Exit polls: What's on the minds of voters on Election Day in Virginia and New Jersey?

Last Updated Nov 7, 2017 8:34 PM EST

By Fred Backus and Jennifer De Pinto

Virginia and New Jersey

Most voters in Virginia and New Jersey made up their minds long before today in the nation's only two gubernatorial election contests Tuesday, according to early exit poll results coming out of those two states.  In fact, most voters in both states said they made up their minds before October as to who they would vote for.  

In Virginia, Democratic Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam is facing Republican Ed Gillespie, the former head of the Republican National Committee who came just shy of winning a U.S. senate seat in Virginia in 2014. 

In New Jersey, Democrat Phil Murphy  - a former U.S. ambassador and Goldman Sachs financier  - is running against Republican Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno. 

There is no incumbent running in either state, and voters in New Jersey and Virginia have differing views of their outgoing governors.  Although New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was reelected in a landslide in 2013, just one in five voters now approve of the job he's doing.  

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Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe fares better among voters in his state:  53 percent approve of his job performance while 43 percent disapprove.

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The two states differ on what issues they prioritize as being important to their vote.  In Virginia, health care is the top choice, ahead of gun policy, taxes, immigration, and abortion.  

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In New Jersey, health care takes a back seat to corruption in government and property taxes. 

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When it comes to the economy, voters in Virginia are more optimistic than those in New Jersey.  Twice as many Virginia voters say their state economy is getting better (30 percent) than say it is getting worse (20 percent).  In New Jersey far more voters think their state's economy is getting worse (38 percent) rather than getting better (16 percent). 

In Virginia, the removal of confederate statues has become a campaign issue, with Mr. Gillespie advocating letting confederate statues in Virginia remain standing on government property and Mr. Northam saying that it should be up to the local jurisdictions to decide.  Six in 10 Virginia voters want the statues to be left in place, though whites and blacks feel differently on this issue:  seven out of 10 white voters want the monuments to stay while most black voters want them removed.

Similarly, President Trump is unpopular in both states, but far more so in New Jersey.  Still, most voters in New Jersey and a plurality of voters in Virginia say that Donald Trump was not a factor in their vote.  

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