A new Fox News poll found that a strong majority of Virginia parents support Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin, who has made education a key issue in the campaign against former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, D-Va.
Fifty-six percent of likely voters who identified themselves as parents told Fox News that they would vote for Youngkin, were the election held today. Forty-two percent said they would vote for McAuliffe.
The poll found that 53% of likely voters said they would vote for Youngkin, while only 45% said they would vote for McAuliffe, giving the Republican an 8-point advantage outside the poll's margin of error. Youngkin's lead is particularly noteworthy, given the fact that Virginia voters elected President Biden by 10 points last year. Most likely voters (52%) said they trust Youngkin more on education, compared to 44% who said they trust McAuliffe.
Youngkin announced the poll results on stage at a rally in Buena Vista, minutes after the poll was released on Wednesday.
Both Youngkin and McAuliffe have called for more investment in education, particularly paying teachers more – Virginia currently ranks last in the U.S. when it comes to how average teacher pay stacks up against average pay for workers.
Yet Youngkin and McAuliffe differ in their approach to hot-button education issues like critical race theory and parental involvement. McAuliffe has repeatedly claimed that "critical race theory has never been taught in Virginia," saying that the issue itself is a "racist dog whistle." Youngkin, by contrast, has pledged to ban critical race theory in education.
As concerned parents protest at school boards in Loudoun County and Fairfax County, Youngkin has adopted their concerns, while McAuliffe has claimed that the issue is a "divisive tactic" "generated by Glenn Youngkin." Parents expressed outrage when McAuliffe's 2019 remarks resurfaced – remarks in which McAuliffe said that "diversity" and "inclusion" are "as important as" math and English in schools.
McAuliffe has attempted to distance himself from remarks he made during a September debate. "I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach," he said at the time. A Fox News poll found that a majority of Virginia parents say that parents "should be telling schools what to teach."
While McAuliffe brought in both Biden and former President Barack Obama to campaign for him in the final stretch, the Obama speech may have hurt him with concerned parents. Obama dismissed education issues as unserious and "fake outrage," leading parents to slam the former president as "tone deaf."
Younkin has faulted McAuliffe for lowering educational standards, "so he could claim fewer failing schools." Indeed, in 2015, McAuliffe signed a bill ordering a deemphasis on standardized test results in accrediting Virginia public schools. While 88 schools were denied accreditation under the old standards in 2017, no school has been denied accreditation since the new standards went into effect in 2018.