- Election Day 2017 is bad news for President Donald Trump.
- Democrats had a much bigger victory than anticipated across the board, and exit polls show that discontent with Trump is partly to blame.
Political forecasters pored over the results of Virginia’s 2016 election on Tuesday night and came away with one overwhelming conclusion: It was bad news for President Donald Trump.
As the results of Tuesday’s election in Virginia began to stream in, political pundits and observers noted the somewhat surprising strength of the Democratic victory in the commonwealth.
The raw facts alone show how badly Republicans were defeated: Virginia governor-elect Ralph Northam, a Democrat, beat his Republican opponent Ed Gillespie by eight percentage points, a larger margin than many recent public polls had predicted, while Democrats unexpectedly took control of the Virginia House, picking up 14 seats.
And data collected by pollsters after the election showed how antipathy to the president seemingly shaped a mini-wave of Democratic victories in Virginia.
Here are relevant points, per exit polls in The Washington Post:
- 56% of survey respondents said Trump was a factor in their vote, with 17% of respondents voting to express support for Trump, and 34% of respondents saying they voted to express opposition to Trump. That was an enormous shift from when former Gov. Bob McDonnell won Virginia in 2009.
- 57% of respondents said they disapproved of Trump’s job as president, compared to just 40% who said they approved.
- Northam narrowly won among white voters with a college degree, though Trump won the cohort in the commonwealth in 2016.
- Democrats made up a larger share of the vote than they did in the 2013 gubernatorial race by four percentage points.
- While female voters made up 51% of outgoing Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s support in 2013, they made up 61% of Northam’s on Tuesday.
- Among young people, Northam was far more popular this year than Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was during the election last year: 69% of voters between 18 and 29 supported Northam on Tuesday, compared to just 54% who supported Clinton last year.
- Republicans’ recent push on healthcare likely didn’t help them in Virginia: A plurality of voters told pollsters that healthcare was the number one issue deciding their vote, with 77% of those respondents saying they backed Northam, compared to just 23% who backed Gillespie.
- 51% of respondents said they had a favourable view of the Democratic Party, compared to 46% who said they had an unfavorable view view. In contrast, 37% of respondents said they had a favourable view of the Republican party, compared to 59% who said they had an unfavorable view.
- Washington Post pollster Scott Clement noted that Northam won non-gun households by the highest margin of any recent high-profile Democratic candidate.
It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Tuesday’s elections were a referendum on the president.
Rep. Scott Taylor, a Virginia Republican, told The New York Times that Trump’s “divisive rhetoric” was to blame for the widespread Republican defeat on Tuesday. He said he knew candidates who lost to Democrats he’d never even heard of.
“I do believe that this is a referendum on this administration,” Taylor said. “Democrats turned out tonight, but I’m pretty sure there were some Republicans who spoke loudly and clearly tonight as well.”
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