Less than two weeks before Election Day in Virginia, the Democrat and Republican candidates are neck-and-neck in the latest poll from the Monmouth University Polling Institute released on Wednesday.
The poll found that former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, and Republican Glenn Youngkin both hold the same level of support among registered voters in Virginia: 46%. This follows several polls in which McAuliffe held a 5-point lead over Youngkin.
Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, noted that “Suburban women, especially in Northern Virginia, have been crucial to the sizable victories Democrats have enjoyed in the commonwealth since 2017. However, their support is not registering at the same level this time around. This is due partly to a shift in key issues important to these voters and partly to dampened enthusiasm among the party faithful.”
He added that “Motivation tends to be a better indication of turnout than self-reported enthusiasm. The gridlock in Washington certainly plays a role in dampening Democrats’ mood, but there are some stumbles on the part of the McAuliffe campaign that have also had an impact. Either way, this voter engagement gap is good news for Youngkin.”
When it comes to issues, McAuliffe still holds an advantage over Youngkin over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, but his lead on that particular point shrunk from 41% in September to 37% this month. McAuliffe also lost his advantage over Youngkin on education and schools, and is tied with the Republican on multiple other issues.
“McAuliffe’s sizable edge on handling Covid and his competitiveness on economic issues last month helped put him ahead in this race, but Youngkin has been able to change the terms of the debate, by using his opponent’s words on parental involvement in the school curriculum to shift voter attention on that issue. Not only has this eaten away at the Democrat’s previous advantage on education policy, but it has also raised doubts about McAuliffe’s ability to handle the pandemic,” Murray noted.
“To counter his own growing negatives, McAuliffe launched a series of ads painting Youngkin as an extremist while this poll was in the field. It’s not clear whether this blitz will move the needle, but the Democrat needs it to do just that if he wants to return to Richmond,” he added.
Monmouth surveyed 1,005 registered voters from October 16-19, 2021 with a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points.
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