ARLINGTON, Va. — A third poll in a row shows the Virginia governor’s race tied between Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin and Democratic former Governor Terry McAuliffe, underscoring the contest’s dramatic narrowing from McAuliffe leading by five points in August, to a dead heat one week before Election Day.
The latest survey conducted by Emerson College and Nexstar Media shows both candidates at 49%, with McAuliffe’s support among likely Virginia voters remaining virtually unchanged from the poll’s Sept. 13-22 data.
Youngkin’s support is up from 45% of voters polled by Emerson / Nexstar in mid-September. The latest results released Monday surveyed more than 800 likely Virginia voters over the Oct. 22-23 weekend.
“I really think we’re looking at a photo finish,” said Dr. Stephen J. Farnsworth, professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington.
“I think the vast majority of voters are going to vote almost automatically for the party they belong to. That’s why it doesn’t matter what anyone says, or anyone does – the numbers are still within the margin of error.”
Virginia Democrats are determined to move the needle, bringing in party luminaries from former President Obama visiting Richmond last weekend, to President Joe Biden campaigning with McAuliffe in Arlington on Tuesday.
Yet surveys have shown the two candidates locked in a tie for two weeks now – first in a Trafalgar Group poll conducted Oct. 11-13, then in a Monmouth survey Oct. 16-19.
“It’s clear that McAuliffe has had a challenge in the final stretch of this race, communicating to his base to get out the vote and continue the momentum of the Democratic leadership we’ve seen at the state level,” said Dr. Ravi Perry, Political Science Chair at Howard University.
“When you are presumed to be the front-runner, usually in the couple of weeks before the campaign ends, you find some support picking up for the challenger.”
Voters overall polled in the Emerson / Nexstar survey said education is the most important issue facing Virginia (21%), as the Republican candidate focuses on culture wars found within Loudoun County’s school board and across the commonwealth.
“School politics matter, particularly in gubernatorial elections, because in the commonwealth of Virginia, the state Board of Education sets curriculum,” Perry offered. “And those members of the state board are appointed by the governor.”
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