Gov’s popularity on the rise

Published 7:16 pm Thursday, October 20, 2022

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.

On the subject of abortion, Virginia registered voters oppose the 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%).