Your browser does not support JavaScript The Trump and the Robert E. Lee Effect in the Virginia Governor's Race - Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy - Christopher Newport University The Trump and the Robert E. Lee Effect in the Virginia Governor's Race
Skip navigation

Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy

Wason Center

September 26, 2017

The Trump and the Robert E. Lee Effect in the Virginia Governor's Race

"Trump Effect" plays in Virginia governor's race, but Confederate statues may raise a "Robert E. Lee Effect."

Summary of Key Findings

  1. Overall, 39% of voters say President Trump is a factor in their choice for governor this year, with 28% saying he is a major factor.
  2. Trump motivates Democrats more than Republicans. A slim majority of Democrat Ralph Northam voters (51%) say Trump is a factor, while a strong majority of Republican Ed Gillespie voters (72%) say Trump is not a factor.
  3. Nearly a third of voters – mostly Democrats – say their vote sends a message of disapproval to Trump and Republicans in Congress. A strong majority of Republicans (65%) say their vote sends no message to Trump and Congress.
  4. Overall, 54% of voters oppose removing Confederate monuments; voters differ on whether the monuments symbolize racism (32%) or Southern pride (47%).
  5. This election may also show a “Robert E. Lee Effect.” Northam voters are divided about Confederate monuments, with 62% supporting removal but 25% opposed. Gillespie voters are nearly united, with 86% opposing removal.

For further information contact:

Dr. Quentin Kidd, Director
qkidd@cnu.edu
Office: (757) 594-8499
Mobile: (757) 775-6932

Dr. Rachel Bitecofer, Assistant Director
rachel.bitecofer@cnu.edu
Office: (757) 594-8997
Mobile: (541) 729-9824

Analysis

As Virginians prepare to choose their next governor, the “Trump Effect” plays into the fortunes of both Republican Ed Gillespie and Democrat Ralph Northam. For Gillespie, the GOP electorate is slightly divided on President Donald Trump, while Northam’s Democrats are mostly unified on Trump. A significant segment of voters say Trump is a factor in their vote for governor, according to a Wason Center survey of 776 likely voters.

Trump’s approval rating in Virginia stands at 35% overall, but Northam voters are nearly unified, with 96% disapproving of the president’s performance. Gillespie voters, however, are split, with 75% saying they approve while 16% say they disapprove.

Nearly 4 in 10 voters (39%) say Trump is a factor in their choice for governor, with 28% saying that he is a major factor. A strong majority of Gillespie voters (72%) say the president is not a factor, while a slim majority (51%) of Northam voters say he is a factor. More than 3 out of 4 Independents (78%) say Trump is not a factor in their choice. Overall, nearly half (49%) say they see their vote as a way to send a message to Trump and Republicans who control Congress, with 30% saying it is a message of disapproval and 19% saying it is a message of support. A majority of Gillespie voters (67%) say there is no message intended in their vote, while a majority of Northam voters (56%) say theirs is a message of disapproval.

“Disapproval of Trump and Congress is clearly motivating Northam’s voters,” said Rachel Bitecofer, assistant director of the Wason Center. “Gillespie voters mostly support Trump, but they’d rather keep him out of the picture here.”

There may also be a “Robert E. Lee Effect” in Virginia voters’ choice for governor. Overall, a slim majority (54%) of voters say they oppose removing Confederate statues and monuments from public spaces, but the issue shows a wide partisan gap. Strong majorities of Northam voters (62%) and Democrats (62%) say they support removing the monuments, while even stronger majorities of Gillespie voters (86%) and Republicans (83%) are opposed. Views on what the statues and monuments symbolize are mixed, with more voters saying they symbolize Southern pride (47%) than racism (32%). Nearly three-fourths of Gillespie voters (74%) and Republicans (73%) say the statues and monuments symbolize Southern pride, while smaller majorities of Northam voters and Democrats say they symbolize racism (59% and 60% respectively). A quarter (26%) of Northam voters say they symbolize Southern pride.

“It’s clear this is a more complicated issue for Northam than for Gillespie,” said Quentin Kidd, director of the Wason Center. “Gillespie appears to have a Donald Trump problem, but Northam may have a Robert E. Lee problem.”

Just over 4 in 10 of voters say things in Virginia are moving in the right direction (44% vs. 36%). Overall, 51% approve of the job Governor Terry McAuliffe is doing.

The survey’s margin of error is +/- 3.7% at the 95% level of confidence. Likely voters are registered voters with a history of voting in recent statewide elections, who also say they definitely or probably will vote in the November 7 election.

Report a problem
Version 3.4