Youngkin leads McAuliffe for the first time in a Virginia governor’s race poll

A Virginia gubernatorial poll released Wednesday shows Republican Glenn Youngkin leading Democrat Terry McAuliffe with likely voters for the first time, a sign that President Biden’s tanking approval ratings may have become a drag on Democrats.

The University of Mary Washington poll conducted Sept. 7-13 found the Republican businessman ahead of Mr. McAuliffe, the state’s former governor, by 48% to 43% with likely voters in a blue-trending state that Mr. Biden carried in 2020 by 10 percentage points.

The down-ticket Republican candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general also held narrow leads over their Democratic competitors ahead of the Nov. 2 election, according to the survey of 1,000 Virginia residents, including 528 likely voters.

Stephen J. Farnsworth, UMW professor of political science and director of the Center for Leadership and Media Studies, said “this year’s contest for governor looks to be the closest statewide election in years.”

“This election looks very different from those of the past four years, when Democrats could win by substantial margins by just focusing the electorate on President Trump,” said Mr. Farnsworth in a press release. “He is not president any more, and recent Democratic advantages in statewide contests seem to have departed with him.”

Another possibility: Mr. Biden’s precipitous drop in the polls following last month’s botched exit from Afghanistan.

A Gallup poll released Wednesday found the president’s approval rating at 43%, the latest survey to show Mr. Biden under 50% for the first time in his presidency, with two-thirds of his slide coming from independent voters.

The UMW survey showed 48% of all respondents disapproved of Mr. Biden’s job performance while 44% approved.



Mr. McAuliffe held the advantage over Mr. Youngkin with registered voters by 46% to 41%, with Liberation Party candidate Princess Blanding picking up 2% with both likely and registered voters.

The poll was the first to show Mr. Youngkin leapfrogging the better-known ex-governor, a former Democratic operative who held the post from 2014 to 2018, as shown on the RealClearPolitics and FiveThirtyEight poll trackers.

The RealClearPolitics polling average still has Mr. McAuliffe in front by 2.8 percentage points.

In the lieutenant governor’s race, Republican Winsome Sears led Democrat Hala Ayala by 47% to 41%, while Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring trailed in his reelection bid against Republican Jason Miyares by 46% to 42%.

The poll’s error margin with likely voters was 4.1 percentage points and 3.1 points with registered voters.

The survey also found 49% of respondents thought the nation was heading in the wrong direction, versus 23% who said in the right direction.

“This is an electorate in a very foul mood,” Mr. Farnsworth said. “We shouldn’t be surprised. COVID has created the biggest health care and economic shocks to the world in decades and we prematurely thought the crises were over. So it is no wonder that voters are expressing high levels of frustration.”

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