Sunday, November 5, 2017

What's Happening in Virginia?


The finale of the Virginia governor's race is upon us. Two things are clear: (1) Northam is running a narrow lead over Gillespie; and (2) voting cleavages by demographic group look very similar to those in 2016. The latter is actually quite an interesting development.

In 2016, according to the synthetic data analysis we conducted for our recent voter trends report, there was a very significant margin swing toward Democrats among white college graduates in Virginia, from losing this group by 5 points in 2012 to carrying it by 9 points in 2016. That's the main reason why Clinton carried Virginia by a greater margin than Obama--an unusual pattern for the 2016 election. 

That trend is evident in the just-released Upshot//Sienna poll of Virginia voters. Northam leads Gillespie among white college grads by an identical 9 point margin. 

As for white noncollege voters, Clinton lost them by 40 points in 2016 and Gillespie leads Northam by an identical 40 points in the Upshot poll. 

Black voters in the Upshot poll give Northam a 75 point margin over Gillespie, similar to Clinton's relatively poor showing in 2016 (a 79 point margin vs. 88 points for Obama in 2012). 

Perhaps it will all come down to turnout. In 2016, our estimates indicate that Virginia black turnout was down 3 points while white noncollege turnout was up 2 points. If the discrepancy in black and white noncollege turnout trends persists this Tuesday, the Democrats' newfound ability to dominate the white college vote might not be enough to carry the state.

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