Virginia gubernatorial candidates Democrat Terry McAuliffe, left, and Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli debate Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, in McLean, Va.
Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe holds a five-point lead over Republican Ken Cuccinelli in the race for Virginia's top elected office, according to two new polls.
The polls, one by the Hampton University Center for Public Policy and the other by the University of Mary Washington, find that 42 percent of likely voters favored McAuliffe, while 37 percent would cast ballots for Cuccinelli.
When looking solely at registered voters, though, the University of Mary Washington poll gave a bigger lead to McAuliffe, 43 to 33.
The Hampton University poll of 804 registered voters pinned support for Libertarian contender Robert Sarvis at eight percent, while the University of Mary Washington poll of 1,001 likely voters set it at 10 percent.
Independent voters may well swing the election, according to both polls. In the Hampton University poll, McAuliffe and Cuccinelli split independent support at 33 percent, while the University of Mary Washington gave Cuccinelli 34 percent and McAuliffe 29 percent.
Fears that Sarvis, who drew most support from independents, could swing the race seem unfounded: the Hampton University poll reported that 22 percent of his supporters are Democrats, while 21 percent are Republicans.
The Hampton University poll also shows the geographic breakdown of support for McAuliffe and Cuccinelli, with the Democrat leading in the Northern Virginia suburbs closest to Washington, around Richmond and in the Hampton Roads area while the Republicans claims the Northern Virginia exurbs and southwestern portions of the commonwealth.
In the lieutenant governor race, Republican E.W. Jackson captured 39 percent support, while Democrat Ralph Northam took 38 percent. For attorney general, Republican Mark Obenshain has 41 percent voter support and Democrat Mark Herring has 37 percent. Many voters do not know either of the major party contenders in either of these races, though.
The Hampton University poll's margin of error is plus or minus 2.9 percent, while the University of Mary Washington's was plus or minus 3.5 percent.