Roanoke College Poll: Democrats lead GOP ahead of Virginia November election

Published: Aug. 20, 2021 at 9:38 AM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ/Roanoke College Poll Release) - Former Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe, trying to get his old seat back, holds an 8-percentage point lead over Republican Glenn Youngkin (46%-38%) in the race for Virginia governor, with 13% undecided, according to a new Roanoke College Poll released August 20.

That’s a larger lead than McAuliffe has in a new L. Douglas Wilder Poll.

See WDBJ7 interviews with both candidates at the bottom of this story.

Democrats also lead in other statewide races, with Del. Hala Ayala (D) leading former Del. Winsome Sears (R) 42%-36% for lieutenant governor and Attorney General Mark Herring (D) leading Del. Jason Miyares (R) 45%-37% in the race for attorney general.

Click here to see the complete poll.

“While one would always prefer to be ahead than behind, the news is not all rosy for McAuliffe,” said Dr. Harry Wilson, senior political analyst for the Roanoke College Poll. “Both candidates are above water in terms of favorable ratings, and each can improve on those numbers, or they may decline due to the percentage of voters who are at least somewhat unfamiliar with them. This election is not 2020, nor is it 2017.”

Republicans are very unhappy with the state of the nation and the Commonwealth, much as Democrats were in 2017,” Wilson continued. “While the 2017 exit poll is the best and only verifiable standard to use for statistical weighting to estimate the 2021 electorate, it is at least possible that Republicans can use their collective angst to increase turnout. We will measure voter enthusiasm in future polls to try to determine if that is the case.”

The Institute for Policy and Opinion Research interviewed 558 likely Virginia voters between Aug. 3 and Aug. 17 and has a margin of error of +4.2%, according to poll officials.

Likely voters see the economy (26%) and COVID (9%) as the most important issues in the election, ahead of race relations (7%), education (7%) and health care (6%).

McAuliffe’s favorable rating is 44%, while his unfavorable is 32%, with 21% unsure or don’t know enough to have an opinion, according to the poll. Youngkin is at 27%/21% favorable/unfavorable, but half (50%) of likely voters still don’t have an opinion about him.

Voters, the poll indicates, prefer a candidate with governmental experience (48%) over one with business experience (38%), and they are more likely to think policy in the Commonwealth has been moving too far in the liberal direction (41%) than in the conservative direction (6%).

When asked about public trust in how mass media cover news “fully, accurately and fairly,” 33% of respondents had no trust or confidence, 28% said not very much, 29% said a fair amount, with 8% saying a great deal.

48% of likely voters approve of the way President Biden is handling his job, according to the poll, while 43% disapprove. Biden’s approval rating has remained steady, but disapproval has risen from 30% in February to 39% in May and 43% in August. Biden’s favorable/unfavorable rating is 48%/43%. Job approval for Congress is 17%, and 71% disapprove. One-third (33%) of respondents think the country is headed in the right direction while 58% think it is on the wrong track.

Job approval for Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam sits at 52%, up slightly from May, while 38% disapprove of his performance, also increased since May, according to the poll.

52% of respondents think Virginia is headed in the right direction, but 43% think it is on the wrong track, according to the poll. 41% approve of the job being done by Virginia’s General Assembly, while 35% disapprove. Northam is viewed favorably by 48% of likely voters and seen unfavorably by 37%.

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