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McAuliffe Holds Issue Edge in Guv Race

Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021

Biden and Trump factor into vote choice for some

West Long Branch, NJ – Democrat Terry McAuliffe has a lead in his bid to return to the Virginia governor’s mansion after a four-year absence according to Monmouth (“Mon-muth”) University Poll. His opponent, former equity management executive Glenn Youngkin, has a large advantage in the western part of the state and a small edge among independent voters. The sizable Democratic electorate in Northern Virginia offsets this, though, putting McAuliffe ahead in the statewide results. A number of voters say that both the current and prior occupants of the White House will have an impact on their vote for governor, although most of them have already decided on a candidate. The poll also finds tight margins in other statewide contests.

Just under half (47%) of registered voters currently support McAuliffe while 42% back Youngkin. Both candidates claim formidable leads among voters who identify with their respective parties, but Youngkin holds an edge (44% to 38%) among independents. More Virginia voters describe themselves as Democrats than Republicans, which accounts for McAuliffe’s lead.

McAuliffe has a significant advantage among voters of color – 80% to 8% among Black voters and 58% to 28% among Latinos, Asians, and multiracial voters. Youngkin holds a large 56% to 35% lead among white voters, but there is a split based on education. His lead with this group is largely due to white voters without a bachelor’s degree (65% to 25%). White college graduates narrowly prefer McAuliffe (49% to 42% for Youngkin).

Looking at regional results, McAuliffe enjoys a large advantage in Northern Virginia (56% to 27%) as well as leads in the eastern Tidewater (50% to 37%) and central Richmond/I-95 (53% to 43%) regions. Youngkin claims a large lead in the western half of the commonwealth (61% to 31% for the Democrat). Comparing these results to the last gubernatorial contest, McAuliffe is doing as well as incumbent Gov. Ralph Northam’s 2017 margins in the eastern (56% to 43%) and central (54% to 45%) parts of Virginia, but running slightly behind him in NoVa (67% to 32%) and the west (38% to 61%).

“Vote preferences in Northern Virginia and the western part of the commonwealth basically cancel each other out if turnout patterns match the last four years. Youngkin’s challenge is to chip away at McAuliffe’s edge in the rest of Virginia,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

A range of potential electorate scenarios* show McAuliffe with a lead ranging from 2 points to 7 points depending on the model. Youngkin does better when more low-propensity voters are included in the mix. Specifically, McAuliffe has a fairly comfortable lead among voters who have cast ballots in every general election since 2016 (52% to 41%) while those who voted in only 2 or 3 elections during that time are evenly split (42% for Youngkin and 41% for McAuliffe). When the potential electorate is limited only to voters who cast ballots in the 2017 gubernatorial election, the Democrat holds a 50% to 44% margin. The only group Youngkin makes a real dent with are voters who describe themselves as being more enthusiastic about this year’s race versus past elections for governor. The Republican has a 55% to 36% lead among this group, but they make up only 26% of all registered voters.

“Republicans are a little more excited than Democrats this year. The question is whether this enthusiasm turns out enough low-propensity Youngkin supporters to close the gap,” said Murray.

VIRGINIA: ELECTORATE SCENARIOS
Governor vote
choice:
Registered
voters
Range of
electorate models
August   
McAuliffe47%47%49%
Youngkin42%45%42%
   
      Source:  Monmouth University Poll, Aug. 24-29, 2021

Virginia voters have a range of policy concerns on their minds in this race. The most important issues they would like the candidates to talk about include the Covid pandemic (23%), education and public schools (18%), the economy (16%), jobs (14%), health care (13%), gun rights (9%), taxes (8%), and race issues (8%).

When asked whom they trust more to handle these top concerns, voters give McAuliffe an advantage on the pandemic (38% to 26% for Youngkin) and race issues (35% to 26%), and a narrower edge on education and schools (36% to 31%). The electorate is more divided on trusting either Youngkin (35%) or McAuliffe (33%) more when it comes to jobs and the economy.

“McAuliffe has the edge on most of the major issues in this race. Youngkin needs to knock him down on some of these issues, or get voters to focus on other concerns where the Republican has more of a natural advantage,” said Murray.

Just under 4 in 10 voters have a favorable impression of each major party nominee – 39% for McAuliffe and 37% for Youngkin. The Democrat, however, earns higher unfavorable numbers (35%) than the Republican does (27%). One-third (35%) have no opinion of Youngkin, who is making his first run for office. It is perhaps more surprising that 1 in 4 (27%) have no opinion of the former governor. In the final year of McAuliffe’s term, a Monmouth poll of likely voters in July 2017 gave the then-incumbent a job rating of 52% approve to 37% disapprove, with 11% offering no opinion.

About 3 in 10 voters (29%) say McAuliffe’s political views are in line with most Virginians while 21% say he is out of step. Another 50% say they are not sure about how the former governor’s views align with the commonwealth. Likewise, 22% say Youngkin’s views are in line with the state, 23% say they are out of step, and 55% are not sure.

Just under half of the electorate says President Joe Biden will be either a major (32%) or minor (14%) factor in their vote for governor this year. Slightly fewer say that former President Donald Trump will be a major (29%) or minor (12%) factor. Interestingly, these results are similar to Trump’s reported impact four years ago (26% major and 14% minor among likely voters in July 2017). However, among those who say either the current or prior president is a major factor in their vote for governor this year, more than 8 in 10 report they are already firmly decided on their candidate choice. Among those voters who are undecided or say they could change their minds, just 20% say either president will be a major factor in their vote.

“The 2017 governor’s race was nationalized with a surge in anti-Trump turnout handing Northam a comfortable win. The presidential dynamic may play a role again, but it’s unlikely to move any numbers at this point. If either Trump or Biden is a major factor in your vote, you almost certainly know already who you will be voting for in this race,” said Murray.

Looking at other races on the ballot, the Monmouth University Poll finds tight contests for attorney general between Democratic incumbent Mark Herring (45%) and Republican challenger Jason Miyares (43%) and for the open lieutenant governor seat between Democrat Hala Ayala (43%) and Republican Winsome Sears (42%). The Democratic Party has a small aggregate advantage over the GOP in the race for House of Delegates (48% to 45%).

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from August 24 to 29, 2021 with 802 Virginia registered voters. The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.

  *   Monmouth’s electorate models for the 2021 election are not forecasts. They are designed to present a range of reasonable outcomes based on voter intentions at this moment. Monmouth tests a variety of models where each registered voter is assigned a probabilistic weight between 0 and 1, based primarily on past voting history, with adjustments for self-reported likelihood to vote, motivation and other factors. Further adjustments are applied to the aggregate sample based on turnout propensities among different demographic groups (e.g. by race, gender, education). The two scenarios included in this report show the extreme ends of the range of possible outcomes from the model testing.

QUESTIONS AND RESULTS     

(* Some columns may not add to 100% due to rounding.)

1.If the election for governor was today, would you vote for Glenn Youngkin the Republican, Terry McAuliffe the Democrat, or some other candidate? [NAMES WERE ROTATED] [If UNDECIDED: If you had to vote for one of the following candidates at this moment, who do you lean toward – Glenn Youngkin or Terry McAuliffe?]

REGISTERED VOTERS (with leaners)Aug.
2021
Glenn Youngkin42%
Terry McAuliffe47%
Other candidate2%
(VOL) No one<1%
(VOL) Undecided9%
(n)(802)

2.If the election for lieutenant governor was today, would you vote for Winsome Sears the Republican or Hala Ayala the Democrat? [NAMES WERE ROTATED] [If UNDECIDED: If you had to vote for one of the following candidates at this moment, who do you lean toward – Winsome Sears or Hala Ayala?]

REGISTERED VOTERS (with leaners)Aug.
2021
Winsome Sears42%
Hala Ayala43%
(VOL) Other candidate1%
(VOL) No one1%
(VOL) Undecided14%
(n)(802)

3.If the election for Virginia attorney general was today, would you vote for Jason Miyares the Republican or Mark Herring the Democrat? [NAMES WERE ROTATED] [If UNDECIDED: If you had to vote for one of the following candidates at this moment, who do you lean toward – Jason Miyares or Mark Herring?]

REGISTERED VOTERS (with leaners)Aug.
2021
Jason Miyares43%
Mark Herring45%
(VOL) Other candidate1%
(VOL) No one<1%
(VOL) Undecided11%
(n)(802)

4.If the election for the Virginia House of Delegates was held today, would you vote for the Republican or the Democratic candidate in your legislative district? [PARTIES WERE ROTATED] [If UNDECIDED: At this time do you lean more toward the Republican or more toward the Democratic candidate?]

REGISTERED VOTERS (with leaners)Aug.
2021
Republican45%
Democratic48%
(VOL) Other candidate<1%
(VOL) No one<1%
(VOL) Undecided7%
(n)(802)

[QUESTIONS 5 & 6 WERE ROTATED]

5.Is your general impression of Glenn Youngkin very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable, or very unfavorable, or do you have no opinion?

REGISTERED VOTERSAug.
2021
Very favorable18%
Somewhat favorable19%
Somewhat unfavorable9%
Very unfavorable18%
No opinion35%
(n)(802)

6.Is your general impression of Terry McAuliffe very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable, or very unfavorable, or do you have no opinion?

REGISTERED VOTERSAug.
2021
Very favorable20%
Somewhat favorable19%
Somewhat unfavorable12%
Very unfavorable23%
No opinion27%
(n)(802)

7.In your opinion, what are the most important one or two issues that the candidates for governor should talk about during this campaign? [LIST WAS NOT READ] [Note: Results add to more than 100% because multiple responses were accepted.]

 REGISTERED VOTERSAug.
2021
TREND:July
2017*
Taxes8% 10%
Jobs14% 25%
The economy16% 20%
Cost of living4% 1%
Housing, housing costs3% 1%
State budget, govt spending4% 7%
Govt ethics, corruption5% 3%
Education, public schools18% 20%
Higher education1% 3%
Transportation, infrastructure4% 11%
Environment5% 5%
Health care, insurance13% 37%
Military, veterans issues2% 2%
Crime, violence5% 3%
Gun control, 2nd Amendment9% 3%
Illegal immigration6% 9%
Race, equity, police8% 1%
Voting access, fraud5% 1%
Traditional values, abortion4% 4%
Covid, pandemic23% n/a
Other8% 8%
Nothing/no answer12% 9%
   (n)(802) (502)

            *Likely voters in the 2017 gubernatorial election.

[QUESTIONS 8-11 WERE ROTATED]

8.Who do you trust more on handling the Covid pandemic – Glenn Youngkin or Terry McAuliffe, or both equally? [NAMES WERE ROTATED]

REGISTERED VOTERSAug.
2021
Glenn Youngkin26%
Terry McAuliffe38%
Both equally21%
(VOL) Neither7%
(VOL) Don’t know8%
(n)(802)

9.Who do you trust more on jobs and the economy – Glenn Youngkin or Terry McAuliffe, or both equally? [NAMES WERE ROTATED]

REGISTERED VOTERSAug.
2021
Glenn Youngkin35%
Terry McAuliffe33%
Both equally21%
(VOL) Neither3%
(VOL) Don’t know8%
(n)(802)

10.Who do you trust more on race issues – Glenn Youngkin or Terry McAuliffe, or both equally? [NAMES WERE ROTATED]

REGISTERED VOTERSAug.
2021
Glenn Youngkin26%
Terry McAuliffe35%
Both equally23%
(VOL) Neither6%
(VOL) Don’t know10%
(n)(802)

11.Who do you trust more on education and schools – Glenn Youngkin or Terry McAuliffe, or both equally? [NAMES WERE ROTATED]

REGISTERED VOTERSAug.
2021
Glenn Youngkin31%
Terry McAuliffe36%
Both equally21%
(VOL) Neither5%
(VOL) Don’t know8%
(n)(802)

[QUESTIONS 12 & 13 WERE ROTATED]

12.Are Glenn Youngkin’s political views in line or out of step with most Virginians, or are you not sure?

REGISTERED VOTERSAug.
2021
In line22%
Out of step23%
Not sure55%
(n)(802)

13.Are Terry McAuliffe’s political views in line or out of step with most Virginians, or are you not sure?

REGISTERED VOTERSAug.
2021
In line29%
Out of step21%
Not sure50%
(n)(802)

[QUESTIONS 14 & 15 WERE ROTATED]

14.Is Donald Trump a major factor, minor factor, or not a factor in deciding how you will vote for governor this year?

REGISTERED VOTERSAug.
2021
TREND:Nov.
2017*
Oct.
2017*
July
2017*
Major factor 29% 27%29%26%
Minor factor 12% 16%14%14%
Not a factor 57% 56%57%59%
(VOL) Don’t know3% 1%0%1%
   (n)(802) (707)(408)(502)

            *Likely voters in the 2017 gubernatorial election.

15.Is Joe Biden a major factor, minor factor, or not a factor in deciding how you will vote for governor this year?

REGISTERED VOTERSAug.
2021
Major factor 32%
Minor factor 14%
Not a factor 52%
(VOL) Don’t know2%
(n)(802)

16.How will you vote this year – in person on Election Day, in person at an early voting location, or by mail ballot?

REGISTERED VOTERSAug.
2021
In person on Election Day62%
In person at an early voting location20%
By mail ballot13%
(VOL) Won’t vote at all1%
(VOL) Don’t know5%
(n)(802)

17.How motivated are you to vote in the election for governor – very motivated, somewhat motivated, or not that motivated?

REGISTERED VOTERSAug.
2021
Very motivated74%
Somewhat motivated20%
Not that motivated5%
(VOL) Don’t know1%
(n)(802)

18.Compared to past elections for governor, are you more enthusiastic than usual, less enthusiastic, or about the same as past elections?

REGISTERED VOTERSAug.
2021
More enthusiastic26%
Less enthusiastic8%
About the same63%
(VOL) Don’t know2%
(n)(802)

[Q19-31 held for future release.]

METHODOLOGY

The Monmouth University Poll was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from August 24 to 29, 2021 with a statewide random sample of 802 Virginia voters drawn from a list of registered voters. This includes 227 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 575 contacted by a live interviewer on a cell phone, in English. Monmouth is responsible for all aspects of the survey design, data weighting and analysis. The full sample is weighted for party primary voting history, age, gender, race, education, and region based on state voter registration list information and U.S. Census information (CPS 2018 supplement). Data collection support provided by Braun Research (field) and Aristotle (voter sample). For results based on the full voter sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points (unadjusted for sample design). Sampling error can be larger for sub-groups (see table below). In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.

VA Regions:

NoVa – Loudon, Fairfax, Arlington, and Prince William counties and included cities.

Tidewater – counties and cities along the Chesapeake Bay and tributary rivers (James, York, Rappahannock), including Hampton Roads, Virginia Beach, Newport News and Norfolk.

Richmond/I-95 – Counties and cities that straddle either side of I-95, including Richmond.

West – the area west of a north-south line from Clarke/Fauquier to Mecklenburg counties.

DEMOGRAPHICS (weighted)
REGISTERED VOTERS
 
Self-Reported Party ID
29% Republican
37% Independent
34% Democrat
 
48% Male
52% Female
 
21% 18-34
25% 35-49
29% 50-64
25% 65+
 
67% White, non-Hispanic
19% Black
  6% Hispanic
  8% Asian/Other
 
59% No degree
41% 4 year degree

Click on pdf file link below for full methodology and crosstabs by key demographic groups.

Download this Poll Report with crosstabs