Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin are deadlocked in the state’s governor’s race, according to a new poll from Monmouth University, as the Republican gains in the closing weeks of the race.
The poll shows both men with 46 percent support among registered voters. McAuliffe has lost ground since the last poll from the university in September, in which he held a narrow, 5-point lead. Two percent of voters prefer another candidate, and 7 percent are undecided.
Various modeling of the potential electorate from the pollster found anywhere from a 3-point lead for the former governor to a 3-point lead for Youngkin, a first-time candidate and private equity executive, the first time he has had a lead in any of Monmouth’s modeling in the state.
The two men have seen their support flip among independent voters. Youngkin leads 48 percent to 39 percent in this month’s poll, compared to a 46 percent to 37 percent lead for McAuliffe in the September poll. Notably, McAuliffe’s lead among women has shrunk from a 14-point lead last month, down to a 4-point lead in the poll now.
“Suburban women, especially in Northern Virginia, have been crucial to the sizable victories Democrats have enjoyed in the commonwealth since 2017,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute, in a release accompanying the poll.
“However, their support is not registering at the same level this time around,” he continued. “This is due partly to a shift in key issues important to these voters and partly to dampened enthusiasm among the party faithful.”
President Joe Biden’s approval rating is also well underwater in a state he carried by 10 points, with 43 percent saying they approve of the jobs he is doing as president and 52 percent saying they disapprove.
Under the hood: McAuliffe continues to be hindered by an enthusiasm gap for Democrats in the state. Significantly more Republicans (49 percent) say they are more enthusiastic about this election compared to past gubernatorial elections than Democrats who say the same (26 percent). It is tighter when asked how motivated voters are to cast their ballots: 79 percent of Republicans say very motivated, while 72 percent of Democrats say the same.
“Motivation tends to be a better indication of turnout than self-reported enthusiasm,” Murray said. “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.”
Youngkin’s recent focus on education could also explain the tightening race. It is chosen the second most as a leading factor for Virginians as they decide their choice for governor, trailing just jobs and the economy.
The two men are trusted by about the same percentage of Virginians on the issue — a gain for Youngkin — as the Republican has turned much of his attention to the subject in the closing weeks of the race.
The poll was conducted from Oct. 16-19 and surveyed 1,005 registered voters in the state. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.