In a new poll that was released by the Wason Center for Public Policy (h/t to Lowell at Blue Virginia) Susan Platt has almost double the support Justin Fairfax received in the race for Lt Governor. While “undecided” is clearly running away with the race at 60 percent, Platt came in with 20 percent of the vote compared to just 11 percent for Justin Fairfax.
This was very surprising considering that Justin Fairfax has raked in more endorsements and has been dominating the recent straw polls. Looking at the numbers more carefully doesn’t explain the gap between the straw polls and Susan Platt being largely ahead in the scientific poll either.
Most of the major straw polls have been held in Northern Virginia, which is the one place Justin actually has a lead in the polling. That could help to justify the difference, but he only has a five point margin there and doesn’t even come close to the 80 percent of the vote he’s been getting at the straw polls.
Since Justin’s on the younger side and much of the younger crowds at events seem to be supporting his campaign, one would think the polling would suggest he’s dominating the younger age groups in the polling. In actuality, he’s losing the under 45 crowd by one point (24 to 23 percent) while being very far behind among people older than that (19 to 8 percent).
What could be telling about this, however, is that a larger percent of younger voters have actually made up their mind and could potentially be stronger in their support. They therefore might be more willing to show up to a straw poll event. Combine that with Justin Fairfax winning in NoVA and we have one possible explanation for how he’s dominating the straw polls.
Now in last year’s presidential election, 50 percent of those polled voted for Hillary Clinton compared to 37 percent for Donald Trump (12 percent voted for someone else). Of those, 37 percent voted in the Democratic primary, 34 percent voted in the GOP primary, and 26 percent didn’t vote in any primary.
This is important because it shows how the Republicans surveyed were showing up to the primary, but a large portion of the Democrats surveyed didn’t vote in last year’s primary. If they didn’t even vote in a presidential primary, it’s very unlikely that they’re going to be showing up at the polls for the Lt. Governor primary. The people at the straw polls, however, are active enough in the political process to be showing up to an event months before the actual primary, which suggests they will actually be making their way to the polls on June 13.
It would be wrong to conclude that the straw polls are more accurate than a scientific poll — in fact, one should usually lean the other way — but it’s very telling that there’s a large drop off among Democratic primary voters in this poll. A drop off, for comparison, that’s simply not there on the Republican side. When you combine that with the enormous amount of undecided voters in this poll, it suggests that a lot of people outside of the politically active simply aren’t paying attention to this race yet.
As a result, it’s hard to say that either straw polls or this scientific poll at this point in the race gives you more than a simple snapshot of where a group of voters stand at a specific moment in time. The only clear conclusion we have right now, after all, is that “undecided” would win by a landslide if the Lt Governor primary was held today.