Poll: Tight race for governor, Dems with big leads down ticket

virginia election
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Terry McAuliffe and Glenn Youngkin are neck and neck in the race for governor, as Democrats Haya Ayala and Mark Herring have significant leads down ticket.

This according to a new poll from the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University, which has McAuliffe, the Democratic Party nominee and former one-term governor, ahead of Youngkin, the Republican nominee and first-time political candidate, by a 40 percent to 37 percent margin.

Ayala, the Democratic Party nominee for lieutenant governor, leads Republican nominee Winsome Sears, 39 percent to 31 percent, and Herring, the two-term incumbent attorney general and Democratic Party nominee, has a 41 percent to 30 percent lead on Jason Miyares.

Among the things to notice: there’s a lot of undecideds – ranging from 23 percent in the governor’s race to 30 percent in the LG race.

What that means: there’s a lot of room for movement between now and when the early votes start getting cast in September.

“The gubernatorial candidates are in a virtual dead heat. That could change once positions are taken on the issues,” former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder said. “The lieutenant governor’s race showing the largest difference could also be affected. The attorney general race has 19 percent of the voters unwilling to vote for either candidate added to the 10 percent undecided leaves one-third of the voters who could tighten that contest. How the pandemic affects turnout and enthusiasm energizes voters should be of utmost concern.”

The poll featured landline and mobile telephone interviews from Aug. 4-15 with a representative sample of 823 adults living in Virginia. It has a margin of error of 5.23 percent.

Poll respondents were also asked which party they would rather see in control of the Virginia General Assembly. All 100 House of Delegates seats are up for election in November, with Democrats currently holding a 55-45 advantage. Voters are, once again, split on which party they prefer to control the chamber. Democrats have a slight edge over Republicans (44 percent vs. 40 percent, respectively) with 6 percent of voters undecided.

Regional breakdown

In the gubernatorial race, McAuliffe has a sizeable lead in Northern Virginia (51 percent to 24 percent) while Youngkin leads in the west (52 percent to 32 percent). Voters are split in the south central region, with 34 percent supporting Youngkin and 32 percent supporting McAuliffe, and in Tidewater, with 42 percent supporting McAuliffe and 37 percent supporting Youngkin. The largest proportions of undecided voters (33 percent) are in the south central region

Similar regional differences were found in the other statewide races. In the lieutenant governor race, Ayala has a sizeable lead in Northern Virginia (50 percent to 21 percent) and south central (38 percent to 29 percent), while Sears leads in the west (42 percent to 32 percent) and northwest (38 percent to 22 percent). Voters in the Tidewater region of the state were evenly split, 37 percent for Ayala and 33 percent for Sears.

In the attorney general race, Herring has a sizeable lead in Northern Virginia (47 percent to 22 percent) and in the south central region (38 percent to 27 percent). Voters are split in the other three regions: In the northwest, 37 percent of voters support Miyares and 34 percent support Herring, while in the west 37 percent support Herring and 38 percent support Miyares. In the Tidewater region, 36 percent support Herring while 33 percent support Miyares.

Job approval

Respondents are split on how Gov. Ralph Northam is handling his job with 51 percent saying they approve and 42 percent saying they disapprove. Minority and/or Hispanic respondents (65 percent) are more likely than white, non-Hispanic respondents (44 percent) to approve of Northam’s job performance.

Virginians show strongest approval for Northam’s handling of COVID-19 (57 percent) and public education (52 percent), but less than half of respondents approve of how he has handled health care (47 percent), racial inequity (47 percent), the environment (44 percent) and the state budget (41 percent).

Additionally, Virginians are split on their approval of President Joe Biden with 51 percent approving and 47 percent disapproving of his current job performance.

For the full poll results and analysis, visit oppo.vcu.edu/policy-poll.

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