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Location: Strasburg, Virginia

Monday, July 25, 2005

Name recognition of some hopefuls lacking for voters; A1

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

Who?

That was the most frequent reaction from Virginia voters when Mason-Dixon pollsters asked them if they recognized any of the four candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general.

The poll of 625 likely voters found that none of the four — state Sen. Bill Bolling, R-Mechanicsville; former Democratic Rep. Leslie Byrne; Del. Bob McDonnell, R-Virginia Beach; and state Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath County — had name recognition any higher than 44 percent, even after two bruising Republican primaries and one four-way Democratic race.

Of the two races, voters were more likely to recognize the names of the candidates for lieutenant governor (Bolling 44 percent, Byrne 39 percent). McDonnell and Deeds, candidates for attorney general, were recognized by 35 percent and 29 percent of those polled, respectively.

Among voters who did recognize their names, lieutenant governor candidates Bolling and Byrne have similar favorability ratings. Byrne nets 16 percent favorable, 17 percent neutral, 6 percent unfavorable, while Bolling comes away with 17 percent favorable, 23 percent neutral and 4 percent unfavorable.

Attorney general candidates McDonnell and Deeds have similar numbers.

Deeds polled 10 percent favorable, 17 percent neutral and 2 percent unfavorable. McDonnell came out with 14 percent favorable, 18 percent neutral and 3 percent unfavorable.

It all adds up to one big question mark going into the fall, according to the pollsters.

“None [of the four candidates] has a statistically significant lead heading into the fall campaign,” said Mason-Dixon’s Managing Director J. Bradford Coker.

That being said, voters did have a slight preference for Bolling over Byrne statewide, with the delegate leading the former congresswoman 37-34 percent.

Both poll well in their home areas — Byrne leads in Northern Virginia, Bolling in the Richmond area. They also do well in expected party strongholds, Byrne leading in Hampton Roads, Bolling doing well in the Shenandoah Valley and vicinity.

Bolling holds a commanding lead in Lynchburg and Southside, 41 percent to Byrne’s 27 percent. But a large undecided number, 32 percent, will have a major impact as voters start to make up their minds.

In Roanoke and points southwest, the two candidates are evenly matched at 35 percent, while the remainder of voters have yet to make up their minds.

The big picture at the bottom of the ticket is decidedly more foggy.

Statewide, Deeds and McDonnell are virtually tied in the race to be the next Virginia attorney general — McDonnell polls at 35 percent, Deeds at 34 percent. But with “undecided” in a solid third place, 31 percent, those numbers are all but certain to change.

Both men hold their home turf well. Deeds out-polls McDonnell in Roanoke and points southwest, 45 percent to 27 percent. McDonnell wins out in Hampton Roads, 42-32 percent. Beyond those areas, though, the race is a complete toss-up, with both men polling within the 4 percentage point margin of error of each other.

Even the predictable gender gap in both races — men trending Republican, women trending Democratic — is muddy down-ticket.

The gap is there in both races, but never stronger than an 8 percentage point spread between male and female support for Bolling. Forty-one percent of men support Bolling, while only 33 percent of women do.

But as with almost every other number in the non-gubernatorial polls, the undecided factor is so large as to leave significant room for movement on all sides.

“With the governor’s race very competitive, these two races will likely not get much attention from the voters for a while,” said Coker. “These numbers will be a useful benchmark to have when things start to break.”

Election Day is Nov. 8.