*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.*
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe is leading in the latest poll from Monmouth University. His Republican opponent, Glenn Youngkin, has a large advantage in the western part of the state and a small edge among independent voters, but the large Democratic electorate in Northern Virginia offsets this giving McAuliffe the statewide lead.
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).
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.
According to Monmouth, a range of potential electorate scenarios show McAuliffe with a lead ranging from 2 points to 7 points depending on the model.
In a scenario with low-propensity voters included in the mix, Youngkin lead. 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.
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.
Other polling from Monmouth shows Democratic attorney general incumbent Mark Herring (45%) with a two-point lead over his Republican challenger Jason Miyares (43%). The race between Democrat Hala Ayala and Republican Winsome Sears for lieutenant governor is the tightest with Democrat Hala Ayala holding a one-point lead over Republican Winsome Sears.
Early voting begins Sept. 17 for the Nov. 2 election.
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