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Election 2014: Virginia Senate

Virginia Senate: Warner (D) 53%, Gillespie (R) 36%

Friday, June 13, 2014

Incumbent Democrat Mark Warner has opened up a slightly larger lead over Republican challenger Ed Gillespie in Virginia’s U.S. Senate race.

Warner now picks up 53% of the vote to Gillespie’s 36%, according to a new Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey of Likely Virginia Voters. Three percent (3%) prefer some other candidate, while nine percent (9%) are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Warner held a 51% to 37% lead in our first look at the race in January.

Gillespie, a former George W. Bush administration official and longtime Republican strategist, won the GOP Senate nomination at the party’s convention last Saturday. Warner, a popular former governor, was first elected to the Senate in 2008 with 65% of the vote.

Ninety percent (90%) of Virginia Democrats support Warner, while 70% of the state's Republicans back Gillespie. The incumbent has a 45% to 34% lead among voters not affiliated with either major party.

Warner remains far better-known to Virginia voters. He is viewed Very Favorably by 34% and Very Unfavorably by 14%. Just two percent (2%) say they have never heard of him. Ten percent (10%) have a Very Favorable opinion of Gillespie, while 11% view him Very Unfavorably. However, 23% still say they have never heard of the Republican candidate, although that’s down from 30% earlier this year.

At this point in an election cycle, Rasmussen Reports considers the number of people with a strong opinion more significant than the total favorable/unfavorable numbers.

For comparison, 21% view Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe Very Favorably, while 21% view him Very Unfavorably.

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The survey of 750 Likely Voters in Virginia was conducted on June 11-12, 2014 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 4 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Fieldwork for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

Thirty-six U.S. Senate seats are at stake this November: 21 of them held by Democrats and 15 by Republicans. Democrats currently have a 53-to-45 majority over Republicans in the Senate. In addition, there are two independent senators who caucus with the Democrats. Republicans need a net gain of six seats to take control of the Senate. Warner's had long been considered a safe Democratic seat this year, but Gillespie is expected to mount a more aggressive challenge than Democrats anticipated from the GOP.

Voters trust Warner more than Gillespie on all four issues regularly tracked by Rasmussen Reports. The Democrat leads in voter trust when it comes to handling government spending (47% to 29%) and taxes (45% to 31%). Warner holds even larger leads in the areas of government ethics and corruption (45% to 27%) and social issues (50% to 29%). However, 22% to 28% of voters are not sure which candidate they trust more on all four issues.

Gillespie’s campaign has heavily criticized Warner’s support of the new national health care law. Forty-two percent (42%) of Virginia voters have a favorable opinion of Obamacare, while 54% view it unfavorably. This includes 13% with a Very Favorable opinion of the law and 43% with a Very Unfavorable one. These findings are nearly identical to those measured in January and are similar to findings nationwide. 

Ninety-four percent (94%) of voters who view the law Very Favorably support Warner who voted for the law in the Senate, while 73% of those who view the law Very Unfavorably support Gillespie.

Virginia’s 7th congressional district made political history this week when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost the Republican primary to a relatively unknown conservative challenger. In the wake of the primary, pundits have pointed to Cantor’s poor constituent services, his shifting stance on immigration reform and the influence of the Tea Party movement.

Sixty-three percent (63%) of Virginia voters say it is at least somewhat important to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation this year, compared to 73% on the national level.  Thirty-one percent (31%) say this goal is not important. These findings include 34% who see passing immigration reform legislation as Very Important and 15% who see it as Not At All Important.

In Virginia, 33% have a favorable impression of the Tea Party movement, while 47% view it unfavorably. Twenty percent (20%) are undecided. Virginia voters are slightly more positive about the movement than voters nationwide.

Looking to the future, 53% of Virginia voters believe it is at least somewhat important for Republicans in Congress to work with the Tea Party, including 34% who say it is Very Important. Thirty-eight percent (38%) don’t see this as important, including 19% who say it is Not At All Important.

Twenty-one percent (21%) of the state’s voters rate the economy as good or excellent, while 39% consider it poor. But like voters nationally, they give their own finances much higher marks: 38% view their personal finances as good or excellent, and just 15% say they are poor.

President Obama carried Virginia in the 2008 and 2012 elections with 53% and 51% of the vote respectively. Now, 48% of the state’s voters approve of the job he is doing, while 50% disapprove. This includes 26% who Strongly Approve of his performance and 42% who Strongly Disapprove, giving the president a job approval rating similar to what he earns nationally.

Fifty-one percent (51%) approve of the job McAuliffe is doing as governor, while 40% disapprove. This includes 21% who Strongly Approve of his performance and 22% who Strongly Disapprove.

See our most recent numbers from the Senate races in AlaskaArkansasColoradoGeorgia,  Idaho, IllinoisIowaKansasKentuckyLouisianaMaineMichiganMississippiMontana, NebraskaNew HampshireNorth CarolinaOregonSouth Dakota, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Additional information from this survey and a full demographic breakdown are available to Platinum Members only.

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