A poll released Tuesday suggests that Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II have lost support since January and the number of undecided voters in Virginia is climbing modestly — a signal, pollsters say, that respondents might be dissatisfied with their options in the governor's race.
Mr. McAuliffe leads 41 percent to 37 percent in the poll released by Public Policy Polling, right on the margin of error of 4 percentage points. Libertarian Party candidate Robert Sarvis drew 7 percent, and 15 percent of voters were undecided.
But the Democratic rainmaker in January held a 5 percentage point lead over the state's attorney general, according to PPP. Back then, though, the split was 46 percent to 41 percent, with 13 percent undecided. Mr. Sarvis was not polled back then.
"His support is a reflection of voter unhappiness with both candidates," PPP's Tom Jensen wrote. "This race may come down to who voters think is the lesser of two evils and for now that's McAuliffe."
More than three months remain until Election Day. In a PPP survey released in July 2012, President Obama led eventual Republican nominee Mitt Romney by 14 points, 49 percent to 35 percent, with Constitution Party candidate Virgil Goode taking 9 percent.
Mr. Obama ended up beating Mr. Romney in Virginia by 4 points, 51 percent to 47 percent, en route to re-election. Mr. Goode, a Democrat-turned-independent-turned-Republican and a former Virginia congressman, received significant attention as a potential spoiler for Mr. Romney because of his deep ties to the southern part of the state. In the end, Mr. Goode's presence on the ballot was a nonfactor. He got 0.33 percent of the vote, coming in fourth in the state behind Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, who took 0.8 percent.
In May, Mr. McAuliffe led Mr. Cuccinelli 42 percent to 37 percent in PPP's survey, with 21 percent undecided.
In a pollster.com average that also includes polls conducted by other firms, Mr. McAuliffe leads Mr. Cuccinelli by 4.1 points, 42.4 percent to 38.3 percent.
Both candidates have similar favorability ratings, according to the PPP poll released Tuesday, with 32 percent of voters expressing a favorable opinion of Mr. Cuccinelli while 34 percent have a favorable opinion of Mr. McAuliffe. But 47 percent of respondents said they have an unfavorable opinion of Mr. Cuccinelli versus 36 percent for Mr. McAuliffe.
Thirty-seven percent of those polled self-identified as Democrats, 32 percent said they were Republicans and 31 percent identified themselves as either "independent" or "other." Mr. McAuliffe does hold a 7 percentage point lead among independents, 40 percent to 33 percent.
In response to the poll figures, Mr. Cuccinelli's campaign issued a tongue-in-cheek release showing the Republican with a 13.3-point lead in a poll from the fictional company "Republican Republican Republican," alluding to PPP's party ties.
PPP is indeed a Democrat-leaning firm, but it was also judged to be one of the most accurate polling outfits based on its final predictions before last year's presidential election.
Mr. McAuliffe's ticketmates, meanwhile, hold leads in their respective races as well. State Sen. Ralph S. Northam, Norfolk Democrat, leads Republican Bishop E.W. Jackson by 7 percentage points, 42 percent to 35 percent, with 23 percent not sure in the race for lieutenant governor.
In the race to replace Mr. Cuccinelli, state Sen. Mark R. Herring of Loudoun leads state Sen. Mark D. Obenshain, Harrisonburg Republican, by two points, 38 percent to 36 percent, with 25 percent undecided.
The automated telephone survey of 601 registered voters was conducted July 11 to 14.
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