Politics

Washington Post’s numbers wrong on McAuliffe momentum

Washington Post’s numbers wrong on McAuliffe momentum

ALEXANDRIA — There’s one problem with a Washington Post story that shows Democrat Terry McAuliffe clobbering Republican Ken Cuccinelli in the race for Virginia governor.

It’s wrong.

When contacted by Watchdog.org, The Washington Post acknowledged its error and said it would correct the story.

The source of the problem is a huge undercounting of independent voters.

The gist of this week’s Quinnipiac University Poll results for the Virginia governor’s race is that McAuliffe holds a six point lead over Cuccinelli in what is projected to be a tight race.

But what set the media afire with interest who is leading as much as the voter demographics that helped compose it.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the party breakdown among likely voters Quinnipiac Poll was identical to exit polling in the 2012 presidential election, showing Democrats outnumbering Republicans 39 to 32 percent.

That set political punditry ablaze with speculation that McAuliffe would ride the wave of Barack Obama’s 2012 success to the governor’s mansion.

The problem is those numbers are wrong, and a huge swath of independent voters were undercounted.

Of the 1,129 likely voters Quinnipiac polled, 30 percent identified as Democrats and 23 percent as Republicans, leaving 39 percent as independent and 8 percent who did not identify.

Democrats still hold a 7 percentage point edge in the poll, but the always-courted independent vote still has a huge say on who will be Virginia’s next governor.

“In terms of the party identification, I think some of it is increasingly in polls, and we really started to see it in 2012 is that, a lot of people who identify themselves as independent, are actually, essentially, Republican,” said Geoff Skelley, political analyst for the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.

“They just have stopped (identifying), for whatever reason — whether it’s the tea party or some other thing going on. There seem to increasingly be conservative voters who identify themselves as Independent.”

Independent voters split for the candidates in the Quinnipiac poll, with Cuccinelli gaining a slight, 44 to 42 percent edge over McAuliffe.

Contact Carten Cordell at carten@watchdogvirginia.org. Kathryn Watson contributed reporting to this story.

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