Youngkin’s popularity on the rise

Published 4:26 pm Tuesday, October 18, 2022

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Nearly a year after Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s upset victory over Terry McAuliffe, a new poll suggests that the big picture has changed little in Virginia politics: Voters are as divided as ever.

The poll, conducted Sept. 18-Oct. 7 by the respected Wason Center for Civic Leadership at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, shows Virginia voters are evenly split on the direction of the commonwealth, 42% saying the state is in the right direction, 40% wrong direction.

But for the governor himself, it’s been a good year in the court of public opinion.

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The new poll shows that 50% approve of the job Youngkin is doing. Within the poll’s 4.5% margin for error, that’s about the number that voted for him, and might prove to be the cap of his popularity in a purple state. But of note, the same pollsters asked the same question in February, within weeks of his taking office, and just 41% approved.

His standing has approved in every category of voters: Republicans (90% approval in the new poll, up from 85% in February), Democrats (18%, doubled from 9% in February), independents (48%, up from 42%), whites (57%, up from 49%), African-Americans (22%, up slightly from 20%) and college graduates (42%, up from 37%).

His biggest gains are perhaps the most surprising. Some 47% of women now approve of Youngkin’s performance, up sharply from 32% in February, despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. That decision has helped Democrats across the country and hurt a lot of Republicans, but not Youngkin, who has mostly avoided the abortion question.

The governor has also seen a big surge in popularity among young people. Some 48% of adults from ages 18 to 44 have a favorable opinion of Youngkin, according to the poll, up from 32% in February. That too defies national trends that show young people being more liberal and Democratic.

Other poll results of interest:

  • Democrats are slightly favored on a generic ballot for next month’s midterms, 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.
  • President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act provisions related to health care and the environment are popular among Virginia voters (ranging from 58% to 82% support; a majority oppose increased funding to the IRS (55%).
  • 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%).
  • Virginia registered voters oppose the U.S. 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%).