A Wason Center/Christopher Newport University Poll found Governor Glenn Youngkin’s current job approval trailing slightly, with 41 percent approval and 43 percent disapproval. Forty-five percent of voters polled said Virginia is heading in the right direction, and 41 percent say it is headed in the wrong direction. Both results are within the poll’s plus-or-minus 4.2 percent margin of error. The Center reported that those results fall largely along partisan lines — 80 percent of Republicans say Virginia is going in the right direction, while only 22 percent of Democrats said the same. Key Republican initiatives got mixed results.
“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,” Academic Director of the Wason Center Quentin Kidd said in a press release. “Youngkin’s approval numbers are certainly lower than those of recent governors in Wason Center polling early in their term.”
“These polls were wrong during the campaign and are wrong now,” Youngkin spokesperson Macaulay Porter said in a statement. “Virginians endorsed Governor Youngkin’s grocery tax plan so overwhelmingly that outgoing Governor Northam included it in his budget proposal. Governor Youngkin’s initiatives have received bipartisan support and he looks forward to delivering on more promises that he made during the campaign.”
During the end of gubernatorial campaign, the Wason Center’s polls showed Youngkin trailing, but within the margin of error, consistent with the results of other pollsters. Their final poll conducted in mid-October found Youngkin one point behind Terry McAuliffe, but Youngkin won the election nearly two points ahead McAuliffe.
The latest poll was conducted from January 26 through February 15, with interviews of 701 registered Virginia voters.
The poll also includes policy questions, and several key Republican policies did not fare well. A grocery tax repeal got 47 percent support, leaving the tax in place got 24 percent, and an additional 25 percent said the tax should remain in place while low-income voters got a tax credit to offset the cost. Fifty-nine percent said Virginia’s policymakers should focus on spending budget surpluses on education, public safety, and social services, while 38 percent said the money should be used for tax refunds or rebates.
The poll did find 70 percent support for a Youngkin proposal to have a police officer in every school.
Youngkin’s most significant win so far is the passage of a school mask opt-out law.
The Wason Center reports, “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 percent) versus a decision left to parents (41 percent).”
Two questions focused on school teaching, including a question about a Critical Race Theory ban.
“Virginia voters largely support teaching how racism continues to impact American society today (63 percent support/strongly support to 33 percent oppose/strongly oppose). In addition, a majority oppose a government ban on the teaching of Critical Race Theory in Virginia public schools (57 percent oppose/strongly oppose to 35 percent support/strongly support),” the release states. “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.”
Although Youngkin spoke about banning Critical Race Theory on the campaign trail, Republicans have changed the terminology. Youngkin’s executive order focuses on “inherently divisive concepts” including Critical Race Theory.
Legislation passed by House Republicans doesn’t mention “inherently divisive concepts” or Critical Race Theory, but bans teaching students to “believe or promote” ideas, including the idea that “an individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive[.]”
The legislation also clarifies that teachers can teach about banned beliefs.
Bacon’s Rebellion publisher James Bacon criticized the Wason Center’s description of the issue and framing of the questions.
“The Wason Center statement is a fair description of how Youngkin’s policies are presented by Democrats, and may be a fair reflection of how they are understood by the public. But the polling questions are based on premises that are flat-out wrong,” Bacon wrote.
In a Monday House floor speech, Delegate Don Scott (D-Portsmouth) said, “The bad news is, for the governor, the honeymoon is over. New polling is out. […] CNU was right about the last election, had it tight and the governor pulled it off.”
“It’s hard to be this bad this fast. It’s only been a few weeks. The incompetence and divisiveness have been surprising to voters, and they were not expecting this,” Scott said.
He said that Youngkin’s campaign strategies of distancing himself from Trump, being nice, and wearing a fleece vest made voters think Youngkin wouldn’t be extreme.
Scott said, “Now that the polls are out the voters see otherwise, and they disagree with the governor on a number of his priorities.”
Virginia Star Publisher John Fredericks said, “The Wason poll for years has become basically a shill for the Democratic Party of Virginia narrative. It is a complete joke of no credibility. They over-sample Democrats not to give information about polling, but to forward a fake, false news narrative. This has been going on for five years. Anybody that pays attention to this is better of watching reruns of Bozo the clown.”
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