buttons with the word VOTE on them
By Dr. Harry Wilson

Roanoke College Poll: Final poll prior to 2021 Virginia elections

McAuliffe and Youngkin statistically tied in race for Virginia Governor; Republicans lead in enthusiasm

Just a few days before Election Day, the race for Virginia governor is a statistical tie. Former Democrat Gov. Terry McAuliffe holds a 1-percentage point lead over Republican Glenn Youngkin (47%-46%) with 6% undecided, according to The Roanoke College Poll.[1] The downticket races are also within the margin of error, with Del. Hala Ayala (D) ahead of former Del. Winsome Sears (R) 46%-44% for lieutenant governor and Attorney General Mark Herring (D) leading Del. Jason Miyares (R) 46%-45% in the race for attorney general. The Institute for Policy and Opinion Research interviewed 571 likely Virginia voters between October 14 and October 28 and has a margin of error of +4.1%.  

Republicans hold an advantage in being extremely enthusiastic about voting (49% to 32% for Democrats), while most partisans say they are almost certain to vote or have already voted (76% of Republicans vs. 77% of Democrats). Likely voters see the economy (38%) and education (22%) as the most important issues in the election ahead of COVID (13%), health care (11%), and race relations (7%). Most voters (73%) decided who to vote for more than a month ago, but 19% decided in the last month or the last week. 

McAuliffe’s favorable rating is 44%, while his unfavorable is 43%. Youngkin is at 45%/37% favorable/unfavorable. Former President Donald Trump’s rating is 37%/54% favorable/unfavorable. Half of those polled (50%) disapprove of the job Joe Biden is doing as president, while 44% approve. 

When asked who should have control over the curriculum in public schools, teachers (43% great deal of control and 44% some control) and parents (41% great deal of control and 41% some control) scored the highest. School boards (27% great deal/54% some) and administrators (29% great deal/51% some) rated higher than local, state or federal governments. 

[1]  With “leaners” included, the totals move to McAuliffe 48%, Youngkin 47%, Blanding 1%, Undecided 4%. 

The Roanoke College Poll is funded by Roanoke College as a public service.


“Turnout, turnout, turnout. With both candidates claiming more than 90% of the votes from their party, it is a question of who votes,” said Dr. Harry Wilson, senior political analyst of the Roanoke College Poll. “Youngkin leads among Independents, so McAuliffe needs to turn out more Democrats. Virginia Democrats have done that for several elections in a row, but the significant enthusiasm gap suggests they may not be able to do it in 2021. It could be a very late Election Night…or week.”  


Interviewing for The Roanoke College Poll was conducted by The Institute for Policy and Opinion Research at Roanoke College in Salem, Va. between October 14 and October 28, 2021. A total of 571 registered voters who are likely to vote in the gubernatorial election in Virginia were interviewed by live interviewers. Telephone interviews were conducted in English, and that sample was drawn from a list of registered voters compiled by L2 Political, a non-partisan provider. Participants were sampled from that list, which has phone numbers associated with approximately 70% of the registered voters in Virginia. The list includes both landlines and cellphones. Cellphones constituted 42% of the completed phone interviews. Respondents for whom self-reported age did not match the voter list were excluded and are not counted in the 571 respondents. 

Likely voters were defined as those registered to vote in Virginia who are extremely likely or very likely to vote or have already voted in the November elections.  

Questions answered by the entire sample of 571 likely voters are subject to a sampling error of plus or minus approximately 4.1% at the 95% level of confidence. This means that in 95 out of 100 samples like the one used here, the results obtained should be no more than 4.1% percentage points above or below the figure that would be obtained by interviewing all Virginia likely voters who have a home telephone or a cellphone. Where the results of subgroups are reported, the sampling error is higher. 

Quotas were used to ensure that different age groups and regions of the Commonwealth were proportionately represented. The data were statistically weighted for gender, race and education. Weighting was done to match the modeled general and race demographics of the 2017 Virginia Gubernatorial Election. The margin of error was not adjusted to account for the design effect, 1.322, due to weighting; this would increase the margin of error to 4.7%. 

The Institute follows the American Association for Public Opinion Research’s Code of Professional Ethics and Practices and is a charter member of that association’s Transparency Initiative.   

 A copy of the questionnaire, topline and crosstabs may be found here. 

The Roanoke College Poll is funded by Roanoke College as a public service.  

For more about the Institute for Public Opinion Research, click here

CONTACT: Dr. Harry L. Wilson, Senior Political Analyst, IPOR
(540) 375-2415