Virginia governor's race now hinges on education, and one candidate has a clear edge: poll

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Education is now the top issue for voters in the Virginia governor’s race between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin, with the two candidates neck and neck in the final stretch according to a new poll.

The latest Washington Post-Schar School poll released Friday shows education is now the number one issue with 24% of Virginia voters citing it as such, up nine points from the previous poll taken last month.

Democratic candidate for governor of Virginia Terry McAuliffe looks on during his campaign rally in Arlington, Virginia, U.S. October 26, 2021. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

In September, the top issue was the economy for voters in the commonwealth, with 27% pointing to it as the priority at the time. The latest numbers show the economy as the second-most important issue at 23%.

The results from the survey conducted Oct. 20-26 is good news for Youngkin, who has gained the support of a majority of parents after making education the key issue in the campaign. 

AMHERST, VIRGINIA – OCTOBER 28: Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin delivers remarks at a campaign event in the parking lot of Vito’s Pizza Bar & Grill on October 28, 2021 in Amherst, Virginia. Youngkin is on a campaign bus tour across the state of Virginia as he contests Democratic candidate and former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe in the state election that is less than a week away on November 2. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Virginia voters who cited education as their top priority favored McAuliffe by 33 points in September, but the latest numbers show they now favor Youngkin by nine points.

The Washington Post-Schar School’s October numbers also showed that the race has narrowed further between McAuliffe and Youngkin, with the Democrat falling from 50% of likely voters’ support in September to 49% this month. The percentage of likely voters that favor Youngkin went from 47% to 48% over the past month.

ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA – SEPTEMBER 28:  Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (L) (D-VA) and Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin (R) particpate in a debate hosted by the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce September 28, 2021 in Alexandria, Virginia. The gubernatorial election is November 2. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
(Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Up until a few weeks ago, McAuliffe led the race in every poll, but the tide began to turn after the Democrat – who previously served as governor of the commonwealth – declared last month, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they need to teach.”

Youngkin, in contrast, has taken the side of parents who have been pushing back against curriculums featuring critical race theory and school libraries offering books with pornographic content available to students. Two of the school boards that have received the most national bad press over parents’ frustrations are Virginia’s Loudoun and Fairfax counties.

The election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 2.

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