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McAuliffe Leads Governor's Race

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SALEM — Former Democrat Gov. Terry McAuliffe holds an 8-percentage point lead over Republican Glenn Youngkin (46%-38%) with 13% undecided in the race for Virginia governor, according to a Roanoke College Poll.

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%.

Democrats also lead the down-ticket races, with Del. Hala Ayala (D) leading former Del. Winsome Sears (R) by only 6 percenatge points 42%-36% for lieutenant governor and Attorney General Mark Herring (D) leading Del. Jason Miyares (R) by 8 percntage points 45%-37% in the race for attorney general.

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. Youngkin is at 27%/21% favorable/unfavorable, but half (50%) of likely voters still don’t have an opinion about him.

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

“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.”

A plurality of likely voters (48%) approves of the way President Joe Biden is handling his job, while 43% disapprove. Biden’s approval rating has remained steady, but disapproval has been rising from 30% in February to 39% in May and 43% in August. The poll was taken just before the fall of Afghanistan.

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. Just over half (52%) of respondents think that Virginia is headed in the right direction, but 43% think it is on the wrong track. Less than half (41%) approve of the job being done by Virginia’s General Assembly, while 35% disapprove. Northam is viewed favorably by 48% of likely voters (a Roanoke College Poll record high for him) and seen unfavorably by 37% (1% shy of that record).

“Republicans are very unhappy with the state of the nation and the commonwealth, much as Democrats were in 2017. 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,” Wilson said.

Regarding the different partisan views of just about everything, there is little left to say. The only thing they seem to agree on is their dislike of the other side and the fact that the nation is divided. Absent a cataclysmic event, that is unlikely to change soon,” he said.

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