How Virginia voters decided between Youngkin, McAuliffe: Fox News Voter Analysis:


Republican Glenn Youngkin bested Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia governor’s race, racking up strong margins among reliably Republican groups — plus making inroads among key Democratic constituencies. 

Youngkin, a former businessman, became the first Republican to win statewide office in Virginia since Bob McDonnell won the governorship in 2009. President Biden won the state by 10 points a year ago, and outgoing Gov. Ralph Northam won by 9 points in 2017. 

McAuliffe won the 2013 governor’s race by 3 points and was attempting to pull off a rare feat this time around: Virginia has had just one governor elected to multiple terms in office since the 1860s. 

FOX NEWS VOTER ANALYSIS ON VIRGINIA GOVERNOR’S RACE

Near-final data from the Fox News Voter Analysis, a survey of more than 2,600 Virginia voters, sheds light on the key themes underlying the election and the demographics of each candidate’s support. 

Virginia Republican Glenn Youngkin, left, stressed a campaign approach that differed from that of Democrat Terry McAulifee.

Virginia Republican Glenn Youngkin, left, stressed a campaign approach that differed from that of Democrat Terry McAulifee.

Two approaches

Throughout the campaign, McAuliffe sought to cast Youngkin as overly supportive of former President Trump. Youngkin, on the other hand, emphasized tax cuts, education, and tried to tap into the feeling that the country was on the wrong track under Biden. Youngkin’s approach was more successful, leading to an upset victory in a state that has trended Democratic in recent years. 

Overall, voters said the economy was the top issue facing the state, followed distantly by the pandemic and education. 

McAuliffe won pandemic voters by a wide margin, but Youngkin carried the day by winning economy voters by 27 points and education voters by an even wider margin. 

Sparring over mask mandates, critical race theory, and parental input pushed education to the center of the race. It took on particular importance after the final gubernatorial debate, in which McAuliffe said parents “shouldn’t be telling schools what they should teach.”

Youngkin promised to ban the teaching of critical race theory and empower parents in decisions about education. 

One-quarter of voters cited the debate over teaching critical race theory as the single most important factor to their vote for governor, and they backed the Republican by more than 2-to-1.

Parents who said CRT was the single most important factor to their vote went for the Republican by a narrower 25-point margin. 

The debate over controlling the spread of COVID-19 in schools was much more favorable ground for McAuliffe. He advocated for a statewide mask mandate for students, while Youngkin held that decisions on masking should be left to parents. 

Six-in-10 sided with McAuliffe on the issue. 

More than one-quarter said handling coronavirus in schools was the most important factor to their vote, and they broke heavily for McAuliffe. 

Parents for whom COVID was the most important factor went for the Democrat by 24 points. 

Overall, Youngkin won parents by a very narrow margin. 

Taxes, taxes, taxes

Youngkin campaigned on cutting taxes, including eliminating state and local taxes on groceries and delaying a scheduled increase in gas taxes. That helped him to a big win among the 2-in-10 voters who said the candidates’ positions on taxes were the most important factor to their vote.

A similar number cited negotiations in Washington over Biden’s agenda as central to their vote — and these voters went for Youngkin by 18 points. 

Overall, voters disapproved of Biden’s performance as president. 

A narrow majority had a positive evaluation of his handling of the pandemic, while less than half approved of the job he has done on immigration and the economy.

All told, two-thirds believed the country was heading in the wrong direction. This frustration benefitted Youngkin, as three-quarters of these voters backed the Republican. 

Biden, Trump factors

Biden endorsed McAuliffe and held events in Virginia on his behalf, while Trump endorsed Youngkin but limited his involvement to online appeals. A majority of Virginians held negative views of Trump, but McAuliffe was able to win nearly 2-in-10 of these voters. 

The Republican won almost all of those with a favorable view of the former president. 

All told, slightly more voters felt Youngkin was too supportive of Trump than felt he struck the right chord in his support. 

Glenn Youngkin won nearly all Virginia voters who hold a favorable view of former President Trump.

Glenn Youngkin won nearly all Virginia voters who hold a favorable view of former President Trump.
(Getty Images)

More voters held positive views of Youngkin than McAuliffe. Less than half had favorable opinions of Northam, the Democratic Party, and the Republican Party. 

As he did in his 2013 campaign — and as Democrats in Virginia have done for years — McAuliffe relied heavily on the support of Black voters. Women, the college-educated, and voters under 30 were also key parts of his coalition. 

Still, each of these groups shifted noticeably rightward compared to 2017. Four years ago, Northam won 92% of the Black vote, 59% of women, 58% of college-educated voters, and 64% of young voters. 

Seniors also swung, backing Youngkin by double digits after voting for Republican Ed Gillespie by 1 point in 2017. 

Youngkin racked up substantial margins among men, Whites without a college degree, rural voters, and White evangelicals. 

McAuliffe won urban voters by a wide margin, while rural voters went for the Republican. The two candidates essentially battled to a draw in the suburbs, with McAuliffe winning suburban women by 8 points and suburban men going for Youngkin by 7.

The relatively small group of independents went narrowly for McAuliffe. 

Meanwhile, a majority gave positive evaluations of Virginia’s economy, though just 16% said they were getting ahead financially. Slightly more (19%) said they were falling behind.

Vaccines

Six-in-10 favored a vaccine mandate for health care workers (64%) and teachers (63%). McAuliffe came out in favor of vaccine requirements, while Youngkin held that vaccination should be a personal decision. 

While 7-in-10 viewed racism in U.S. society (71%) and racism in policing (69%) as a serious problem, that failed to translate into a widespread call for schools to increase their focus on racism.

Both campaigns focused a good deal of attention on the integrity of the election — whether votes would be counted accurately and whether election laws would prevent fraud or make it difficult for eligible voters to vote. 

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Eight-in-10 voters (78%) were confident that votes would be accurately tallied, but there were dramatic differences in confidence between the two candidates’ supporters. Almost all McAuliffe voters (97%) were confident in the vote count, compared to 6-in-10 Youngkin supporters (59%).  

Overall, far more were confident that eligible voters would be allowed to vote (94%) than that those not eligible would be prevented from doing so (67%). 

Methodology

The Fox News Voter Analysis is based on a survey conducted by NORC [National Opinion Research Center] at the University of Chicago with Virginia registered voters. This survey of more than 2,600 voters was conducted Oct. 27-Nov. 2, concluding at the end of voting on Election Day. The poll features interviews from a probability sample drawn from a registered voter list and interviews from a nonprobability sample, and includes both voters and non-voters for enhanced analytical purposes. The data collection was multi-mode (landline, cellphone, and online) and the full sample was calibrated to be representative of the population of registered voters, as well as to be consistent with the actual election results. Results among all Virginia voters interviewed have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, including the design effect.

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