New poll shows enthusiasm advantage to Spanberger, Independent voter advantage to Brat

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by Brandon Jarvis

CNU’s Wason Center released a new poll today showing a statistical tie between Dave Brat (R) and Abigail Spanberger (D) with Spanberger leading 46% to 45%.

Spanberger gained a slight edge when the Wason Center restricted the sample to the most committed voters, Spanberger had a 3-point lead, 48%-45%, which is just inside the margin of error. Libertarian candidate Joe Walton came in at 4 percent and 3 percent were still undecided.

However, Spanberger has a large lead when it comes to inspiring her base to come to the polls. “A 16-point “enthusiasm gap” for Spanberger shows that 78% of Democrats are “very enthusiastic” about voting, versus 62% of Republicans in the district.

Brat does have an 8-point advantage among independents, who went 46 percent for him and 38 percent for Spanberger. In a historically red district, these independent voters have the potential to decide the winner.

“The fact that a district like the 7th is competitive is strong evidence that 2018 should produce a strong midterm effect that benefits Democrats,” said Dr. Rachel Bitecofer, assistant director of the Wason Center. “This district has a significant structural advantage for Republicans. But that advantage can be overcome with strong turnout in the Richmond suburbs. Democratic turnout will determine which candidate prevails on Election Day.”

Unlike the 2nd District in Hampton Roads and the 10th District in Northern Virginia, which broke in favor of Democrat Ralph Northam in last year’s gubernatorial election, the 7th District broke for Republican Ed Gillespie by nearly 4 points. “Assuming Independents favor Brat, as our survey suggests, Spanberger’s best strategy is to drive Democratic turnout as high as possible,” Bitecofer said.

The inclusion of a third-party candidate also appears to help Spanberger. Walton stands to take a chunk of the Republican vote. Walton is a former member of the Board of Supervisors in Powhatan County, which is a very red section of the VA-07. It would be safe to assume that Walton will over-perform among moderate Republicans and Independents at the Powhatan polling locations.

Trump’s approval rating is below the percentage of voters that turned out for him in 2016 – 47% of voters in the VA-07 approve of the job Trump is doing, 51% disapprove. Enthusiasm also benefits the Democrats on this front with 30% strongly approving of Trump, and 43% strongly disapprove of the job he has done.

Both candidates have somewhat distanced themselves from Trump as they try to move closer to the middle.

According to the Wason Center, Senate candidate Corey Stewart (R) is trailing Tim Kaine (D) by 5-points. Corey Stewart, a Trump-like candidate, has yet to show anything close to a chance of winning in statewide polls.

The poll was conducted with a sample of 871 likely voters for the overall poll, and a sample size of 790 voters when polling the committed voters.

The election is in the homestretch at this point. As voters prepare to turn out at the polls on November 6th, expect both campaign to use this information as a motivation to finish the campaign as strongly as possible.

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