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Student Poll Finds Gilmer Up by 5

Cavalier Daily Senior Writer

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Donald S. Beyer Jr.'s pro-choice abortion stance and income tax credit plan may not be attractive enough to Virginia voters to enable him to overcome a 5 percent deficit in the polls.

According to a poll released Friday by the University's Center for Survey Research, Beyer is 4.8 points behind Republican James S. Gilmore III with less than two weeks before the Nov. 4 election.

Results showed that 43.4 percent supported Gilmore and 38.6 percent backed Beyer. Sixteen percent of the remaining 18 percent were undecided, while 2 percent supported a third party candidate.

About 150 students from Public Opinion, GFAP 227, and 50 students from Sociology Research Workshop, SOC 495, conducted the telephone poll of 637 registered Virginia voters from Oct. 5 through Oct. 17. The poll has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

The numbers were consistent with some other recent polls, including a Washington Post poll from last week that put Gilmore eight points ahead.

"There's a significant chunk of the electorate out there who hasn't made up their minds. There is room for last-minute developments, but Gilmore is clearly up at this point," said poll co-director Paul Freedman, a University government and foreign affairs professor.

"If all the undecided voters all vote for Beyer on election day, he will win, but not all of them will vote," Freedman said.

Gilmore's plan to eliminate the tax on cars and trucks appealed to 52 percent of the electorate, while Beyer's income tax credit plan was favored by only 24 percent.

"More than half the people were able to correctly recognize Gilmore's car tax plan. Its simple language that says lets get rid of a tax. That may be easier to sell than a tax credit," Freedman said.

Gilmore's anti-car tax platform appeals to the entire electorate, while Beyer's income tax credit applies only for those making less than $75,000.

"Voters are just more familiar with Gilmore's plan than Beyer's plan and they like it better," Freedman said.

The poll also found that Beyer has been unable to fully capitalize on his pro-choice abortion-rights stance.

"Gilmore is doing better among pro-choice voters than Beyer is doing among pro-life voters," Freedman said.

Gilmore is supported by a third of the pro-choice voters, while Beyer was preferred by less than 50 percent of pro-choice voters.

"The reason abortion has become less central [than it was in 1989] is because most people believe the current policies are not likely to change," no matter who is elected, said Larry J. Sabato, government and foreign affairs professor.

Sabato said Gilmore's margin may be even greater than 5 percent. He said the poll caught the recent upswing for Gilmore, but it did not catch the whole Gilmore tide because the poll was conducted during a long period of time.

The poll confirmed that large gender and race gaps still persist in Virginia politics. Beyer is still greatly favored by women and black voters.

But the poll was conducted before former Virginia governor L. Douglas Wilder (D) announced he will not endorse any candidate for governor. Beyer was counting on Wilder's support to bring black voters to the polls.

Third-year college student Suzanne Worthington said the poll was a good hands-on learning experience.

"You see when you actually participate that people's opinion varies so much. It's not as cut and dry as you might expect," Worthington said.