October 12, 2022

Mid-Term Mixed Bag: Virginians Split Not Only on Policy, But Even on What Issues Matter as November Approaches

Democratic 6-Pt Edge on Generic Ballot Points to GOP Inability to Capitalize Fully on Political Environment; Virginians Opposed Overturning of Roe v. Wade but 15-Week Abortion Ban Finds Slight Majority Support


Summary of Key Findings

  1. Virginia voters are fairly split on the direction of the Commonwealth (42% right direction, 40% wrong direction), while 50% say they approve of the job Governor Youngkin is doing.
  2. Virginians are pessimistic about the direction of the country (22% right direction to 65% wrong direction); dissatisfaction is partly reflected in Biden’s approval rating (39% approve to 56% disapprove)
  3. Democrats are slightly favored on a generic ballot with 46% of Virginia registered voters saying they will support the Democratic Party’s candidate in their district compared to 40% for the Republican Party’s candidate.
  4. Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act provisions related to healthcare and the environment are popular among Virginia voters (ranging from 58% to 82% support; a majority oppose increased funding to the IRS (55%).
  5. Among Republicans, the top issues facing the country are the economy/inflation (53%), immigration (11%) and crime (7%). For Democrats the top issues are climate change (17%), racial inequality (16%), and abortion (15%).
  6. Virginia registered voters oppose the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade (58% to 36%) and prefer abortion to be legal in most/all cases (67% to 27%), though a narrow majority support/strongly support an abortion ban at 15 weeks with exceptions for rape, incest, and life of the mother (51%).

Analysis

State of things: When asked about the direction of the Commonwealth, 42% say Virginia is headed in the right direction, while 40% say the wrong direction. 50% of Virginians approve of the job Governor Youngkin is doing while 40% disapprove and 9% indicate they don’t know.

Differences are largely along partisan lines with 72% of Republican registered voters saying Virginia is heading in the right direction, compared to 20% of Democrats and 39% of Independents. On Governor Youngkin’s job approval, 90% of Republican registered voters say they approve, while 72% of Democrats disapprove and Independents are fairly split (48% approve, 41% disapprove, 11% don’t know).

Direction of the country and presidential approval: Virginians continue to be very pessimistic about the direction of the country with ongoing economic concerns in the midst of intense partisan polarization. Only 22% of Virginia registered voters say the United States is headed in the right direction, compared to 65% who say the wrong direction. This dissatisfaction is partially reflected in President Biden’s approval rating, with 39% approving of the president’s job performance compared to 56% who disapprove; 6% say they don’t know. Even a plurality of Democrats believes the nation is headed in the wrong direction, a tough state of affairs for the Party that controls the White House.

Generic ballot: With just under a month to go until Election Day, Virginia voters somewhat favor the Democratic Party on a generic ballot, which defies recent political history that has generally seen the incumbent Party face tough sledding in an Administration’s first midterm election. When asked which party’s candidate they are more likely to vote for in their district, 46% say the Democratic Party’s candidate compared to 40% for the Republican Party’s candidate; 5% say they will vote for another party and 9% say they don’t know. Democrats and Republicans have largely lined up behind their respective parties on this question with 92% of Republicans indicating they will support the Republican candidate and 93% of Democrats favoring the Democratic Party’s candidate. Independents are heavily split (39% Democratic Party to 35% Republican Party), with 27% saying don’t know or other.

Most important issues: When asked whether each of a series of issues is very important, somewhat important, not very important, or not at all important, Virginian’s answers heavily depend on partisanship. It’s fair to say Republicans and Democrats aren’t just disagreeing on policy; increasingly they aren’t even having the same conversation.

When comparing Republicans and Democrats on whether an issue is very important to them, we see considerable gaps: climate change (Democrats 75% to Republicans 13%), the economy and inflation (92% Republicans to 59% Democrats), racial inequality (Democrats 77% to Republicans 28%), immigration (Republicans 71% to Democrats 43%), abortion (79% Democrats to 48% Republicans), gun violence (81% Democrats to 49% Republicans), crime (82% Republicans to 52% Democrats), and gas prices (76% Republicans to 33% Democrats). The closest level of agreement on issue importance is for education with 78% of Republicans indicating the issue is very important compared to 79% of Independents and 74% of Democrats.

When asked to select the most urgent issue facing the country Republicans largely coalesce around the economy and inflation (53%), followed by immigration (11%), and crime (7%). Democrats are more varied in their responses with 17% saying climate change, 16% racial inequality, 15% abortion, 14% the economy and inflation, and 12% gun violence. Among Independents, 31% say their most urgent issue is also the economy and inflation, demonstrating a convergence of issue prioritization that could prove critical come Election Day. Independents’ 2nd most urgent issue is climate change (8%), with the remaining responses distributed among a wide range of issues.

“The results of this survey point to the chaotic and uncertain nature of the upcoming midterm elections,” said Dr. Rebecca Bromley-Trujillo, Research Director of the Wason Center. “While traditionally midterm elections are a referendum on the president and the state of the economy, the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade and recent extreme weather events have energized Democrats around abortion and climate change.”

Inflation Reduction Act (IRA): Virginia voters were asked their opinion on the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act. In terms of familiarity with the law, 55% say they are either very or somewhat familiar, while 25% have heard of it, and 18% have never heard of it.

We then describe each major provision of the IRA and ask whether they support or oppose those provisions. Large majorities of Virginia voters support allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices (82%), investing in pollution reduction in disadvantaged communities (69%), extending health insurance subsidies for middle-income Americans getting insurance through the Affordable Care Act (68%), providing tax credits for rooftop solar and other clean energy technologies for the home (67%), and increasing the corporate minimum tax rate to 15% on businesses with $1 billion a year in profits or more (63%). Smaller majorities support tax incentives to encourage electric utilities to transition to clean energy (58%), and opening new offshore oil and gas drilling (58%). Virginians are split on tax credits for electric vehicle purchases (46% support to 45% oppose). A majority of Virginians oppose increasing funding for the IRS (55%).

Supreme Court: Virginians are heavily split in their confidence in the U.S. Supreme Court with 20% saying they have a great deal of confidence, 34% saying they have some confidence, 26% not having very much confidence, and 19% having no confidence; 1% say they don’t know.

Confidence in the court is heavily split along partisan, race and gender lines. Only 5% of Democrats indicate they have a great deal of confidence in the court, with another 25% saying they have some confidence. Among Republicans, 43% have a great deal of confidence, with another 42% having some confidence in the court. Significant gaps emerge between men and women with 27% of men having a great deal of confidence compared to 14% for women. 51% of women have either not very much or no confidence in the court compared to 37% of men. Along racial lines, 65% of Black Virginians have either no or not very much confidence in the Supreme Court compared to 39% of whites.

Abortion: Lack of confidence in the court likely stems from attitudes around the recent decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. A majority of Virginia registered voters oppose/strongly oppose the court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade (58%) while 36% support/strongly support and 6% say they don’t know. Republicans largely support the decision (77% support/strongly support) while 90% of Democrats oppose. 72% of women oppose the decision compared to 53% of men. Still, the largest gaps are along racial lines with 86% of Black Virginians in opposition compared to 52% of whites.

When it comes to the legality of abortion, a large majority of Virginia voters think abortion should be legal in all/most cases (67%) while 27% say it should be illegal in all/most cases.

Notably, when voters were asked about the proposal to ban abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy, with exceptions for life of the mother, rape or incest, a narrow majority (51%) of Virginians support/strongly support the idea. Partisan divisions are large on this question however with 85% of Republicans showing support compared to only 24% of Democrats. Independents break narrowly in support for the policy with 52% saying they either strongly support/support the measure.

How the survey was conducted:

The results of this poll are based on 740 interviews of Virginia registered voters, including 291 on landline and 449 on cell phone, conducted Sept. 18 - Oct. 7, 2022. Percentages may not equal 100 due to rounding. The margin of error for the whole survey is +/- 4.5% 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 45.5% and 54.5%. 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 1.5 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 response rate (AAPOR RRI Standard Definition) for the survey was 11%. Five callbacks were employed in the fielding process. Live calling was conducted by trained interviewers at Christopher Newport University, the University of Georgia, and the University of North Florida.

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 Director
rebecca.bromleytrujillo@cnu.edu
Office: (757) 594-9140
Mobile: (269) 598-5008
Twitter: @becky_btru

Thomas Kramer, Executive Director
tkramer@cnu.edu
Mobile: (804) 381-9750
Twitter: @Tom_Kramer

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