Editorial – Suffolkians like mayor, poll shows

Published 6:05 pm Friday, November 25, 2022

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Suffolk’s Mike Duman is one of Hampton Roads’ most popular mayors, according to a recent survey by the Social Science Research Center at Old Dominion University.

According to data collected for the 13th annual Life in Hampton Roads survey, 59% of Suffolk residents approve of Duman’s job performance, trailing only Newport News Mayor McKinley Price’s 60.8% among the mayors of the region’s seven major cities. Portsmouth’s Shannon Glover is least popular at 31%. Duman’s disapproval rating of 7.7% was second-lowest in the region, behind Price’s 6.3%.

An important piece of context: The survey, while released to the public just last week, was conducted May 31 through Aug. 19. In other words, respondents were surveyed entirely before the Suffolk City Council’s September approval of the dreaded Port 460 warehousing monstrosity. Duman’s support of that project, which has angered the citizenry unlike anything we’ve seen in decades of chronicling Suffolk politics, surely will cost him some support when the ODU survey is done again next year.

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Still, we find Duman’s high approval — and low disapproval — ratings to be well earned and unsurprising. He is diligent and sincere, respects Suffolk’s “weak mayor/strong manager” form of government and has an obvious love for a city that has helped him build a thriving business, while he has reciprocated as one of its more generous civic and charitable supporters.

Other interesting findings from the Life in Hampton Roads survey:

  • Political party affiliation among respondents to the survey continued to lean substantially toward the Democratic Party, in line with past surveys in Hampton Roads. Nearly 3 in 10 (27.7%) respondents said they felt closest to the Democratic Party when asked the question “Do you generally feel closer to the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, or do you consider yourself to be an independent or something else.” Some 16.3% identified with the Republican Party.
  • People were asked to describe their political views on a seven-point scale ranging from extremely liberal to extremely conservative.
  • Respondents’ views of President Joe Biden’s job performance were down from the 2021 survey, in line with changing national trends in his approval rating. The percentage who strongly approved of Biden’s job performance dropped by about 10 percentage points (from 14.7% to 4.3%), and the percentage who approved also dropped by more than five points (from 41% to 35.2%).
  • Opinions were mixed on Gov. Glenn Youngkin, with 43.7% approving or strongly approving and 34.9% disapproving or strongly disapproving. Since Youngkin received roughly 45% of the vote in the November 2021 gubernatorial election within the seven cities surveyed, his level of approval seems consistent with neither major gains nor losses in popularity for the governor at this point in his administration.
  • One of Youngkin’s signature actions — an executive order banning “inherently divisive concepts,” including Critical Race Theory, in Virginia public schools — wasn’t a hit in Hampton Roads. About one-third (32.9%) of respondents indicated that they approved or strongly approved of the order, but nearly half (48.7%) disapproved.