Poll: McAuliffe, Youngkin virtually tied in final weeks of Va. governor’s race

Emerson/Nexstar’s newest poll of likely voters was conducted between Oct. 1 and Oct. 3 with a +/- 3.9 point margin of error. Its full findings are available online. (Courtesy Emerson College/Nexstar Media)

A poll suggests Virginia’s gubernatorial race has narrowed even further in the final weeks before Election Day, but stark regional and demographic divides persist between support for either candidate.

The latest Emerson College/Nexstar Media Group poll of 620 likely Virginia voters has Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe holding a slim lead of 49% over Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin’s 48%. McAuliffe’s margin tightened from four points to one when compared to polling conducted last month; 2% remained undecided as of early October, with 1% planning to vote for someone else.

McAuliffe maintained a decisive lead among Black voters in Emerson’s poll of 72% versus Youngkin’s 25%. Meanwhile, the GOP nominee leads among white voters with 53% compared to McAuliffe’s 45%, and Hispanic voters with 55% to 45% for McAuliffe.



Northern Virginia remains a McAuliffe stronghold overall, where the former governor leads 64% to 36% in an area including the 8th, 10th and 11th congressional districts. In the commonwealth’s southeast, Youngkin runs 61% to 36% between the 5th, 6th and 9th districts; the Republican candidate also maintains a 58% to 36% lead along Virginia’s east coast including the 1st, 2nd and 7th districts.

Emerson’s newest poll found Virginia’s urban residents leaned toward McAuliffe 59% to 36% while rural areas broke for Youngkin with 57% versus McAuliffe’s 42%. The state’s suburbs were a more even split, with Youngkin eking out a slight lead of 49% compared to 48% of suburb dwellers backing McAuliffe.

“While the race is tight, a majority of Virginia voters, totaling 55%, expect the former governor Terry McAuliffe to win this November, compared to 44% of voters who expect Youngkin to win,” Emerson said in a news release.

The same poll found President Joe Biden’s approval rating underwater by three percentage points in a state the Democrat swept by 10 points over Donald Trump last November. Emerson also found that 45% approved of Biden, 48% disapproved and 8% were neutral — even after Biden campaigned for McAuliffe over the summer.

Some see the race as an early measure of voters’ judgment on Democratic control of all branches of the federal government.

“When respondents were asked if Biden’s endorsement of McAuliffe made them more or less likely to support his candidacy, 22% said more likely, 39% said less likely, and 38% said it had no difference,” Emerson said.

In the race for Virginia’s next attorney general, incumbent Democrat Mark Herring leads over GOP challenger Jason Miyares 46% to 44%, with 10% undecided. Among undecided voters, 65% lean toward Miyares while 35% lean to Herring.

Emerson/Nexstar’s newest poll was conducted between Oct. 1 and Oct. 3 with a +/- 3.9 point margin of error. Its full findings are available online.

Early voting began for Virginia’s general election on Sept. 17. See WTOP’s Virginia voter guide with registration deadlines and how-tos. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day, which is Tuesday, Nov. 2.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Alejandro Alvarez

Alejandro Alvarez joined WTOP as a digital reporter and editor in June 2018. He is a writer and photojournalist focusing on politics, political activism and national affairs, with recent multimedia contributions to Reuters, MSNBC and PBS.

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