State of the Commonwealth 2022 - The Wason Center - Christopher Newport University

February 21, 2022

Voters would cut grocery tax; require vaccines for first responders, teachers, medical pros but not for students; keep teaching impact of racism on society, not ban CRT

Summary of Key Findings

  1. A majority of Virginia voters prefer spending the state budget surplus on underfunded government services, such as education, public safety and social services (59%), rather than providing tax cuts or tax rebates (38%).
  2. Voters overwhelmingly support cutting the 2.5% grocery tax, either by a total repeal (47%) or by giving low-income Virginians a tax credit (25%).
  3. Voters support teaching how racism continues to impact American society (63% to 33%) and oppose a ban on the teaching of Critical Race Theory in public schools (57% to 35%).
  4. Virginia voters support vaccine mandates for first responders (58%), teachers (57%) and medical providers (61%), while opposing mandates for elementary students (55%) and middle school students (51%). On masks in schools, voters say health data should be used to determine mask requirements (56%) versus leaving the decision to parents (41%).
  5. Voters strongly support stationing a police officer in every school (70%).
  6. On abortion, a plurality oppose a 24-hour waiting period (49% to 44%), while a majority oppose requiring an ultrasound (57% to 36%) and a ban on abortions at 6 weeks (58% to 33%).
  7. Voters support the state’s membership in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative carbon cap-and-trade program (67% to 26%) and the Virginia Clean Economy Act (67% to 28%), a law requiring the state to generate 100% of its electricity from renewable energy by 2050.


As the General Assembly passes crossover and moves into the second half of its 2022 session, Virginia registered voters are split on the direction of the state, their views of Governor Glenn Youngkin, and key agenda items before legislators. While Virginia voters show support for some of Governor Youngkin’s proposals, including a repeal of the grocery tax and placing a police or resource officer in public schools, a majority of registered voters do not support the governor’s environmental policy proposals or a ban on the teaching of Critical Race Theory.

State of things: When asked about the direction of the Commonwealth, 45% say Virginia is headed in the right direction, while 41% say the wrong direction. Views about the right/wrong direction of the Commonwealth have remained relatively consistent over the last four years. After his first few weeks in office, Governor Youngkin’s job approval is mixed, with 41% saying they approve of the job the governor is doing and 43% indicating disapproval; 16% say they don’t know.

Differences are largely along partisan lines, with 80% of Republican voters saying Virginia is heading in the right direction, compared to 22% of Democrats and 45% of Independents. On Governor Youngkin’s job performance, 85% of Republicans approve, while 81% of Democrats disapprove, and Independents are fairly split (42% approve, 36% disapprove, 22% don’t know).

“In this highly polarized environment, we see partisans running to their corners on how they view the direction of the Commonwealth and the job of the governor,” said Quentin Kidd, Academic Director of the Wason Center. “Youngkin’s approval numbers are certainly lower than those of recent governors in Wason Center polling early in their term.”

Direction of the country and presidential approval: Virginia voters are pessimistic about the direction of the country amid an ongoing pandemic and economic uncertainty. Only 22% of Virginia registered voters say the United States is headed in the right direction, compared to 67% percent who say the wrong direction. That is decidedly more pessimistic than over the past four years. President Biden’s job approval numbers reflect this overall discontent, with 40% saying they approve of his job performance, compared to 53% who disapprove; 7% say they don’t know. A year ago, Biden’s approval among Virginia voters stood at 57%.

“Virginian’s views have soured markedly on the direction of the country compared to a year ago when they are more optimistic after President Biden’s election,” said Kidd. “That pessimism is also reflected in Biden’s dramatic drop in approval.”

Taxes and the budget: Governor Youngkin has proposed to repeal the state’s 2.5% grocery tax. In this survey, 47% of Virginia voters support a full repeal; 25% support granting a tax credit for low-income residents to offset the grocery tax; 24% say the grocery tax should remain as is.

With the state budget showing a significant surplus, a majority of Virginia voters would prioritize spending the surplus on underfunded government services, such as education, public safety and social services (59%), while 38% say the surplus should go back to Virginia citizens in the form of tax cuts or tax rebates.

Climate change: On environmental issues associated with renewable energy and climate change, Virginia voters show concern and support for government policy to address those concerns.

Most voters said potential climate change effects are having an impact on Virginia. On sea level rise, 44% of voters see major impact, 30% see minor impact, 20% see no impact and 7% say they don’t know. On harm to wildlife and ecological systems, 46% see major impact, 31% see minor impact, 17% see no impact and 7% don’t know. On hurricanes, floods and other extreme weather, 41% see major impact, 35% see minor impact, 23% see no impact and 2% don’t know. As to long periods of hot weather, 41% see major impact, 34% see minor impact, 24% see no impact and 2% don’t know.

A majority of Virginia voters say climate change should be either a top priority (34%) or a medium priority (32%) for the governor and General Assembly, while 33% indicate the issue should be a low priority (22%) or not a priority at all (11%). “It’s not surprising to see many Virginia voters say climate change should be a priority for their state government,” said Rebecca Bromley-Trujillo, Research Director of the Wason Center. “Sea level rise, harm to ecosystems and extreme weather largely accord with scientists’ expectations of climate effects here.”

Governor Youngkin proposes to repeal the Virginia Clean Economy Act, a law passed in the Democratic-controlled legislature in 2020 and signed by Governor Ralph Northam that would require electric utilities in the state to produce 100% of their energy from renewable resources by 2050. Two-thirds (67%) of Virginia voters surveyed support this law, while just over a quarter (28%) oppose it. By a similar margin (67% to 26%), voters support another environmental policy targeted by the Youngkin administration, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, under which Virginia participates in a carbon cap-and-trade program with other states to reduce carbon pollution.

Teaching about race; stationing police in public schools: Virginia voters largely support teaching how racism continues to impact American society today (63% support/strongly support to 33% oppose/strongly oppose). In addition, a majority oppose a government ban on the teaching of Critical Race Theory in Virginia public schools (57% oppose/strongly oppose to 35% support/strongly support). While Critical Race Theory is currently not specifically taught in K-12 public schools in the state, the topic gained political traction during the 2021 gubernatorial campaign and Governor Youngkin signed an executive order banning its teaching on his first day in office. Demonstrating how politically charged the specialized term has become, differences in this survey emerge primarily along partisan lines, with Democrats heavily opposing a ban (82% oppose/strongly oppose) and Republicans supporting a ban (63% support/strongly support). While a majority of both white and Black voters oppose a ban, significant gaps are apparent (73% of Black voters and 53% of white voters oppose a ban; 19% of Black voters and 42% of white voters support a ban).

A large majority of Virginia voters support Governor Youngkin’s proposal to require the placement of a police or resource officer in every Virginia public school (70% support/strongly support to 25% oppose/strongly oppose).

Abortion: Some Virginia Republican lawmakers proposed to reinstate restrictive abortion laws that were repealed under Democratic control in 2020, including a law mandating a 24-hour waiting period before a woman could have an abortion and a law requiring a woman to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion. A plurality of Virginia voters oppose the 24-hour waiting period requirement (49% oppose/strongly oppose to 44% support/strongly support) and a solid majority oppose an ultrasound requirement (57% oppose/strongly oppose to 36% support/strongly support). A comparably large majority also oppose a ban on abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected around the 6th week of pregnancy (58% oppose/strongly oppose to 33% support/strongly support).

COVID-19 vaccination and mask requirements: A majority of Virginia voters support vaccine requirements for people in jail or prison (57%), first responders (58%), members of the U.S. military (58%), teachers (57%), medical providers (61%), and members of Congress (56%). Virginia voters are split on vaccine requirements for college students (50% yes to 48% no), federal government employees (50% yes to 48% no), organizations/businesses with federal government contracts (48% yes to 50% no), state government employees (50% yes to 48% no), and high school students (49% yes to 49% no). A slight majority oppose a vaccine requirement for middle school students (47% yes to 51% no) and a larger majority oppose a vaccine requirement for elementary school students (42% yes to 55% no).

On masking in public schools, a majority of Virginia voters indicate that school mask requirements should be determined by health data and information from health experts (56%) versus a decision left to parents (41%). This result runs counter to a law just passed by the 2022 General Assembly and signed by Governor Youngkin allowing parents to opt their children out of mask mandates rather than leave the decision to local school boards.

Medical Aid and Dying: A majority of Virginia voters support allowing a mentally capable adult with a terminal disease the right to request and obtain medication to end their life (64% agree/strongly agree). Virginia voters are even more supportive of this allowance for a mentally capable adult with a terminal disease who has less than six months to live (66% agree/strongly agree).

How the survey was conducted:

The results of this poll are based on 701 interviews of registered Virginia voters, conducted January 26 – February 15, 2022. Percentages may not equal 100 due to rounding. The margin of error for the whole survey is +/-4.2% 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 54.2% and 45.8%. 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 1.3 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. In addition to sampling error, the other potential sources of error include non-response, question wording, and interviewer error.

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 demographic composition of registered voters in Virginia. Parameters for the weights used in this survey come from the 2020 Census, 2017 and 2019 American Community Survey, and the Census Bureau’s Population Estimates Program (PEP).

For further information contact:

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

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

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