Poll: Kitchen table issues drove Northam win in Virginia

ralph northamResults of a new poll released today show that while Democratic voters were motivated by opposition to Donald Trump, Virginia Gov.-elect Ralph Northam won his election by focusing on issues, including public education, that matter most to families, as well as not taking the votes of people of color for granted.

The National Education Association, the AAPI Victory Fund, and the National Public Education Action Fund commissioned the poll to determine what trends, themes, and messages resonated and emerged to apply to 2018 races and beyond.

“Ralph Northam’s embrace of quality public education—and education voters in particular—coupled with an economy that works for all, and affordable health care as his core issues carried him to victory,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “On the heels of the Alabama Senate race, this poll shows that while voters were also motivated by a desire to rebuke the Donald Trump brand of politics, they were equally motived to go to the polls by kitchen table issues. In other words, candidates must offer voters something to vote for, not just someone to vote against.”

The survey, conducted by GBA Strategies found a Democratic advantage in both composition and enthusiasm. The poll found that AAPI and Hispanic voters broke overwhelmingly for Northam, and that healthcare, jobs, and education issues drove support for the Democratic nominee. Education was a top driver for Northam—3 out of 10 Northam supporters were “education voters.” Among those who chose education as a top issue, they picked college affordability and K-12 funding as their top issues. Sixty-one percent of Northam supporters said he would make college more affordable and help with student loans, compared to 18 percent for Ed Gillespie. Fifty eight percent said Northam would fight for public schools, compared to 26 for Gillespie.

“Ralph Northam ran on education and its importance to Virginia voters and the state’s economy and future,” said Daniel Leeds, President of the National Public Education Action Fund. “The poll shows that this was a winning platform. Education is of increasing importance to the success of every state and all future candidates should take note.”

Further, communities of color were key in Northam’s win, overwhelmingly breaking for him, and the poll found that “kitchen table issues” were the overpowering factor in these voters. According to the survey, jobs and the economy were the chief concern among AAPI voters; support for public schools and affordable college among Hispanic voters; and expanding affordable healthcare for African-American voters.

The implication for progressive and Democratic campaigns moving forward is clear: Democrats must stand up for our pocketbooks in a way that is salient to communities of color in order to motivate them to vote in numbers necessary for victory.

“Communities of color support for Ralph Northam and Democrats were at record levels for a gubernatorial election.  In particular, Hispanic and African American voters performed significantly higher than in the 2016 presidential race. While Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders’ support for Governor-elect Northam was still high, it was about the same level as 2016.  We will be doing more research on how we could have moved the needle with AAPI voters even more,” said AAPI Victory Fund Chairman Shekar Narasimhan.

GBA Strategies polled 1400 Virginians between November 8th and November 13th with a margin of error of +/- 2.6 percent and oversampled 150 AAPI and 150 Hispanic voters, which each carry a margin of error of +/- 8.0 percent.


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