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Virginia 2021: Dead Heat in Governor and Attorney General Race

The latest Emerson College/Nexstar Media poll of the Virginia gubernatorial election shows a tightening in the race, with Democrat Terry McAuliffe slightly leading Republican Glenn Youngkin 49% to 48%. One percent of voters plan to vote for someone else, and 2% are still undecided. In September, an Emerson/Nexstar poll showed McAuliffe with a four-point lead over Youngkin (49% to 45%).

McAuliffe leads with women 51% to 45%, while Youngkin leads with men 50% to 46%. McAuliffe also leads among Black voters (72% to 25%), while Youngkin leads among White voters (53% to 45%) and Hispanic voters (55% to 45%).

McAuliffe leads Youngkin in the Northern region of the state (the 8th, 10th, and 11th congressional districts), 64% to 36%, and in the Southeast region (the 3rd and 4th congressional districts) 63% to 31%. Youngkin leads in the Western region (the 5th, 6th, and 9th congressional districts) 61% to 36%, and in the East Coast region (the 1st, 2nd, and 7th congressional districts) 58% to 36%.

Those who live in the urban areas of the state are leaning towards McAuliffe (59% to 36%), while rural areas are breaking towards Youngkin (57% to 42%). The suburbs are slightly leaning towards Youngkin (49% to 48%).

While the race is tight, the majority (55%) of Virginia voters expect the former governor Terry McAuliffe to win this November, compared to 44% of voters who expect Youngkin to win.

When asked which candidate voters think will better handle the economy, regardless of who they are voting for, voters were split evenly 49%-49% between McAuliffe and Youngkin. The majority (51%) of voters think McAuliffe would best handle Covid-19, while 48% believe Youngkin would best handle Covid-19.  

In the race for Attorney General, incumbent Democrat Mark Herring leads Republican Jason Miyares 46% to 44%. One percent of voters plan to vote for someone else, and 10% are undecided. Among those undecided, 65% are leaning towards Miyares, and 35% are leaning towards Herring.

President Biden’s approval is underwater in the state he won by ten points in 2020, as he sits at 45% approval and 48% disapproval, with 8% neutral. When respondents were asked if Biden’s endorsement of McAuliffe made them more or less likely to support his candidacy, 22% said more likely, 39% said less likely, and 38% said it had no difference.

When asked if parents or school boards should have more of an influence in the school’s curriculum, the majority (52%) think parents should have more of an influence compared to 33% who say school boards. Sixteen percent (16%) were unsure or did not have an opinion. 

The plurality (32%) of Virginia voters believe abortion should always be legal, 27% say it should be legal with some restrictions, 23% say it should be legal in special circumstances, and 14% say it should be illegal in all circumstances. Among female voters, the plurality (37%) say it should always be legal. Among male Virginia voters, the plurality (30%) say it should be legal in special circumstances. The majority of Democratic votes (55%) say it should always be legal, while the plurality (36%) of Republican voters say it should be legal in special circumstances. 

Voters were asked if they believe Republican candidate Youngkin has been honest regarding his position on abortion, and a plurality (45%) said yes, while 34% said no, and 21% were unsure on the issue.

Regarding the grocery tax in the state, 62% of voters are in favor of eliminating it, 19% are opposed, and 19% are unsure or have no opinion. 

Caller ID

The Virginia Emerson College/Nexstar Media Group poll was conducted October 1-3, 2021. The sample consisted of Virginia likely voters, n=620, with a Credibility Interval (CI) similar to a poll’s margin of error (MOE) of +/- 3.9 percentage points. The data sets were weighted by gender, age, education, race, and region based on 2021 turnout modeling. It is important to remember that subsets based on gender, age, party breakdown, ethnicity, and region carry with them higher margins of error, as the sample size is reduced. Data was collected via a cellphone sample using SMS-to-web, a landline sample using IVR, and an online panel provided by Amazon MTurk.

Key Takeaways
  • Biden’s approval underwater in VA
  • Suburban voters split on governor's race
  • East coast voters breaking for Youngkin
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