February 23, 2021

Virginia's Views on Biden - February 2021

"Only two-thirds of Va. voters say Biden’s election valid; more blame feds, not state, for slow vaccination rollout; most voters say 2021 will be a better year than 2020"

Summary of Key Findings

  1. Two out of three Virginia voters (67%) say 2021 will be better than 2020.
  2. President Joe Biden’s approval rating sits at 57%, and he receives his highest marks for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic (67% approve to 25% disapprove).
  3. A majority of Virginia voters say Biden’s election was legitimate (68%), but one out of four say it was not (26%).
  4. Comparing Donald Trump to past presidents, a majority of Virginia voters say Trump is definitely worse than most (54%); 10% say he is not as good as most; 18% say he is better than most; and 15% say he is one of the very best.
  5. A majority of Virginia voters say Biden will be a successful president (56%), but partisan differences are clear, as 69% of Republicans say he will be unsuccessful compared to 2% of Democrats and 33% of independents. 91% of African-American voters say Biden will be successful.
  6. A majority of Virginia voters are confident that Biden will strike the right balance in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic (64%) and racial inequality (53%).
  7. More than twice as many voters blame the federal government (46%) than the state government (20%) for the slow rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination.


Direction of the country: While Virginia voters are currently split on the direction of the country (46% right direction to 45% wrong direction; 8% mixed), their assessment has improved dramatically compared to the last four years, when the percentage who answered “right direction” in Wason Center surveys ranged as low as 16% and never higher than 37%). Virginia voters are also fairly optimistic about the future, with 67% saying that 2021 will be better than 2020.

President Biden’s legitimacy: While two out of three Virginia voters believe President Biden won the presidency legitimately (68%), a significant share say he did not (26%). Unsurprisingly, party affiliation drives this response, with 100% of Democrats seeing Biden’s win as legitimate, compared to 67% of independents and 27% of Republicans. Fully 61% of Virginia Republicans say Biden did not win legitimately, while 11% of Republicans and Independents say they are not sure.

“This is the new Lost Cause in Virginia politics,” said Dr. Quentin Kidd, academic director of the Wason Center. “A solid majority of Republican voters’ refusal to accept the legitimacy of Biden’s election is bound to stir up the contest for the Republican nomination for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.”

President Trump’s legacy: A majority of Virginia registered voters (54%) say that compared with the past several presidents, Donald Trump was definitely worse than most; 10% say he was not as good as most, while 18% say he was better than most and 15% say he was one of the very best. There are clear partisan differences here, with 93% of Democrats reporting that the former president is definitely worse than most, while 78% of Republicans say that Trump was one of the very best (37%) or better than most (41%). Independents are more nuanced, with a majority (55%) indicating that Trump is either definitely worse than most (35%) or not as good as most (20%) and 29% saying Trump was either one of the very best (8%) or better than most (21%), Where partisans displayed no doubt, 16% of independents indicated they don’t know.

Biden’s job performance and early actions: A majority of Virginia voters approve of the job President Biden is doing overall (57%). Clear partisan differences emerge on this question, with 94% of Democrats approving of the president’s job performance, while 81% of Republicans disapprove. A majority of Virginia voters approve of President Biden’s cabinet choices and other high-level appointments (57%), while 32% disapprove and 12% are not sure.

COVID-19 response: Biden receives his highest marks from Virginia voters on his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic (67% approve to 25% disapprove). By comparison, Governor Ralph Northam’s COVID-19 response ranks lower, though a majority still approve ( 55% approve to 39% disapprove). Assessing the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, most Virginia voters place responsibility for the slow rollout on the federal government (46%), while 20% blame state government officials and 5% blame local government officials; another 29% are not sure.

A look forward in the Biden presidency: A majority of Virginians say that Biden will be a successful president (56%), while 31% say he will be an unsuccessful president and 12% say it is too early to tell. Sorting by party, 69% of Republicans say Biden will be unsuccessful compared to 2% of Democrats and 33% of independents. Black voters are the most optimistic about Biden’s success (91% compared with 49% of white voters).

On a series of policy issues, we asked voters whether they believe President Biden will go too far, strike the right balance, or not go far enough. A pattern emerges, with a solid plurality or better of voters indicating that Biden will strike the right balance on each of the issues: the COVID-19 pandemic (64%), racial inequality (53%), , the economic recession (46%), climate change (46%), health care (45%), and immigration (44%).

“The pandemic and racial inequality were top of mind during the election, and Biden has signaled that both are top priorities,” said Wason Center Research Director Dr. Rebecca Bromley-Trujillo. “So it’s not surprising that the highest number of voters expect him to handle those issues well.” Among the minority who think Biden will go too far on certain issues, the top concerns are immigration (33%) and climate change (32%). At the other end of the spectrum, among the minority who think Biden won’t go far enough, the top concerns are the economic recession (23%) and health care (22%).

How the survey was conducted:

The results of this poll are based on 1,005 interviews of registered Virginia voters, including 419 on landline and 586 on cell phone, conducted January 31- February 14, 2021. Percentages may not equal 100 due to rounding. The margin of error for the whole survey is +/-3.4% 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 46.5% and 53.4%. The margin of error for subgroups may be higher. All error margins have been adjusted to account for the survey’s design effect, which is 1.2 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 .09%. Five callbacks were employed in the fielding process. Live calling was conducted by trained interviewers at the Wason Center for Civic Leadership 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 population of Virginia’s electorate.

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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