Northern Virginia residents Terry McAuliffe and Glenn Youngkin are neck and neck in their race for governor, while Prince William County Del. Hala Ayala holds a significant lead in her bid for the state’s second-highest office, according to a poll released late last week by Virginia Commonwealth University.
The poll by VCU’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs found McAuliffe, the Democratic candidate, leading the Republican, Youngkin, by 40% to 37%, with 23% of the respondents undecided or unwilling to vote for either candidate. McAuliffe’s 3-point lead was within the poll’s margin of error of 5.23%.
The poll featured landline and mobile telephone interviews from Aug. 4-15 with a sample of 823 adults living in Virginia.
McAuliffe, who lives in McLean, is seeking a second term as governor, having previously served from 2014-2018. Youngkin, a Great Falls resident, is a political newcomer who retired last year as co-CEO of the Carlyle Group.
“As of this survey, there have been no debates between the candidates for governor or lieutenant governor,” said former Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, after whom the school is named. “The gubernatorial candidates are in a virtual dead heat. That could change once positions are taken on the issues…. How the pandemic affects turnout and enthusiasm energizes voters should be of utmost concern.”
In the race for lieutenant governor, Ayala, a two-term member of the Virginia House of Delegates from Prince William’s 51st District, leads Republican Winsome Sears by 39% to 31%. However, 12% of voters say they are undecided about the race, and 17% are unwilling to vote for either candidate.
In the race for attorney general, Democrat Mark Herring, a Loudoun County resident seeking re-election to his third term, has the largest lead of all statewide candidates at 41% to 30% over Republican challenger Jason Miyares. Ten percent of likely voters say they are undecided in this race, and 19% are unwilling to vote for either candidate.
Poll respondents were also asked which party they would rather see in control of the Virginia General Assembly. All 100 House of Delegates seats are up for election in November, with Democrats currently holding a 55-45 advantage. Democrats have a slight edge over Republicans (44% vs. 40%) with 6% of voters undecided.
In all three statewide races, the Democratic candidates hold substantial leads in Northern Virginia. For example, in the gubernatorial race, McAuliffe leads Youngkin by 51% to 24% in the region. In last year’s presidential election, Democrat Joe Biden won 69% of the vote in Northern Virginia.
Youngkin leads McAuliffe in the northwestern and western parts of the state, while voters are split in the south central and Tidewater regions.
In terms of job approval for those already in office, respondents split on how Gov. Ralph Northam is handling his job, with 51% saying they approve and 42% saying they disapprove. Minority and/or Hispanic respondents (65%) are more likely than white, non-Hispanic respondents (44%) to approve of Northam’s job performance.
Virginians show strongest approval for Northam’s handling of COVID-19 (57%) and public education (52%), but less than half of respondents approve of how he has handled health care (47%), racial inequity (47%), the environment (44%) and the state budget (41%).
Northam, a Democrat, cannot run for re-election under the state’s constitution.
Virginians are also split on their approval of President Joe Biden, with 51% approving and 47% disapproving of his current job performance.
The 2021 statewide and General Assembly elections are Nov. 2; early voting begins Sept. 17.