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AP VoteCast: Economy, COVID, schools top issues in Virginia

The economy ranked as the top issue facing the state of Virginia as voters cast their ballots in the tight race for governor, with the coronavirus pandemic and education trailing.

In the race between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin, 34% of Virginia voters say the economy and jobs was the most important issue facing the state. Seventeen percent name COVID-19 and 14% choose education, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of voters.

Health care (7%), climate change (7%), racism (5%), immigration (5%), abortion (5%) and law enforcement (4%) were all lower-tier issues.

Tuesday’s election is the most closely watched and competitive contest since President Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump last year, and is widely seen as a gauge of how voters are feeling ahead of next year’s midterm elections.

Here’s a snapshot of who voted and what matters to them, based on preliminary results from AP VoteCast, a survey of more than 2,500 voters in Virginia conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.

IS VIRGINIA’S ECONOMY SOARING OR SINKING?

Youngkin, a former private equity executive, often asserted during the campaign that Virginia’s economy was “in the ditch," but a majority of voters disagreed. Fifty-six percent said the state’s economy is in good shape, compared with 44% saying economic conditions are poor.

Youngkin argued Virginia’s record budget surplus was the result of overtaxation as he campaigned on a promise to enact substantial tax cuts.

McAuliffe countered that the surplus was due to strong economic growth under Democratic leadership and argued that Youngkin’s opposition to abortion rights and conservative position on LGBTQ issues would hamper efforts to recruit new businesses to the commonwealth.

As the costs of goods rises, about two-thirds of Virginia voters in this year’s election say their family’s financial situation is holding steady. That’s a similar percentage compared with voters in last year’s presidential race.

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