- Associated Press - Friday, September 25, 2015

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Most Virginia voters aren’t paying attention to upcoming legislative elections in November that will determine which political party controls the state Senate, according to a new poll.

The poll released Friday from the Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University shows 39 percent said they weren’t paying close attention and 27 percent said they were paying no attention. Only 34 percent of respondents said they were paying attention to the campaigns.

Professor Quentin Kidd, director of the Wason Center, said the poll suggests only about 26 percent of registered voters will turn out on Election Day. Virginia is among a handful of states that have off-year legislative elections, when turnout is usually lower.

“These results demonstrate a classic pattern in Virginia’s off-off-year elections,” Kidd said. “A far greater proportion of voters say they intend to vote than are actually paying attention to news about the elections or paying attention to candidates for office.”

Both parties are fighting over a handful of competitive state Senate races, and Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe has made retaking the state Senate a top priority.

The poll also found that a majority of Virginians approve of how McAuliffe is running things. His 53 percent approval rating is the highest since he took office last year and ties him with U.S. Sen. Mark Warner for the most popular statewide officeholder in Virginia, according to the survey.

The poll also found that a majority of voters approve of key Democratic policy aims of increasing the minimum wage and stricter background checks for gun buyers.

The poll was based on interviews with 851 registered voters and was conducted between Sept. 15 and Sept. 23. The margin of error is 3.4 percent.

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