New poll finds Va. Democrats more enthusiastic about upcoming elections

All 140 seats in the Virginia legislature are up for grabs, and a new survey out today suggests that Republican control of both the House of Delegates and Senate is in danger of slipping away.

Numbers released from the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University show a substantial enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans heading into statewide elections this November.

National politics appear to be having a big influence on the races that could flip control of both chambers, where the Republican Party only maintains narrow advantages right now.

“Among likely voters statewide … we see a 13-point advantage for Democrats in terms of the generic ballot,” said Rachel Bitecofer, the assistant director at the Wason Center. The new survey out today finds likely voters prefer a generic Democrat to a generic Republican 49% to 36%.

Democratic enthusiasm outpaces Republican enthusiasm 62% to 49%. And 84% of Democrats say they will “definitely vote” compared to 74% of Republicans.

“And then we see an even bigger advantage for Democrats, a 16-point advantage (53% to 37%), when we ask voters which party they would like to see control the general assembly when the election is done,” said Bitecofer. The survey finds independents leaning that way by a 17-point margin.

Bitecofer says the key districts to watch are primarily in the Hampton Roads area, where on top of Democratic enthusiasm, some districts are more competitive after a federal judge ordered them to be redrawn to combat racial gerrymandering.

Gov. Ralph Northam has a 51% approval rating, while President Donald Trump sits at 37% in Virginia, even though most of those surveyed were polled before the news about Ukraine started to break.

In addition, 50% of voters say Virginia is headed in the right direction, while only 32% feel otherwise. And 30% feel the country is moving in the right direction, while 62% say it isn’t.
Issues that are typically held by Democrats, like stronger gun control, a higher minimum wage, and support for abortion rights also poll strongly among the likely voters surveyed by the Wason Center.

“What really is firing up Democrats here in the state of Virginia is the same thing that has produced great elections for Democrats in 2017 and 2018,” said Bitecofer, “and that is backlash to what is going on in D.C. and President Trump.”

For instance, 83% of voters say they’re strongly or somewhat likely to vote for a candidate who favors universal background checks on gun purchases. Another 67% of likely voters support a ban on assault weapons.

Democrats needs to flip two seats in the House of Delegates, and one seat in the state Senate to flip control in Richmond.

“They’ve had this majority demographic that had been sitting there kind of latent, under the Obama years, and now it’s really fired up and it’s flexing its muscle,” said Bitecofer.

Polling does find most voters are against a universal Medicare for all option, however.

The survey of 726 active, registered voters was conducted statewide between Sept. 4 and Sept. 30, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1%.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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