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Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy

Wason Center

May 6, 2019

Race in the Commonwealth

Voters agree racism is a problem in Virginia, and say minorities are treated differently by police, courts, banks, jobs, and stores -- but not when they’re voting.

Summary of Key Findings

  1. Across partisan lines, demographic groups, and regions, a majority of Virginia voters say racism is a significant problem in Virginia.
  2. Majorities of Virginia voters agree that minorities are treated differently than whites by police, by courts, in getting loans, in the workplace, and in stores and restaurants. However, clear divisions on these questions are evident by race and party.
  3. A majority of voters (64%) disagree that minorities are treated differently than whites when voting in elections.
  4. Barely half of Virginia voters (51%) say slavery was the main cause of the Civil War, while 40% say the main cause was states' rights. Strong divisions by party, race, age, sex, and region are evident in the choices. Similar divisions show when voters are asked if political leaders should praise Confederate figures.
  5. Asked if they or anyone they know has ever worn blackface makeup as a costume or taken part in a racially insensitive activity, 85% of voters said no while 13% said yes.

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

Racism in Virginia. 76% of Virginia voters agree that racism is still a significant problem in the Commonwealth, including 72% of white voters and 61% of Republicans. 95% of black voters and 85% of Latinos also agree with the statement.
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Cause of the Civil War.  Just 51% of Virginia voters identify the main cause of the Civil War as slavery (51%), while 40% cite states’ rights as the main cause. Analysis reveals a sharp partisan divide on this issue. While 77% of Democrats say slavery was the main cause of the war, 63% of Republicans say the main cause was states’ rights. There is also a sharp generational divide with voters under the age of 44 identifying the main cause as slavery (67%) and voters over the age of 45 divided between states’ rights (44%) and slavery (47%). The analysis also reveals an interesting regional divide. While a solid majority of voters in Richmond (58%) and Northern Virginia (56%) identify the main cause as slavery, voters are divided in Hampton Roads (46% states’ rights, 45% slavery) and South/Southwest (49% states’ rights, 43% slavery).
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Confederate role models.  Voters are divided as to whether Virginia's political leaders should still praise Confederate leaders; 48% say yes and 45% say no.  60% of Republicans say yes, 64% of Democrats say no.
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Police and minorities.  65% of all voters agree with the statement, “Police treat minorities differently than whites,” with 40% strongly agreeing with the statement. 40% of Republicans agree compared to 92% of Democrats. 65% of Independents agree. 57% of whites agree compared to 95% of blacks and 80% of Latinos. 93% of liberals agree compared to 39% of conservatives.
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Courts and minorities.  57% of voters agree with the statement, "The courts treat minorities differently than whites," with 35% strongly agreeing with the statement.  32% of Republicans agree versus 87% of Democrats.  53% of Independents agree.  50% of whites, 86% of blacks, and 65% of Latinos agree.  32% of conservatives versus 86% of liberals agree.
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Banks and minorities.  52% of voters agree with the statement, "Minorities have a harder time getting loans or mortgages than whites," with 29% strongly agreeing.  Just 45% of white voters agree compared to 79% of blacks and 57% of Latinos.  This question has a much higher percentage of "Don't know" responses than the other questions, and any coverage should note that.
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Workplaces and minorities.  57% of voters agree with the statement, “Minorities are treated differently than whites in the workplace,” with 29% strongly agreeing. 86% of Democrats agree, compared to 28% of Republicans. 46% of whites agree compared to 88% of blacks and 73% of Latinos. 29% of conservatives agree versus 87% of liberals.
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Shopping and minorities.  51% of voters say agree with the statement, “Minorities are treated differently than whites in stores and restaurants,” 23% strongly agree. 24% of Republicans agree and 78% of Democrats agree. 41% of whites agree versus 82% of blacks and 72% of Latinos. 23% of conservatives agree, compared with 80% of liberals.
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Voting and minorities.  39% of voters agree with the statement, “Minorities are treated differently than whites when voting in elections,” 23% strongly agree. 15% of Republicans agree versus 64% of Democrats. 31% of whites agree versus 65% of blacks and 50% of Latinos. 17% of conservatives and 78% of liberals agree.
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Blackface.  Asked if they or anyone they know has ever worn blackface makeup as a costume or taken part in a racially insensitive activity, 85% of voters said no, while 13% said yes. 

Question: To the best of your knowledge, have you, anyone in your family, or anyone you’ve known ever painted their face with black makeup as part of a costume or taken part in an activity that looking back, you feel now might be seen as racially insensitive? 

Responses to Blackface Question
Response Percent
Yes 13
No 85
DK/Ref (vol) 2

Margins of Error.  The margins of error for these results vary significantly according to the size of the samples. The survey is based on 1,067 interviews of registered Virginia voters, including landline and cell phone, March 11-March 31, 2019. For the overall survey, the margin of error is +/-3% (see Methodology for details). For sub-samples, such as race, gender, age, region and party identification, the margin of error is higher. 

Demographics (Overall survey N=1067)

Education Demographics
-- Percent
High school or less 12
Some college 21
Vocational or technical training 4
College graduate 35
Graduate study or more 29
Hispanic Demographics
-- Percent
Yes 5
No 95
Race Demographics
-- Percent
White 75
Black/African American 17
Other 8
Age Demographics
-- Percent
18-24 7
25-34 14
35-44 14
45-54 18
55 and older 47
Party ID Demographics
-- Percent
Republican 33
Democrat 34
Independent 29
No preference (vol) 3
Other party (vol) 0
DK/Ref (vol) 1
Party Lean Demographics
-- Percent
Republican 39
Democratic 33
Independent 20
DK/Ref 9
Region Demographics
-- Percent
NOVA 34
Richmond 21
Hampton Roads 24
South/Southwest 21
Religion Demographics
-- Percent
Christian 69
Jewish 2
Other 13
None 15
DK/Ref (vol) 2
Ideology Demographics
-- Percent
Strong liberal 7
Liberal 10
Moderate, leaning liberal 25
Moderate, leaning conservative 19
Conservative 20
Strong conservative 11
DK/Ref (vol) 8
Income Demographics
-- Percent
Under $25,000 3
$25,000-$49,999 10
$50,000-$74,999 16
$75,000-$99,999 17
$100,000-$149,999 18
Over $150,000 22
DK/Ref (vol) 14
Sex Demographics
-- Percent
Male 47
Female 53
Mode Demographics
-- Percent
Cell 68
Landline 32

Methodology

The results of this poll are based on 1,067 interviews of registered voters, including 342 on landline and 725 on cell phone, conducted March 11-March 31, 2019. Percentages may not equal 100 due to rounding. The margin of error for the whole survey is +/-3% at the 95% level of confidence. This means that if 50% of respondents indicate a topline view on an issue, we can be 95% confident that the population’s view on that issue is somewhere between 47% and 53%.* All error margins have been adjusted to account for the survey’s design effect, which is 1.1 in this survey. The design effect is a factor representing the survey’s deviation from a simple random sample and takes into account decreases in precision due to sample design and weighting procedures. Sub-samples have a higher margin of error. In addition to sampling error, the other potential sources of error include non-response, question wording, and interviewer error. The response rate (AAPOR RRI Standard Definition) for the survey was 17%. Five callbacks were employed in the fielding process. Live calling was conducted by trained interviewers at the Wason Center for Public Policy Survey Research Lab at Christopher Newport University. The data reported here are weighted using an iterative weighting process on sex, age, race, and region to reflect as closely as possible the population of likely voters in Virginia’s 2019 state legislative elections. 

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