UMW Survey Shows Warner Leading in Senate Race

Incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Warner has the support of 47 percent of likely voters in this year’s race for the U.S. Senate, compared to 37 percent for Republican contender Ed Gillespie, according to a new survey sponsored by the University of Mary Washington’s Center for Leadership and Media Studies.

Virginia-Politics_croppedRobert Sarvis, a Libertarian candidate who also is on the senatorial ballot, received six percent support among likely voters in the poll of 1,000 state residents conducted October 1 to 6. Another 10 percent declined to say which candidate they supported or were unsure. A total of 444 of those residents are categorized as likely voters in next month’s election based on their self-reported voting history and interest in political matters.

Among registered voters, the margin between the two major party candidates was wider. A total of 50 percent of registered voters said they supported Warner and 30 percent backed Gillespie in the poll. Sarvis received the endorsement of six percent of the 819 registered voters in the survey.

Among all residents surveyed, Warner was favored by a 49 percent to 26 percent margin, with six percent for Sarvis. If Sarvis was not on the ballot, 31 percent of Virginians who favored Sarvis said that they would not vote. Of those favoring Sarvis, 35 percent said Warner was the second choice and 35 percent said Gillespie was the second choice.

More than half (53 percent) of likely voters said they did not know enough about Gillespie to offer an opinion about him, as compared to 21 percent who viewed him favorably and 23 percent unfavorably. For Warner, the ratings were 50 percent favorable and 37 percent unfavorable among likely voters, with 13 percent uncertain.

Three-quarters of likely voters said they did not know enough about Sarvis to evaluate him, with five percent assessing him favorably and nine percent assessing him negatively. Another 10 percent of likely voters said they had never heard of the Libertarian, who received 6.5 percent of the vote in last year’s gubernatorial election.

Mark Warner Ed Gillespie Robert Sarvis

“The Senate race has gotten closer, and our poll shows that Republicans in Virginia are more likely to vote next month than the dispirited Democrats,” said Stephen Farnsworth, professor of political science at UMW and director of the university’s Center for Leadership and Media Studies. “The main problem Gillespie has is that a lot of voters still don’t know much about him, and that problem can only be solved by a lot more money coming in from Republican donors.”

Unfortunately for Gillespie, Farnsworth said, Republicans view several other Senate races, including those in Louisiana, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa and Alaska, as more competitive and are focusing the party’s resources in those states.

In the overall survey, 36 percent said they were Democrats, compared to 25 percent who said they were Republicans. But 33 percent of the likely voters identified with Republicans, while only 30 percent of likely voters said they were Democrats.

Among likely voters, Warner leads among women who expressed a candidate preference, 54 percent to 40 percent. Warner also has the edge among male likely voters, by a margin of 48 to 43 percent.

Among likely voters, Warner has the support of 99 percent of the self-identified Democrats, while Gillespie has the support of 85 percent of the Republicans. Sarvis does best among the independents, with 19 percent of the voters in that category. Warner has 43 percent of independents as compared to 38 percent for Gillespie.

For the full survey, see the Topline.

Contact: Stephen J. Farnsworth at (703) 380-3025 or

The Fall 2014 Virginia Survey, sponsored by University of Mary Washington (UMW), obtained telephone interviews with a representative sample of 1,000 adults living in Virginia. Telephone interviews were conducted by landline (500) and cell phone (500, including 247 without a landline phone). The survey was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International (PSRAI). Interviews were done in English by Princeton Data Source from October 1 to 6, 2014. Statistical results are weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies. The margin of sampling error for the complete set of weighted data is ± 3.5 percentage points. The margin of sampling error for the likely voters (N=444) is ± 5.3 percentage points.