Glenn Youngkin has surpassed Democratic Terry McAuliffe, with a majority of likely Virginia voters preferring the Republican candidate over the Democratic one, according to a poll conducted by Fox News. The poll shows Youngkin with 53% support of likely voters, while McAuliffe only garnered the support of 45% of the respondents, giving the GOP candidate a sizable eight-point lead in a race that is shaping to be the most important election before next year’s midterm.
The survey is the first one that shows such a clear lead for Youngkin, with other polls showing a tight race with a very slight advantage for McAuliffe. The Republican candidate, who is running for public office for the first time, saw his numbers improve significantly when compared to the previous Fox News poll, which had McAuliffe leading the race with a 51%-46% margin among likely voters, meaning that Youngkin has experienced a 7-point swing in his favor.
Although these are certainly excellent news for the Virginia GOP, the poll also presents an extremely more competitive race when polling only registered voters, not those who are more likely to vote. In this scenario, the poll shows that Youngkin and McAuliffe are essentially tied with the former polling at 48% and the latter at 47%, however, even in this scenario Youngkin has also experienced a seven-point swing in his favor.
According to FiveThirtyEight’s poll aggregator, both candidates are now tied at 47.1% of the vote, the first time this happens since the website started to collect poll data on the Virginia race.
The gubernatorial race in Virginia will be a crucial one, as a Republican victory in a state that Biden won with a 10% margin would certainly raise the alarms in the headquarters of the DNC as it would be a direct rebuke of the electorate on President Biden, and it could foreshadow the results in next year’s midterms.
Virginia voters trust Youngkin more in the economy, education, and crime
According to the poll, Virginia voters tend to have more confidence that the Republican candidate will do a better job handling most of the key issues that have defined the election.
A majority of 53% of likely voters trust Youngkin will do a better job handling the economy, compared with McAuliffe’s 43%, while the Republican also has the majority of Virginia’s likely voters (53%) trust in the issue of crime.
With 52% of likely voters trusting Youngkin more on education, which has become one of the most central issues of the campaign as parents across the state have engaged in contentious school board meetings due to their concerns that controversial content like CRT or sexually graphic books have been taught to their kids in class.
The saliency of education as a key issue in this year’s election has been better exemplified in Loudoun County, where the members of the school board have been under heavy fire over the content they have approved to be taught in the schools of the county. Most alarmingly, the school board has been under extreme criticisms as it was revealed that a young girl was sexually assaulted in a school bathroom back in May and that the school board authorities mishandled the case, ending in the same student sexually assaulting another girl in October.
Glenn Youngkin has called for an open investigation on the scandal, as it was also later revealed that the superintendent of the school where the assault occurred lied during a school board meeting, saying that he did not have received any information about sexual assaults in school bathrooms, although he had sent an email detailing the case to the school board weeks before.
The only issue, according to the Fox News poll, where voters trust McAuliffe a little more is on that of COVID-19, with the survey showing that likely voters are almost equally split between both candidates with 45% trusting McAuliffe and 46% trusting Youngkin.
Whether the Fox News poll is an outlier and Mr. Youngkin’s share of the vote is not as high as that predicted by the survey remains to be seen. What is clear, however, is that Republicans have a very real chance of winning in a state that Democrats have consistently won since 2009.