Republican Glenn Youngkin now holds a clear lead over Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia gubernatorial race with five days to go before Election Day, according to a just-released poll.
The Fox News survey showed Youngkin leading McAuliffe by eight percentage points (53-45) among likely voters, with just 2 percent supporting other candidates or undecided.
That represents a dramatic turnaround from just two weeks ago, when the same poll showed McAuliffe with 51 percent support among likely voters, 46 percent supporting Youngkin and 3 percent undecided or supporting other candidates.
Youngkin also leads McAuliffe by a single percentage point (48-47) among all registered voters, a 12-point turnaround from two weeks earlier, when McAullife held a 52-41 advantage among registered voters.
The poll also shows more bad news for President Biden, as fewer than half of Virginia’s registered voters (45 percent) now approve of the job he’s doing as president, down six percentage points from just two weeks ago.
On the other hand, 53 percent of registered voters and 56 percent of likely voters disapprove of Biden’s job performance — up from 48 and 49, respectively, in the mid-October survey.
McAuliffe, who previously served as Virginia’s governor between 2014 and 2018, had been considered a strong favorite to keep the commonwealth’s Executive Mansion in Democratic hands after Biden carried Virginia by 10 percentage points in last year’s presidential election.
As recently as late August, one poll of likely voters showed McAuliffe leading Youngkin by 9 percentage points.
However, McAuliffe has stumbled repeatedly on the topic of education — long considered a pet Democratic issue — as parents raise concerns about the implementation of critical race theory and other controversial topics in K-12 curricula.
During a Sept. 28 debate, McAuliffe flatly stated, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach” when asked to respond to complaints about sexually explicit books.
Youngkin jumped on the issue, accusing McAuliffe in the same debate of trying to “suppress and silence” parents so schools could push a woke “radical political agenda” in classrooms.
The Republican has also vowed to “ban critical race theory as soon as he is elected,” while McAuliffe has attempted to claim the topic is non-existent in Virginia schools.
“Let me be clear: Critical race theory is not taught in Virginia. Nor has it ever been taught,” McAuliffe told WJLA-TV in a contentious interview last week. “I’ll be honest with you. I find it so offensive. It is a racist dog whistle and all he’s trying to do is divide parents and use children as political pawns.”
McAuliffe later ended the interview abruptly, but not before he declined to discuss an Oct. 4 memo by Attorney General Merrick Garland that critics say targeted parents who complain to school boards about critical race theory and other issues in places like tony Loudoun County in northern Virginia.
“I will leave the attorney general of the United States to make their decisions. I have no knowledge of it,” the Democrat said. “They are going to make their own decisions. We want to keep our schools safe.”
By contrast, Youngkin has called for an investigation of Loudoun County Public Schools over claims it covered up the sexual assault of a female student in a high school bathroom earlier this year. The alleged victim’s father was arrested in June when he attempted to confront school board officials about the alleged attack.
As a result, the poll finds that 52 percent of likely Virginia voters give Youngkin the nod when asked who they would trust to do a better job on the issue of education while 44 percent back McAuliffe.
Youngkin also enjoys an 11-percentage point advantage (53-42) when likely voters are asked who would do a better job with the commonwealth’s economy — and even has a slight edge among likely voters on the topic of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, with 46 percent backing him to do a better job on the issue than McAuliffe (45 percent).
The poll surveyed 1,212 registered Virginia voters, with a subset of 1,015 defined as likely voters. The survey has a margin of error of plus-or-minus three percentage points.