VCU Commonwealth Poll Finds McCain Leads Obama, Clinton Among Virginia Voters

Likely Republican presidential nominee John McCain holds a clear lead over Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton among registered voters in Virginia, according to a new statewide survey conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University.

VCU's Commonwealth Poll finds 44 percent of registered voters prefer McCain, compared with 36 percent for Obama, the Democratic front-runner. And if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, 47 percent of voters prefer McCain while 38 percent prefer Clinton.

The Commonwealth Poll was conducted by telephone with 1,003 adults and 852 registered voters from May 12 through May 18. The margin of error for the poll is plus or minus 3 percentage points for all respondents and 4 percentage points for registered voters.

"Many political observers have been looking at Virginia as a potentially tight general election race," said Cary Funk, Ph.D., director of the Commonwealth Poll and associate professor in the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs. "Despite the recent success of Democratic candidates such as Tim Kaine in 2005 and U.S. Senator Jim Webb in 2006, the presidential race in Virginia at present is looking mostly like years gone by," Funk said.

McCain holds a strong lead in the more rural areas of the state, including the northwest and western areas, and a nine-point lead in the Tidewater area. In vote-rich Northern Virginia, Obama has a slight edge over McCain, 41 to 36 percent.  Obama also leads McCain 43 to 39 percent in the south central area, a region which includes Richmond.  The figures for both regions are within the margin of sampling error for the difference between the candidates.

McCain also leads Obama among registered independent voters, 44 to 34 percent.  Registered Republicans support McCain over Obama by a margin of 81 to 6 percent. Voters age 65 and older also show strong support for McCain.  Among voters under age 65, nearly equal portions support each candidate.

Registered Democrats strongly support Obama over McCain, 71 to 14 percent, in the general election. Obama has the support of nearly all African-Americans in the state.  Obama fared a bit better with highly educated voters, those with some post-graduate education; among this group, 41 percent prefer Obama while 36 percent prefer McCain.

Would Clinton Fare Better?
Virginia voters prefer McCain over Clinton by 47 percent to 38 percent. There was no evidence in the poll that the Democratic Party would fare better in Virginia this fall if the party nominee is Clinton. The patterns of support across demographic groups are similar for both Obama and Clinton.

Favorability ratings:
Virginians tend to hold a favorable view of both likely party nominees for president.  Nearly four-in-10, or 39 percent, have a favorable view of McCain, 24 percent are unfavorable and about a quarter are undecided. Opinion of McCain divides strongly along partisan lines. Independents tend to hold a favorable opinion of McCain; 35 percent are favorable and 24 percent are unfavorable. There is also a divide between whites and blacks, but this largely corresponds with differences in party affiliation between the two racial groups.

Virginians' views of Obama tilt positive, if a little less strongly positive than for McCain.  Among all adults, 36 percent have a favorable opinion of Obama, 28 percent are unfavorable, while a quarter are undecided. There is also a strong partisan slant in opinions about Obama. Among independents, 34 percent are favorable and 30 percent are unfavorable, with the remainder undecided or not holding an opinion.

Clinton is a bit better known than either Obama or McCain and a bit less liked, according to the poll. About a third of Virginians, or 34 percent, have a favorable opinion of Clinton while 38 percent are unfavorable and two in 10 are undecided. 

The War in Iraq:
Virginians are on par with the nation when it comes to views about the war in Iraq and opinion of George W. Bush. Of those polled, 48 percent say it was the wrong decision to go to war in Iraq and 39 percent say it was the right decision. A 53 percent majority of Virginians holds an unfavorable opinion of President Bush while 29 percent are favorable.

Visit for more information about the current and past survey reports.

About VCU and VCU Medical Center

Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 226 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Sixty-seven of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 13 schools and one college. MCV Hospitals and the health sciences schools of Virginia Commonwealth University comprise VCU Medical Center, one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers. For more, see