âThere are tons of congressional districts across the country that look like Virginia,â said Quentin Kidd, professor and director of the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University. âThere are states that are competitive like Virginia. And I think Glenn Youngkin demonstrated how a Republican can run in those places. And I think we also learned from moderate and independent voters, just because they’ve been voting against Donald Trump for the past four years doesn’t mean Democrats can take them for granted. “
âThey just weren’t engaged and excited about a post that they saw as out of step with their issues or interests, and not with their generation,â Kidd said. “On the other hand, you had younger Conservative voters who were less engaged over the past 10 years, who suddenly got really engaged because they were excited to have a candidate that generated. enthusiasm and energy, especially in the last three or four weeks after the election.
Youngkin won the support of nearly half of all voters under 30 – a 15 percentage point improvement over Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie in 2017. Half of voters aged 30 to 44 years old said they also voted for Youngkin, a group Democrats won handily four years ago. .
Youngkin also increased her support among white women without a college degree. He secured the votes of three-quarters of the women in this key Republican electoral bloc, surpassing not only McAuliffe this week, but also Gillespie and Democrat Ralph Northam in 2017.
Youngkin’s success with unqualified white female voters in Virginia illustrates the fragility of their fleeting support for Democrats now that Trump is out of power.
âThere was a bubble, basically in Virginia, a Democratic bubble. And Donald Trump in the White House basically burst that bubble,â Kidd said. “A good number of [women] were voting simply because they were angry with Donald Trump and wanted to send a message. They weren’t necessarily attached to Democrats or Democratic candidates. “
Youngkin also improved the Republican position among independents and moderates – more convincing voters who make Virginia a competitive purple battleground.
Youngkin in particular reduced the Democrats’ advantage among self-identified moderates, improving his support among them by six points compared to Gillespie four years ago. Youngkin also won the votes of 54% of independents, an increase of four points from 2017.
“Democrats might try to dismiss Youngkin’s victory as an isolated and typical off-year result, but New Jersey should be a wake-up call that something bigger is happening,” said Nathan Gonzales, contributor of CNN and editor of Inside Elections. “Democrats need to figure out how to appeal to independent voters because it is clear that a large number of people voted against Trump in 2020 and for a GOP candidate for governor in 2021.”
While exit polls have a clear advantage over pre-election polls – they can match their early results to actual election results – they’re still polls, meaning they offer estimates, rather than absolute precision, on the composition and views of the electorate.
But another sign that Virginia voters are pulling away from Trump could be the Republicans’ marked improvement with born-again whites and evangelical Christians. Already a typical Republican stronghold, Youngkin still got a 10 point improvement among white evangelicals over Gillespie in 2017.
Youngkin’s outperformance had as much to do with Youngkin softening the raw edges of Trumpism as it did with evangelicals disliking McAuliffe, Kidd told CNN. Youngkin gave white evangelicals everything they love about Trump without his off-putting daring.
âThey hate Terry McAuliffe and everything Terry McAuliffe stands for in politics and public policy,â Kidd said. “I think it’s a perfect storm for white evangelicals between what they hate and what they love. And both were on that ballot.”