Nov. 1, 2021 — A surprising polling turn of events came to light late last week as Fox News released a new Virginia survey that shows Republican Glenn Youngkin (R) holding an eight-point lead in the race for governor, his largest of any poll throughout the campaign. The surprise comes in a result that reverses last week’s Fox poll that found former Gov. Terry McAuliffe holding a five-point advantage.
The Fox News poll (Oct. 24-27; 1,212 registered Virginia voters; 1,015 individuals identified as likely VA gubernatorial election voters, live interview) finds Youngkin claiming a 53-45 percent advantage within the likely voter segment. When looking at the entire registered voter sample, however, the Youngkin edge shrinks to 48-47 percent.
The previous Fox poll (Oct. 10-13; 1,004 registered Virginia voters; 726 individuals identified as likely VA gubernatorial election voters, live interview) gave McAuliffe a 51-46 percent margin. Within the entire sample, the McAuliffe advantage leapt to a double-digit eleven point lead at 52-41 percent.
Though Fox News has a well-known right-of-center orientation, their polling operation does not. The Fox Polls are conducted jointly through a Democratic survey research firm and a Republican polling organization. Beacon Research is the Democratic firm, formerly known as Anderson Robbins Research, while the Republican entity is Shaw & Company Research. The two have been collaborating on the Fox polls for 10 years, since 2011.
According to the FiveThirtyEight research organization that ranks polling firms, Fox News is scored with an A rating, but has a Democratic bias factor of 1.8 percentage points. Therefore, despite Fox News’ reputation, their polling arm has trended more Democratic over the joint partnership’s long history.
That being said, this particular poll appears to have a Republican skew. Looking at the likely voters, 46 percent identified themselves as solid or leaning Republican, while 42 percent responded Democratic. This ratio is contrary to recent Virginia voter history.
The Commonwealth does not register voters by political party, so people can float between the two major political organizations. The move toward the Republicans in this poll could be the centrist, or independent voter, moving to the right for this particular election. Regardless, it is probable that Youngkin’s eight-point margin among likely voters is at least somewhat inflated.
A further problem for McAuliffe is his standing among committed voters. In both the current survey and the previous Fox study that found him leading by five points, his committed support remained constant at 44 percent. Seeing no movement on this question suggests that McAuliffe is lacking momentum in the closing days.