Exit polls: Economy tops education and Covid-19 as the most important issue for Virginia voters

Just under a quarter said education is most important, about 15% chose tax, about 14% chose coronavirus pandemic and only about a tenth chose abortion.

McAuliffe voters call the economy and coronavirus their main problems, followed by education. Among Youngkin’s voters, the economy is the most important issue, followed by education and taxes.

Most voters view Virginia’s economy favorably, with around 56% rating it either excellent or good.

National debates over masking and Covid-19 vaccine mandates strained the Virginia gubernatorial contest, in which Youngkin had exploited existing frustration with distance learning for months under Covid-19 to hear his more partisan messages about parents’ right to decide how their children being taught about America’s racial history.

Although early exit polls show that the pandemic is not at the top of voters’ concerns, it is overwhelmingly likely that they will be vaccinated, and a small majority supports workplace vaccination mandates. The vast majority of voters in Virginia, more than 8 out of 10, say they have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, and just over half say they are in favor of employers demanding that their employees being vaccinated.

McAuliffe has a leading tip among voters calling the pandemic the biggest problem. The small minority of unvaccinated voters predominantly support Youngkin, while McAuliffe has a more modest majority among vaccinated voters. More than 80% of those who support a mandate in the workplace are in favor of McAuliffe, while more than 80% of those who are against it are in favor of Youngkin.

In his concluding argument to voters ahead of election day, Youngkin sought to center the national implications of the race, in part on education.

Preliminary results from exit polls show that about half of Virginia voters say parents should have a lot to say about what their children’s school teaches, with about a third saying parents should have something to say, and a little over 1 in 10 say they should have little or no say. This feeling is even more pronounced among parents with children under 18, of which more than 60% say that parents should have a lot to say.

Voters support candidates along party lines

Voters’ views on McAuliffe are underwater, while their views on Youngkin are modestly positive. About three-quarters of voters – including the corresponding proportions of those who support each candidate – say they see their election as governor as more in favor of their candidate than against his opponent.

Both Republicans and Democrats overwhelmingly support their party’s candidates, with independents breaking a little in Youngkin’s favor. Youngkin also has male voters with a margin of about 11 points, and White Evangelicals with about 74 points. The exit poll also suggests a small advantage for the Republican in the suburbs, an area that shifted toward Democrats during Donald Trump’s presidency.
Virginia voters at this year’s election have negative attitudes toward both President Joe Biden and Trump. Biden, who won comfortably in Virginia last year, now faces approval ratings significantly underwater in the state, where about 45% approve and the rest reject – probably a consequence of both his declining viewership since he took office and the composition of voters who turned out to vote this year. Only about one-fifth of voters say they see their vote as a way of expressing support for Biden, with almost 3 out of 10 saying it is a way of expressing opposition and the remaining half saying that The bite was not a factor. Trump is no longer popular in the state: only about 4 out of 10 see him positively.

In the final days of the campaign, McAuliffe had crossed the state across the Virginia election as a chance for Democrats to reaffirm their eight years of Democratic leadership in the Commonwealth by delivering Republicans and the former president a defeat ahead of the critical elections in 2022 and 2024.

Another electorate

A narrow majority of voters say the Democratic Party is generally too liberal, while fewer call the Republican Party too conservative. About two-thirds of Democratic voters say the ideology of their own party is about right, while about two-thirds of Republicans say the same about the GOP. Independents are less satisfied with both parties, with just under a quarter saying that the Democratic Party is generally right, and only about a third saying it is the GOP.

More than 80% of voters say they are at least a little confident that the votes in the state will be counted accurately, but just under half call themselves very confident. Democrats about four times as likely as Republicans say they are very confident in the accuracy of the election.

Virginia’s electorate in the governor’s race does not look the same as it has in recent elections, preliminary results suggest. About 74% of voters are white, compared to about two-thirds in the 2017 gubernatorial election and 2020 presidential election. Voters are also older than a year ago – only about one-tenth are under 30, compared to 20% in 2020.

That Virginia CNN Exit Poll is a combination of personal interviews with Election Day voters and telephone and online polls that measure views from absent email and early voters. It was conducted by Edison Research on behalf of the National Election Pool. Personal interviews on Election Day were conducted at a random sample of 35 polling stations in Virginia among 1,452 Election Day voters. The results also include 2,068 interviews with early and absent voters conducted by phone, online or via text message. Results for the whole sample have a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points; it is larger for subgroups.

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