen. Jim Webb, a Democrat, had a 48 percent approval rating, about a quarter of respondents both disapproving of his performance or having no opinion.
In the incredibly tight U.S. Senate match-up between Democratic nominee Tim Kaine and likely Republican nominee George Allen, Mr. Kaine held a slight 44 percent to 43 percent lead. Neither man, though, has managed to hold a lead outside the margin of error since Quinnipiac started polling the race.