2021 State of the Commonwealth - 1 of 2 - The Wason Center - Christopher Newport University

December 10, 2020

State of the Commonwealth - 1 of 2

"Most parents are satisfied with Covid-19 school options, but 3 out of 4 still worry their children will fall behind; Va. voters back public employee collective bargaining"

Summary of Key Findings

  1. 64% of Virginia voters with school-age children are either very satisfied (24%) or somewhat satisfied (40%) with how their child’s education is being handled under restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
  2. 75% of Virginia voters with school-age children are either very concerned (53%) or somewhat concerned (22%) about their children falling behind in school because of disruptions due to the pandemic.
  3. Virginia voters support allowing collective bargaining rights for public employees, 68%-25%.
  4. Virginia voters are evenly split about the direction of the Commonwealth (48% right direction, 47% wrong direction) and about how Governor Ralph Northam is doing his job (47% approve, 46% disapprove).
  5. A majority of Virginia voters disapprove of the direction the country is heading (49%-39%), but this marks a significant shift compared to the Wason Center survey before the November election, when 76% of likely voters disapproved.


State of things: In the wake of the 2020 elections and during the ongoing pandemic, registered Virginia voters who say they voted in the presidential election are evenly split on their assessment of the state and its leadership. When asked about the direction of the Commonwealth, 48% indicated Virginia was heading in the right direction, while 47% say the wrong direction. Governor Northam’s job approval is quite similar, with 47% saying they approve of the job the governor is doing and 46% indicating disapproval. This split is strongly along partisan lines. On the direction of the Commonwealth, 90% of Democrats approve, while 92% of Republicans disapprove; on Governor Northam, 86% of Democrats approve, while 87% of Republicans disapprove.

Regarding the direction of the country, Virginia voters in this survey showed a marked shift compared to responses prior to the November election. Likely voters were very pessimistic before the election, expressing disapproval of the country’s direction (76%-16%). In this survey, more voters still say the United States is headed in the wrong direction, but by a far smaller margin (49%-39%).The difference between the assessment of likely voters pre-election and self-described voters post-election is almost entirely among Democrats, whose “wrong direction” assessment went from 97% to 22% after the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as President and Vice President.

Collective Bargaining: 68% of registered voters in Virginia support or strongly support allowing public employees to join a union and negotiate a contract, while 25% oppose or strongly oppose such a policy. The Virginia General Assembly passed legislation in March ending the statewide prohibition on collective bargaining for public employees. This allows, but does not require, cities, counties, towns and school boards to authorize collective bargaining for local public employees, beginning in May 2021. It does not apply to state employees. Many local governing bodies are expected to choose not to permit collective bargaining and thus prohibit public employees from unionizing. The results of this survey suggest that Virginia voters would support allowing public employees across the state to engage in collective bargaining.

COVID-19 and K-12 instruction: The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly altered the delivery of K-12 instruction across the Commonwealth. Most parents in our survey indicate their children are receiving online instruction only (56%), while 27% are in a hybrid model of instruction, 12% are receiving in-person instruction only, and 3% are being homeschooled. A majority of parents are either somewhat (40%) or very satisfied (24%) with the way their children’s school has been handling instruction this fall, while the rest are not too satisfied (14%) or not at all satisfied (19%).

Despite the 64% overall satisfaction, 75% of parents are very concerned (53%) or somewhat concerned (22%) about their children falling behind in school as a result of the COVID-19 restrictions. “Parents are juggling work, caregiving responsibilities, and helping their kids through virtual school,” said Wason Center Research Director Rebecca Bromley-Trujillo. “Most may believe their school systems are doing the best they can, but it’s no surprise that so many are worried about their children’s progress.”

How the survey was conducted:

The results of this poll are based on 906 interviews of registered Virginia voters, including 371 on landline and 535 on cell phone, conducted Nov 8-22, 2020. Percentages may not equal 100 due to rounding. The margin of error for the whole survey is +/- 4.7% 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 45.3% and 54.7%. All error margins have been adjusted to account for the survey’s design effect, which is 2.1 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 8%. 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 region, age, race, sex, and education to reflect as closely as possible the 2020 population of Virginia registered voters. The sample was provided by L2.

For further information contact:

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

Dr. Rebecca Bromley-Trujillo, Research Lab Director
Office: (757) 594-9140

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