By Jeff Raines
Capital News Service
With elections less than two weeks away, a poll released Wednesday shows that Virginia voters identifying as Republican or Democrat are split almost evenly along party lines, but independent voters prefer a Democratic legislature.
The poll, conducted by the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University, collected data from a random sample of 801 Virginia residents by landline and cellphone interviews between Sept. 23 to Oct. 4.
The poll shows that 46% of the 292 respondents identifying as independent want a Democratic General Assembly; 41% want a Republican General Assembly, with 13% refusing to respond or saying they do not know.
Overall, when asked about party control in the General Assembly, 47% of all respondents preferred Democratic candidates; 46% preferred Republican candidates, and 7% refused to respond or said they did not know.
The margin of error for this poll was 4%, meaning that the results are accurate within a range of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
In a press release from the Wilder School, former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder said the poll numbers are indicators of which issues are important to voters and seem to be more important than party affiliation.
Grant Fox, press secretary for the Democratic Party of Virginia, offered his take on the poll.
“It’s clear from this poll that the Republican agenda has failed,” Fox said in an email. “Democratic priorities are popular across Virginia and key voters who will swing the election want a Democratic majority in the General Assembly.”
However, John Findlay, executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia, said in an email that the poll is a snapshot of information from three weeks ago and may not reflect voters’ current opinions. According to Findlay, millions of dollars have been spent on political campaigns since that time.
“If you don’t think 3 weeks is a lifetime in politics I suggest you talk to Hillary Clinton,” he said.
Farrah Stone, poll director for the Wilder School, said polls can be used to show trends over time and every poll is a data point. The poll’s validity is based on how it captures the point in time that it was taken.
“Every single poll that is released is a snapshot,” she said. “That’s just the nature of it.”
In September, Democrats running for Senate seats outraised Republicans, $4.9 million to $2 million. In the House, Democrats outraised Republicans, $7.1 million to a little over $4 million.
Republicans currently hold a slim majority in both chambers of the General Assembly, and all 140 seats up for grabs next month.
There are five key Senate races and 26 in the House of Delegates determined by a CNS analysis of competitive races, redistricting changes and recent voting trends on Virginia Public Access Project.
Election day is Nov. 5.