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ArlingtonPoliticsYoungkin performance trumps Biden in new Va. poll

Youngkin performance trumps Biden in new Va. poll

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Virginia’s new governor is getting better reviews than the nation’s new(ish) president, according to a new statewide poll, but views continue to be filtered through a heavily partisan lens in these heavily partisan times.

Almost two months into his term as governor of Virginia, Glenn Youngkin registers a 50-percent approval rating while 41 percent disapprove, according to a newly released poll from the Institute for Policy and Opinion Research (IPOR) at Roanoke College.

Youngkin’s approval rating hovers near where then-Gov. Ralph Northam’s approval ratings stood in 2021 in the same poll (52% approval in August, 47% in May, 49% in February). Just over half (51%) of Virginians approve of Gov. Youngkin’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, while 44 percent disapprove.

Approval of President Biden’s job performance in the same poll now stands at a new low with 41 percent approving and 53 percent disapproving. Disapproval of the way the U.S. Congress is handling its job remains high, at 72 percent, with only 21 percent approving. That for the General Assembly is 44 percent approving, with 37 percent disapproving, similar to results when last asked in August of 2021.

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Pollsters interviewed adult residents of Virginia between Feb. 7 and 16. The survey has a margin of error of 4.8 percent.

About 46 percent of Virginians report a favorable view of Gov. Youngkin, with 42 percent having an unfavorable view. Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears holds a 30 percent favorable and 33 percent unfavorable rating, with 35 percent of respondents not knowing enough about her to have formed an opinion.

Attorney General Jason Miyares has a 24-percent favorable and 34-percent unfavorable rating, with 41 percent of respondents not being able to form an opinion at the current time.

Recently departed Gov. Northam holds a 41%/44% favorable/unfavorable rating (down from 54%/39% in September) while President Biden’s ratings are 43 percent favorable and 52 percent unfavorable. This marks the first time in the Roanoke College Poll where a majority of Virginians have had an unfavorable view of Biden (which is separate from job-performance ratings).

Former President Donald Trump has a 37-percent favorable and 56-percent unfavorable rating among Virginians, virtually unchanged since October.

When asked about the country, 29 percent of Virginians say that things are going in the right direction while 67 percent say that things have gotten off on the wrong track, which compares similarly to Virginians’ viewpoint in November. Regarding the commonwealth itself, Virginians are split, with 47 percent saying things are going in the right direction and 47 percent saying things have gotten off on the wrong track.

“There is some worry among Virginians about the direction of the commonwealth, as fewer residents feel that our state is heading in the right direction,” said David Taylor, director of IPOR.

Pollsters asked respondents to place themselves on a scale with personal freedom on one side and health and safety on the other, and the result was something of a muddled jumble (or jumbled muddle, if you prefer).

About 38 percent of respondents expressed some degree of preference toward personal freedom while 37 percent tilted more toward health and safety. Roughly 22 percent placed themselves “solidly in the middle” between the two sides.

The balance toward personal freedom is higher (62%) among Republicans when compared to Democrats (26%) and independents (32%).

“It is not a surprise at all that many issues and opinions across the commonwealth continue to be affected by partisanship,” Taylor said.

On the day of his inauguration, Gov. Youngkin’s second executive order aimed to place the decision about mask-wearing in schools in the hands of students’ parents. The Roanoke College poll found that 46 percent of Virginians strongly or somewhat agree with this executive order while 52 percent disagree. Approval is high (82%) among Republicans but lower among Democrats (21%) and independents (41%).

About 56 percent of Virginians told pollsters that “local school districts should set mask requirements for themselves” as opposed to 37 percent saying “Gov. Youngkin and the state government should set mask requirements for local school districts.”

The governor’s second executive directive, also issued on Inauguration Day, removed the vaccine mandate for all state employees that had been imposed by Northam. Just over half (51%) of respondents strongly or somewhat agreed with that stance, and 46 percent strongly or somewhat disagreed. Among Republicans, 84 percent had some degree of agreement, while just 23 percent of Democrats did.

A total of 605 residents of Virginia, 18 or older, were included in this study. Telephone interviews comprised 403 of the respondents, and 202 responses were drawn from a proprietary online panel of Virginians. The landline sample consisted of random-digit numbers generated in proportion to the Virginia population so that all residential telephone numbers, including unlisted numbers, had a known chance of inclusion. Cellphone samples comprised 55 percent of the completed telephone interviews.

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