How Virginia Voters Decided Between Youngkin, McAuliffe: Fox News Voter Analysis:

Republican Glenn Youngkin defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia governor’s race, gaining strong margins among trusted Republican groups – plus making inroads among key Democratic constituencies.

Youngkin, a former businessman, became the first Republican to win a nationwide office in Virginia since Bob McDonnell won the governorship in 2009. President Biden won the state by 10 points a year ago, and outgoing governor Ralph Northam won by 9 points in 2017.

McAuliffe won the gubernatorial race in 2013 by 3 points and tried to achieve a rare feat this time: Virginia has only had one governor elected for multiple terms since the 1860s.


Near-final data from Fox News Voter Analysis, a survey of more than 2,600 Virginia voters, sheds light on the key themes underlying the election and the demographics of each candidate’s support.

Virginia Republican Glenn Youngkin, left, emphasized a campaign approach that differed from Democrat Terry McAulifees.

Virginia Republican Glenn Youngkin, left, emphasized a campaign approach that differed from Democrat Terry McAulifees.

Two approaches

Throughout the campaign, McAuliffe tried to cast Youngkin as overly supportive of former President Trump. Youngkin, on the other hand, emphasized tax cuts, education, and tried to exploit the feeling that the country was on the wrong track under Biden. Youngkin’s approach was more successful, leading to a resounding victory in a state that has been democratic in recent years.

Overall, voters said the economy was the biggest problem for the state, followed remotely by the pandemic and education.

McAuliffe won pandemic voters by a wide margin, but Youngkin carried the day by winning economics voters by 27 points and education voters by an even larger margin.

Sparring about mask mandates, critical race theory, and parental input pushed education to the center of the race. It gained particular significance after the last governor debate, in which McAuliffe said parents “should not tell schools what to teach.”

Youngkin promised to ban the teaching of critical race theory and empower parents in education decisions.

A quarter of voters cited the debate on teaching critical race theory as the single most important factor in their vote for governor, and they supported the Republican by more than 2-to-1.

Parents who said the CRT was the most important factor for their vote went after the Republican by a smaller margin of 25 points.

The debate over controlling the spread of COVID-19 in schools was much more favorable to McAuliffe. He advocated a state-wide masking mandate for students, while Youngkin believed that decisions about masking should be left to parents.

Six-in-10 sided with McAuliffe on the issue.

More than a quarter said coronavirus handling in schools was the most important factor for their voice, and they broke heavily for McAuliffe.

Parents, for whom COVID was the most important factor, went for the Democrat with 24 points.

Overall, Youngkin won parents by a very narrow margin.

Taxes, taxes, taxes

Youngkin campaigned to lower taxes, including removing state and local grocery taxes and delaying a planned increase in gas taxes. It helped him to a big victory among the 2-in-10 voters who said the candidates ’attitude to taxes was the most important factor for their vote.

A similar number cited negotiations in Washington on Biden’s agenda as central to their vote – and these voters went after Youngkin by 18 points.

Overall, voters disapproved of Biden’s performance as president.

A narrow majority had a positive evaluation of his handling of the pandemic, while less than half approved the work he has done with immigration and economics.

All in all, two-thirds thought the country was heading in the wrong direction. This frustration benefited Youngkin as three-quarters of those voters supported the Republican.

Biden, Trump factors

Biden supported McAuliffe and held events in Virginia on his behalf, while Trump supported Youngkin but limited his involvement to online appeals. A majority of Virginians had negative attitudes toward Trump, but McAuliffe was able to win nearly 2-in-10 of those voters.

The Republican won almost all of them with a positive view of the former president.

All in all, a little more voters felt that Youngkin was too supportive of Trump than that he felt he was hitting the right chord in his support.

Glenn Youngkin won almost every Virginia voter who has a positive view of former President Trump.

Glenn Youngkin won almost every Virginia voter who has a positive view of former President Trump.
(Getty Images)

More voters had positive attitudes toward Youngkin than McAuliffe. Less than half had positive opinions from Northam, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.

As he did in his 2013 campaign – and as the Democrats in Virginia have done for years – McAuliffe relied heavily on the support of black voters. Women, university graduates and voters under 30 were also important parts of his coalition.

Yet each of these groups moved significantly to the right compared to 2017. Four years ago, Northam won 92% of the black vote, 59% of the women, 58% of the university-educated voters and 64% of the young voters.

Seniors also swung and supported Youngkin in double digits after voting for Republican Ed Gillespie by 1 point in 2017.

Youngkin achieved significant margins among men, whites without a college degree, rural voters, and white evangelicals.

McAuliffe won city voters by a wide margin, while rural voters went after Republicans. The two candidates essentially fought for a draw in the suburbs, with McAuliffe winning the suburban women by 8 points and the suburban men going to Youngkin by 7.

The relatively small group of independents narrowly followed McAuliffe.

Meanwhile, a majority gave positive evaluations of Virginia’s economy, although only 16% said they were moving forward financially. Slightly more (19%) said they were sitting backwards.


Six out of 10 were in favor of a vaccine mandate for health professionals (64%) and teachers (63%). McAuliffe was in favor of vaccine claims, while Youngkin believed that vaccination should be a personal decision.

While 7-in-10 considered racism in American society (71%) and racism in the police (69%) as a serious problem, it failed to result in a widespread call for schools to increase their focus on racism.

Both campaigns focused a lot of attention on the integrity of the election – whether votes would be counted accurately and whether election laws would prevent fraud or make it difficult for eligible voters to vote.


Eight out of 10 voters (78%) were convinced that votes would be counted accurately, but there were dramatic differences in trust between the supporters of the two candidates. Nearly all McAuliffe voters (97%) were confident in the vote count compared to 6-in-10 Youngkin supporters (59%).

Overall, far more people were convinced that those entitled to vote would be allowed to vote (94%) than that those who were not eligible for election would be prevented from doing so (67%).


Fox News Voter Analysis is based on a survey conducted by NORC [National Opinion Research Center] at the University of Chicago with Virginia registered voters. This survey of more than 2,600 voters was conducted October 27-Nov. 2, concluding at the end of the voting on election day. The survey includes interviews from a probability sample taken from a registered voter list and interviews from a non-probability sample and includes both voters and non-voters for improved analytical purposes. The data collection was multi-mode (landline, mobile phone and online), and the entire sample was calibrated to be representative of the population of registered voters, as well as to be consistent with the actual election results. Results among all Virginia voters interviewed have a sampling margin of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, including the design effect.

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