State of the Commonwealth 2023 - The Wason Center - Christopher Newport University

January 27, 2023

State of the Commonwealth 2023

Virginians Give Governor Solid Marks, Think Commonwealth Doing Alright; Give President Low Marks, Think Country Heading in Wrong Direction; Prefer Governor Stay Right Here in the Commonwealth

Same Dynamic on Education: 41% of Virginians Give Their Local Public Schools an “A” or “B” Grade; Only 13% Grade National Public Schools that High

Virginians Support: Recreational Marijuana Sales; Staying in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative; Parental Approval For Changes in Student Gender ID; And Narrowly Back Income Tax Cut; But Oppose Corporate Tax Cut Proposal

Summary of Key Findings

  1. A plurality of Virginians think the Commonwealth is headed in the right direction (45% to 37%), while 50% approve of the job Governor Youngkin is doing. Still, Virginians prefer that the Governor not run for president (59% to 29%).
  2. Virginians are pessimistic about the direction of the country (19% right direction to 73% wrong direction); dissatisfaction is reflected in Biden’s approval rating (38% approve to 57% disapprove).
  3. Virginia voters support recreational marijuana sales (60%) and allowing any interested localities to host casinos should their residents approve one in a referendum (55%).
  4. Virginia voters strongly support staying in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (66%) and support the Virginia Clean Economy Act (62% to 33%).
  5. 41% of Virginians Give Their Local Public Schools an “A” or “B” Grade; Only 13% Grade National Public Schools that High.
  6. Virginia voters also show support for requiring parental approval for K- 12 students to be referred to by a different pronoun from their birth certificate (59% to 36%).
  7. Virginians would prefer to keep state abortion laws as is (43%) compared to 29% who would prefer less restrictive laws and 23% who want more restrictive laws on abortion.
  8. A plurality of Virginia voters support lowering Virginias individual income tax rate (48% to 43%), but oppose a cut to Virginia’s corporate income tax rate (57% to 37%).


As the General Assembly enters its third week of the 2023 session, Virginia registered voters are relatively split on a number of key agenda items before state legislators. Virginia voters show support for some of Governor Youngkin’s policies, including narrow support for a reduction in the state income tax and requiring parental approval for students to be referred to by a different pronoun from their birth certificate in K-12 public schools. On the other hand, a majority of registered voters do not support the governor’s environmental policy proposals, abortion restrictions, or his corporate tax cut proposal. Still, half of Virginia voters approve of the job Governor Youngkin is doing and are more optimistic about the direction of the Commonwealth than the state of the nation.

State of things: When asked about the direction of the Commonwealth, 45% say Virginia is headed in the right direction, while 37% say the wrong direction, with 11% are mixed. Views about the right/wrong direction of the Commonwealth have remained relatively consistent over the last four years. Governor Youngkin’s job approval remains steady from nearly a year ago at 50%, while 36% indicate they disapprove and 14% say they don’t know.

Differences are largely along partisan lines, with 67% of Republican voters saying Virginia is heading in the right direction, compared to 23% of Democrats and 47% of Independents. On Governor Youngkin’s job performance, 83% of Republicans approve, while 74% of Democrats disapprove; 54% of Independents signal their approval.

Still, Virginians prefer that the Governor not run for president in 2024. 59% say Governor Youngkin should not run for president in 2024 while 29% say he should. Another 8% are unsure while 5% say they don’t know. A plurality of Republicans (46%) support a presidential run, while 38% of Republicans do not like the prospect. Independents are opposed to a run with 58% saying don’t do it. Democrats, as would be expected, are do not want to see the Governor run, with 82% opposed.

Direction of the country and presidential approval: Virginia voters continue to be pessimistic about the direction of the country. Only 19% of Virginia registered voters say the United States is headed in the right direction, compared to 73% percent who say the wrong direction; 6% are mixed and 2% say they don’t know. President Biden’s job approval numbers reflect this overall discontent, with 38% saying they approve of his job performance, compared to 57% who disapprove; 5% say they don’t know. A year ago, Biden’s approval among Virginia voters stood at 40%.

K-12 education: When it comes to grading Virginia K-12 public schools, Virginians view their local schools more positively than the nation’s. 41% give Virginia schools an A or B grade, while 28% give a C, followed by 13% D and 9% F. When asked about the nation’s public schools only 13% give an A or B grade with most giving public schools outside of Virginia a C (39%), D (20%), or F (15%).

Tax policy: Governor Youngkin’s tax proposals receive mixed reviews. Virginians narrowly support his proposal to lower Virginia’s top individual income tax rate from 5.75% to 5.5% (48% support, 43% oppose; 9% don’t know). A majority oppose a cut to Virginia’s corporate income tax rate from 6% to 5% (57% oppose to 37% support; 6% don’t know).

Environmental Policy: Virginians continue to support remaining in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) (66% to 24%; 10% don’t know), a regional carbon cap and trade program joined by 11 states aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

While there are partisan differences on RGGI, a plurality of Republicans still support staying in the program (42% to 40%), while Democrats show considerable support (92% to 4 %); Independents also show support (62% to 29%). Younger Virginia voters show higher support than those 45+ (71% to 62%).

Virginians also continue to support the Virginia Clean Economy Act (62% support to 33% oppose; 6% don’t know), a law passed in the Democratic-controlled legislature in 2020 and signed by Governor Ralph Northam that requires electric utilities in the state to produce 100% of their energy from renewable resources by 2050. This program has also been targeted for repeal by the Governor and Republican Virginia lawmakers.

Abortion: When asked about abortion policy in the Commonwealth, most Virginia voters believe abortion laws should remain as is (43%), followed by support for less restrictive laws (29%), and some support for more restrictive abortion laws (23%). Several bills that would require more restrictions on abortions have been proposed in the 2023 General Assembly session, and Governor Youngkin has called for a ban on abortions at 15 weeks with exceptions for life of the mother, rape and incest.

A similar number of partisans on both sides of the political aisle support keeping abortion law as is (45% of Democrats compared to 39% of Republicans and 46% of Independents). Still, partisan differences emerge with 44% of Republicans supporting more restrictive abortion laws compared to only 1% of Democrats and 26% of Independents. There is also a modest gender gap on this issue with 75% of women indicating they either want abortion laws to remain as is (45%), or laws to be less restrictive (30%). 68% of men support leaving laws as is (41%) or less restrictive (27%).

Marijuana and Casinos: Virginians support allowing the retail sale of recreational marijuana in Virginia (60% to 34%; 6% don’t know). While Democrats show strong support (73% to 21%), Republicans are heavily split (44% support to 47% oppose). In addition, there is a clear age gap on this issue with those aged 18-44 showing higher support than 45+ (72% to 50%).

“Marijuana has proved to be a major topic of discussion in the current General Assembly session given the unusual nature of current Virginia law,” said Rebecca Bromley-Trujillo, Research Director of the Wason Center. “As it stands, it is legal to possess and cultivate small amounts of marijuana, but retail sale is still not allowed. The Governor has largely shied away from answering questions about his stance, while both Democrats and Republicans have proposed a range of bills on the subject. It remains to be seen whether lawmakers can actually come to an agreement, however.”

Currently, five Virginia localities have been given the opportunity to hold a referendum to allow for hosting a casino in their locality, and Virginia’s first temporary casino opened in Bristol last year, with the first permanent casino opening in Portsmouth this year. Virginians now indicate they support allowing any interested localities to host casinos as well if their voters were to approve of one in a referendum (55% support to 38% oppose). Support is largely bipartisan with Independents indicating the highest levels of support at 59%, followed by 58% of Democrats and 50% of Republicans.

How the survey was conducted:

The results of this poll are based on 1038 interviews of Virginia registered voters, including 231 on landline and 807 on cell phone, conducted January 13- January 23, 2023. Percentages may not equal 100 due to rounding. The margin of error for the whole survey is +/- 3.8% 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 53.8% and 46.2%. 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 1.6 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 11%. Five callbacks were employed in the fielding process. Live calling was conducted by trained interviewers at Christopher Newport University and Dynata. 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 registered voters. Parameters for the weights come from the 2020 Census and the 2021 American Community Survey 1-year Estimates.

For further information contact:

Dr. Rebecca Bromley-Trujillo, Research Director
Office: (757) 594-9140
Mobile: (269) 598-5008
Twitter: @becky_btru

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

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