Public Policy Polling said its telephone survey of 602 voters, conducted Jan. 4-6, found McAuliffe, generally regarded as the likely Democratic nominee, leading likely Republican nominee Cuccinelli 46 percent to 41 percent. The five point lead is slightly better than the poll's 4 percentage point margin of error.
PPP said Cuccinelli is better known than McAuliffe among Virginia voters, but McAuliffe -- who served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 2001-05 -- leads 52-39 among those who say they are familiar with both.
Cuccinelli has a better favorability rating than McAuliffe -- 29 percent to 25 percent -- but his negative rating is 45 percent, compared to 26 percent for McAuliffe.
The PPP poll found if Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling gets into the race as an independent, he would attract 15 percent of the vote and McAuliffe's edge over Cuccinelli would grow to 40 percent to 32 percent.
A Quinnipiac University poll found a statistical dead heat in a McAuliffe-Cuccinelli match-up, with McAuliffe ahead 40 percent to 39 percent. Adding Bolling to the mix, McAuliffe and Cuccinelli each got 34 percent to 13 percent for Bolling.
The Quinnipiac poll of 1,134 voters was conducted by landline and cellphone Jan. 4-7 and has a 2.9 percentage point margin of error.