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Location: Strasburg, Virginia

Monday, October 24, 2005

Mason-Dixon: Voters split on abortion, 2004 budget; A1

Poll: 10 percent more likely to vote Kilgore because of ads, 25 percent less likely

Republican gubernatorial candidate Jerry Kilgore's ads attacking Democratic Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine's stance on the death penalty are making some headway, but not much, according to a new poll by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research.

Some 78 percent of voters said they have seen the former attorney general's ads, in which family members of murder victims say they don’t trust Kaine to carry out a death sentence.

One ad features Kelly Timbrook, the widow of a Winchester police officer who was shot to death in the line of duty. Edward Bell, the man convicted of the murder, is on Virginia’s death row.

Voters support the death penalty by a margin of 66 to 20 percent, but only 10 percent of voters said the ads made them more likely to vote for Kilgore. Some 25 percent said they would be less likely to vote for the GOP nominee after seeing the ads.

Kaine’s negative rating, however, has doubled, from 11 percent to 22 percent.

Those who said they were undecided broke along a similar margin, with 4 percent saying they’d be more likely to vote for Kilgore, 18 percent saying they’d be less likely.

Kaine’s fence-riding position on both the death penalty and abortion — he opposes both but won’t interfere with or support changes to current law on either front — seems to be effective, according to Coker.

Among voters who support the death penalty, 54 support Kilgore, but 31 support Kaine.

On matters of abortion, 47 percent of voters said they were “pro-choice,” 40 percent said they were “pro-life.”

“This straddling [by Kaine] is working to some degree, as 24 percent of ‘pro-life’ voters are currently supporting Kaine,” Coker said. Conversely, 29 percent of “pro-choice” voters support Kilgore.

Undecided voters are evenly split.

“As an issue, abortion is clearly a double-edged sword,” Coker said.

One key issue for both campaigns, the budget deal of 2004 that increased funding for education and other programs and raised taxes by $1.6 billion, seems to be lost on voters.

Some 38 percent said the deal was not a tax increase, while 12 percent said it was a necessary tax increase. Another 21 percent said it was an unnecessary tax increase, while 29 percent aren’t sure if it was a tax increase or not.

That may be “an indication that many voters were not noticeably affected by it,” Coker said.

“While Kilgore’s attacks on the death penalty have paid some dividends — helping to double Kaine’s negative rating — they have not propelled him into a clear lead,” according to Coker.

Election Day is Nov. 8.

Editor's Note: Both this and the previous story on recent Mason-Dixon polling appear in Monday's Northern Virginia Daily as one story, due to conflicts among electronic and print edition deadlines and polling release schedules.