October 27, 2021

McAuliffe and Youngkin deadlocked in Virginia governor race; contests for lieutenant governor and attorney general also tied; Republican likely voters' enthusiasm advantage surges in October


Summary of Key Findings

  1. Former Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe has a razor-thin lead over Republican Glenn Youngkin, 49% to 48%, among likely voters, which is within the survey's margin of error (+/- 3.5%). In this virtual tie, third-party candidate Princess Blanding 1% share of the vote looms larger, with another 1% undecided.
  2. Seeking a third term, Attorney General Mark Herring narrowly leads Republican Jason Miyares 48% to 47%, with 5% undecided.
  3. For lieutenant governor, Democrat Hala Ayala has a 1-point lead over Republican Winsome Sears, 49% to 48%, with 4% undecided.
  4. Republican likely voters are significantly more enthusiastic about voting in this election than Democratic likely voters (80% to 65% very enthusiastic), an advantage that has surged 9 points since the October 8 Wason Center survey.

Analysis

With a week to go, Virginia's statewide races for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general are tied, according to our survey of likely voters in the Nov. 2 general election. Since we polled these races in early October, Democratic leads have all but disappeared. Independent voters continue to favor all three Republican candidates, while partisans on both sides are locking into position for their party's candidates. We see a large gender gap emerging, with male voters shifting towards Republican candidates and women moving towards Democratic candidates. As Election Day nears, Republicans are increasingly more enthusiastic about voting, with 80% of Republican likely voters indicating they are very enthusiastic, compared to 65% of Democrats. That 15-point enthusiasm advantage was only 6 points in our October 8 survey (61% to 55%). Regionally, the hotly contested Richmond/Central region has tilted significantly in Republicans favor since our last survey, going from a 3-point lead to a 12-point lead (55% to 43%) at the top of the ticket.

Governor: Democrat Terry McAuliffe maintains a narrow 1-point lead against Republican Glenn Youngkin, 49% to 48%, in the race for governor. His lead is well within this survey's margin of error of +/- 3.5% and this represents a continued tightening in the race. As shown in the figure below, McAuliffe began the election season in late August with a 9-point lead that shrank to 4 points in early October and now stands at 1 point. With McAuliffe and Youngkin now in a virtual tie, third-party candidate Princess Blanding's 1% share of the vote looms larger.

Chart of data for Governor race, more information below

The Wason Center conducted 3 polls of the 2021 Virginia General Election Cycle: August 26, October 8 and October 27. The y-axis represents the portion of likely voters. The x-axis represents each of the three Wason Center polls. The lines indicate candidates Glenn Youngkin, Terry McAuliffe and Princess Blanding. The trend lines show a race that has narrowed to be virtually tied between Terry McAuliffe and Glenn Youngkin.

Independent voters largely favor Youngkin, 51% to 44%. Youngkin's support within his own party has also increased significantly since our last poll to 97% (from 90%). Youngkin's support is currently driven by white voters (58% to 39%), male voters (56% to 42%) and those from the South/Southwest region (65% to 33%).

Former Governor McAuliffe has maintained his overall support at 49%, as Youngkin has gained ground among previously undecided voters. McAuliffe's support is strongest among women (56% to 41%), Black voters (93% to 7%), voters age 44 and younger (51% to 46%) and voters in the Northern Virginia region (61% to 36%). McAuliffe has also solidified his support among Democratic voters, with 98% support (compared to 92% in early October).

McAuliffe is facing strong headwinds in a state that has historically selected governors from the party not in the White House and with a Democratic president whose approval rating is underwater,said Wason Center Research Director Dr. Rebecca Bromley-Trujillo.Republican voters also appear hungrier for a win and increasingly see a chance to take a statewide race for the first time since 2009.

Lieutenant governor: The lieutenant governor's race is also a statistical tie, with Democratic Del. Hala Ayala leading former Republican Del. Winsome Sears by 1 point (49% to 48%), with 3% undecided. With Sears's results tracking Youngkin's closely across all demographics and regions, the lieutenant governor's race falls within this survey's margin of error (+/- 3.5%).

Since our October 8 poll, Sears has gained 7 points among Republicans (from 87% to 94%). Ayala shows similar gains among Democrats, expanding her support by 9 points since early October (88% to 97%). Overall, Ayala's support is driven primarily by voters age 44 and younger (52% to 46%), Black voters (91% to 7%), women (56% to 40%), and an advantage in Northern Virginia (60%-39%). Sears strongest support comes from white voters (57% to 40%), Independents (53% to 43%), and voters in the South/Southwest region (64% to 33%).

Attorney general: Seeking a third term as attorney general, Democratic incumbent Mark Herring narrowly leads Republican Del. Jason Miyares, 48% to 47%, with 5% undecided. This race has tightened since early October, when Herring led by 6 points (49% to 43%). Miyares has a 5-point lead among Independents (49% to 44%) while both candidates have shored up their respective bases since our last poll. Miyares has support from 95% of Republicans while Herring holds 96% of Democrats. Herring continues to have support among the conventional Democratic base of women (54% to 40%) and Black voters (85% to 9%). Younger voters give modest support for Herring (48% to 45%), though he has lost some ground among this voting group since our last poll, dropping from 53% support. Miyares shows an advantage over Herring among white voters (56% to 40%) and voters in the South/Southwest region (64% to 34%).

How the survey was conducted:

The results of this poll are based on 944 interviews of registered Virginia voters who are likely general election voters, including 446 on landline and 498 on cell phone, conducted October 17-25, 2021. A likely general election voter is one who has voted in at least two of the last four general elections or is newly registered in the last 12 months and indicates they are enthusiastic and plan to vote (or already have) in the upcoming November 2 election. The margin of error for the whole survey is +/-3.5% at the 95% level of confidence. This means that if 50% of respondents indicate a topline view on an issue, we can be 95% confident that the population’s view on that issue is somewhere between 46.5% and 53.5%. The margin of error for subgroups may be higher. All error margins have been adjusted to account for the survey’s design effect, which is 1.2 in this survey. The design effect is a factor representing the survey’s deviation from a simple random sample and takes into account decreases in precision due to sample design and weighting procedures. In addition to sampling error, the other potential sources of error include non-response, question wording, and interviewer error. Percentages may not equal 100 due to rounding. The response rate (AAPOR RRI Standard Definition) for the survey was 11%. Five callbacks were employed in the fielding process. Live calling was conducted by trained interviewers at the Wason Center for Civic Leadership survey research lab at Christopher Newport University. The data reported here are weighted using an iterative weighting process on region, age, race, sex, and education to reflect as closely as possible the population of Virginia’s November 2, 2021 electorate. Parameters for the weights used in this survey come from the 2020 Census, 2017 and 2019 American Community Survey, and data from the last eight election exit polls in Virginia.


For further information contact:

Dr. Rebecca Bromley-Trujillo, Research Lab Director
rebecca.bromleytrujillo@cnu.edu
Office: (757) 594-9140

Dr. Quentin Kidd, Academic Director
qkidd@cnu.edu
Office: (757) 594-8499
Mobile: (757) 775-6932

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