By Dr. Harry Wilson

Clinton and Trump tied in Va., but neither viewed favorably by electorate

Likely presidential nominees Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are tied in Virginia with each garnering the support of 38 percent of likely voters, according to The Roanoke College Poll. While only 11 percent of likely voters said they are undecided, another 11 percent said they would vote for someone else and 2 percent stated they would not vote if Clinton and Trump were their only choices. Both candidates are significantly "under water" with regard to favorable/unfavorable opinions.

The Roanoke College Poll interviewed 610 likely voters in Virginia between May 9 and May 17 and has a margin of error of +4 percent.    

Voters are engaged, but not happy with candidates  

Nearly two-thirds of likely voters (63%) said they are very interested in the campaign (29% are somewhat interested), and 82 percent said they care a good deal about who wins the presidential election. Republicans (73%) are somewhat more likely to be very interested in the campaign, compared to Democrats (62%), but they both care a good deal about who wins (87% of each party).  

Favorable ratings are very low for Clinton (30% favorable; 50% unfavorable) and even worse for Trump (23% favorable; 56% unfavorable). We also asked how voters would feel if either candidate was elected president in November. One in seven (17%) respondents said they would feel proud, with another 29 percent satisfied, but 19 percent said they would be unhappy and 30 percent would be disgusted if Clinton wins. Again, Trump's numbers are even worse (8% proud, 28% satisfied, 16% unhappy and 42% disgusted). While party affiliation has a large impact on those numbers, 5 percent of Democrats said they would be disgusted with President Clinton, and twice that number of Republicans (10%) would be disgusted with President Trump. Another 10 percent of each party would be unhappy if their candidate won. Despite the unease, party loyalty still runs high with 78 percent of Democrats saying they will vote for Clinton and 80 percent of Republicans saying they will vote for Trump.  

We asked voters to rate the candidates regarding how they would handle various issues as well as some personal characteristics. Rather than simply ask which candidate they thought would better handle a particular task, we requested numerical ratings for each. The mean scores appear in the table below. In each case the candidate with the higher score was thought to be better at dealing with that issue. On the economy, more voters rated Trump higher, but Clinton's supporters had a larger discrepancy in their candidate ratings. The full ratings detailing the information below may be found in the topline.    

Issue Clinton mean Trump mean
Dealing with economy 5.0 5.0
Dealing with Terrorism 5.2 4.7
Dealing with Health Care 5.3 4.4
Improving Race Relations 5.5 3.3
Dealing with Immigration 5.4 4.1
Dealing with Other Nations (Russia and China) 5.6 4.2
Dealing with Gun-related issues 4.7 5.0
Honest 3.9 4.4
Qualified to be President 5.4 3.8
Temperament to be President 6.0 3.2
Understands problem of people like you 4.8 3.8


“We have talked about ‘lesser of the evils’ choices for several years, but this race may epitomize that statement … and we’ve barely begun the real nastiness.”

Dr. Harry Wilson, director of IPOR

A Commonwealth Divided?

Much has been said regarding the major differences of opinion between various groups in the nation as a whole. Those differences are clearly evident in Virginia. There are so many gaps that it is difficult to know where to begin the discussion. There is a huge race gap that has been present for years. The gender gap is also prevalent in this race as are an age gap, marriage gap, and a regional gap. The education gap is smaller, and there is just a hint of an income gap. None of these are particularly novel, but they are quite pronounced in this election. Crosstabs may be found here.    

Job approval; direction of country and state  

Nearly two-thirds (63%) of Virginians think the country is on the wrong track, while 27 percent think it is headed in the right direction (unchanged from the November 2015 Roanoke College Poll). Job approval for President Barack Obama is at 45 percent with 40 percent disapproval (up slightly from November). Nearly half of voters (48%) have a favorable view of President Obama, and 38 percent have an unfavorable view. Congress remains mired in single-digit approval at 8 percent.  

Governor Terry McAuliffe's approval has increased from 38 percent in November to 51 percent in May, while disapproval is at 23 percent (down two points from November). Governor McAuliffe's favorable rating is at 44 percent, and 23 percent of voters hold an unfavorable view of him. Voters remain more optimistic about the Commonwealth with 47 percent saying it is headed in the right direction and 41 percent thinking things are on the wrong track. On a related topic, 61 percent of voters agreed with the governor's executive action that restored voting rights to all convicted felons who have completed their sentences and probation/parole (28% opposed).    


"This is not a 'feel good' poll," said Dr. Harry Wilson, director of the Institute for Policy and Opinion Research. "We have talked about 'lesser of the evils' choices for several years, but this race may epitomize that statement...and we've barely begun the real nastiness."  

"With each of the major party candidates so far under water in terms of unfavorable ratings, it is a little frightening to think where this could end. Third-party candidates could draw some support, and we'll be including those as those candidates are determined and are listed on Virginia's ballot."      


Interviewing for The Roanoke College Poll was conducted by The Institute for Policy and Opinion Research at Roanoke College in Salem, Va. between May 9 and May 17, 2016. A total of 610 likely voters in Virginia were interviewed. Telephone interviews were conducted in English. The random digit dial sample was obtained from ASDE Survey Sampler and includes both Virginia landline and cell phone exchanges so that all cell phone and residential landline telephone numbers, including unlisted numbers from Virginia exchanges, had a known chance of inclusion. Cell phones constituted 34 percent of the completed interviews.

Questions answered by the entire sample of 610 residents are subject to a sampling error of plus or minus approximately 4 percent at the 95 percent level of confidence. This means that in 95 out of 100 samples like the one used here, the results obtained should be no more than 4 percentage points above or below the figure that would be obtained by interviewing all likely voters in Virginia who have a home telephone or a cell phone. Where the results of subgroups are reported, the sampling error is higher.

Quotas were used to ensure that different regions of the Commonwealth were proportionately represented. The data were statistically weighted for gender, race, age, and political party. Weighting was done to match the demographic groups' representation in the 2012 Virginia exit poll. The margin of error was not adjusted for design effects due to weighting.

A copy of the questionnaire and all toplines may be found here. More information about the poll may be obtained by contacting Dr. Harry Wilson at wilson@roanoke.edu or (540) 375-2415 or the Roanoke College Public Relations Office at (540) 375-2282.  

The Roanoke College Poll is funded by Roanoke College as a public service.  

For more about the Institute for Public Opinion Research, click here

CONTACT: Dr. Harry L. Wilson, Director, IPOR
(540) 375-2415 (Office)