New poll shows Charlottesville, Albemarle voters strongly favor Democrats

Democrats dominate the greater Charlottesville area, according to Jefferson Area Community Survey polling conducted throughout October.

The survey of registered voters conducted by the University Center for Survey Research found President Barack Obama and Democratic Senate candidate Tim Kaine held sizeable leads against former Gov. Mitt Romney and Senator George Allen, respectively.

Forty-nine percent of registered voters who were polled in Albemarle County, the City of Charlottesville and Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa and Nelson counties said they planned to vote for Obama on Election Day, whereas 33 percent planned to vote for Romney. Eight percent of the respondents indicated they were undecided, and 10 percent declined to state a preference, according to a University statement released Thursday.

The poll, which had a margin of error of 4.3 percentage points, also suggested strong regional support for Tim Kaine, a former governor of Virginia who is seeking his first election to the Senate.
Fifty-one percent of respondents said they favored Kaine, whereas 32 percent favored Allen. Nine percent of respondents were still undecided in their Senate choice, and almost everyone else declined to respond.

Obama’s current lead mirrors Charlottesville voting patterns from 2008, said Thomas Guterbock, director of the University Center for Survey Research. In the last presidential election, Obama received more than 78 percent of the vote in Charlottesville and more than 58 percent in Albemarle, whereas Republican presidential nominee John McCain carried three of the four outlying counties.

“Charlottesville has a unique, liberal culture and Democratic voting is typical of university towns across the country,” Guterbock said. “In addition, Charlottesville City has a sizable African-American population, and Obama captures over 90 percent of their votes.

But University Politics lecturer Peter Furia cautioned against uncritical acceptance of the numbers.

“[W]e should first of all note that this is a poll of ‘registered voters’ rather than a poll of ‘likely voters,’” Furia said in an email. “If the goal is to predict what’s going to happen on Election Day, ‘registered voter’ polls such as ours tend to overestimate the performance of Democrats a bit.”

The center conducts the Jefferson Area Community Survey twice yearly, and found significant differences between the Charlottesville/Albemarle area and the four outlying counties, which are overwhelmingly Republican.

Obama led Romney 69 percent to 13 percent in Charlottesville, compared to Romney’s 49 percent lead in outlying counties Fluvanna, Greene, Nelson and Louisa, according to a University statement. Obama led Albemarle county 56 percent to 27 percent.

The reason for this contrast is not entirely clear, but Guterbock said the difference could be because of the typically rural nature of the outlying counties.

“Political scientists have all sorts of different theories for why these urban/suburban/rural differences occur, but our study is really just focusing on how they apply to our local area rather than trying to test those theories,” Furia said.

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