Who won each group
Groups that candidates won by six or more percentage points
Glenn Youngkin defeated Terry McAuliffe in the gubernatorial election fueled by support from political independents, negative ratings of President Biden and voters focused on the economy and education, according to Virginia exit poll results.
Democrats and Republicans turned out in similar numbers in the race, and both groups overwhelmingly supported their party’s candidate, leaving independents to swing the race. They favored Youngkin by a 54 percent to 45 percent margin, exit polls showed, a big swing from the 2020 presidential election, when Biden win independents by 19 points.
Youngkin was also aided by Biden’s negative job approval ratings in the commonwealth, and the Republican had favorable ratings even among some voters who were unfavorable of former President Trump. Voters said the economy and education were the most important issues facing the state; Youngkin led McAuliffe among both groups, and led economy voters by double digits. Youngkin also out-performed Trump’s 2020 showing among several key groups.
Read below to see how different groups voted in the governor’s race and how their support compares with support for Biden and Trump in the 2020 Virginia exit poll. The poll was conducted by Edison Research for the National Election Pool, The Washington Post and other media organizations. See the bottom of the page for exit poll methodology.
Economy and jobs were top issues for Virginia voters
One-third of Virginia voters said that the economy was the most important issue facing Virginia, according to network exit polling. That was followed by about one-quarter naming education as the most important issue in their vote. Fifteen percent each said taxes or the coronavirus were their top issues, and 8 percent said abortion.
A majority of Virginia voters said the economy in the state was either “excellent” or “good,” with almost half saying it was good, rather than excellent, according to exit polling. Just over 4 in 10 said the economy was “not so good” or “poor.”
How much parents should influence school curriculums
About half of Virginia voters said parents should have “a lot” of say in what their child’s school teaches, while roughly 3 in 10 said parents should have “some” say, and just over 1 in 10 said parents should have little or no say.
Voters who said parents should have a lot of say supported Youngkin by a 77 percent to 22 percent margin, while those who said parents should have some say supported McAuliffe by a similar 77 percent to 23 percent margin. An 86 percent majority of those who said parents should have little or no say supported McAuliffe.
Public schools became an increasingly important issue late in the campaign, when Youngkin criticized McAuliffe for vetoing a bill that would give parents the right to opt their children out of certain reading assignments. The bill arose out of a parent’s concern about “Beloved,” the 1987 novel by Nobel laureate Toni Morrison about a Civil War-era Black woman who kills her 2-year-old daughter to spare the child from the evils of slavery. Youngkin said it was an effort to impose the will of the state on parents. McAuliffe said: “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”
A slight majority of Virginia voters favored employers requiring coronavirus vaccination for their employees. More than 8 in 10 voters said they had received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
Both Trump and Biden drag on their party’s candidates
Donald Trump lost Virginia by 10 percentage points in 2020, and network exit polls suggest that he remains unpopular in the state. Four in 10 Virginia voters had a favorable view of Trump, while a slight majority viewed him unfavorably. McAuliffe sought to tie Youngkin to Trump throughout the campaign — a Washington Post-Schar School poll released last week found about 7 in 10 likely voters saying Youngkin’s ideas and policies were similar to Trump’s, while about 2 in 10 said they were different.
But Biden proved a significant drag on McAuliffe, with exit polls finding voters disapproved of the president’s performance by a 53 percent to 46 percent margin. A 90 percent majority of voters who disapproved of Biden supported Youngkin for governor.