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RICHMOND – As lawmakers continue to spar over Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s tax relief proposals halfway into the 2023 legislative session, the governor’s job approval rating among Virginia voters remains at 50%, according to a new poll released Friday by the Wason Center for Civic Leadership at Christopher Newport University.
The rating is unchanged from October, when the same poll found that half of those surveyed gave Youngkin a thumbs-up. However, a plurality of Virginians (59% to 29%) still prefer that the governor not run for president in 2024.
The new poll also found that 45% of voters believe that the commonwealth is headed in the right direction – a 3% increase compared to the previous poll – with 37% percent not agreeing with this sentiment.
However, Virginians continue to be very pessimistic about the direction of the country as a whole with ongoing economic concerns amid intense partisan polarization. Only 19% of Virginia registered voters say the United States is headed in the right direction, compared to 73% who find the opposite.
The dissatisfaction of voters is reflected in President Joe Biden’s approval rating – only 38% approve of Biden’s job halfway into his first term in the White House, with 57% stating that they disapprove.
“Virginians are generally alright with the direction of the commonwealth, but have far more negative opinions regarding the direction of the country as a whole,” said Rebecca Bromley-Trujillo, research director of the Wason Center.
“Virginians give Governor Youngkin solid marks as he enters his second year in office. Conversely, they see the nation as headed in the wrong direction and continue to be displeased with the president,” Bromley-Trujillo said. “And this same dynamic, which has been noted in prior polling, extends to education as well. Virginians are far more satisfied with their own local public schools than they are with the nation’s public schools in general.”
However, the differences are largely along partisan lines, with 67% of Republican voters saying Virginia is heading in the right direction, compared to 23% of Democrats and 47% of Independents. On Youngkin’s job performance, 83% of Republicans approve, while 74% of Democrats disapprove; 54% of Independents signal their approval.
The poll also found that 41% of those surveyed give their local public schools an “A” or “B” grade, but only 13% grade national public schools that high. Virginia voters also show support for requiring parental approval for K-12 students to be referred to by a different pronoun from their birth certificate (59% to 36%).
As the Democratic majority in the state Senate rejected Youngkin-endorsed legislation that would have banned abortion after 15 weeks, with few exceptions, the Wason poll found that 43% of Virginians would prefer to keep state abortion laws as is, compared to 29% who would prefer less restrictive laws and 23% who want more restrictive laws on abortion.
But a plurality of Virginia voters support lowering Virginia’s individual income tax rate (48% to 43%), but Virginians oppose a cut to Virginia’s corporate income tax rate (57% to 37%). After the legislature passed a historic $4 billion in tax relief measures last year, Youngkin has been pushing lawmakers to back another $1 billion in tax cuts – including a total repeal of the state’s grocery tax.
Virginia voters are also at odds with Youngkin over his plan to withdraw from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, with 66% stating that they want Virginia to remain part of the alliance. Support for the Virginia Clean Economy Act also remains strong with 62%, with just 33% opposing the legislation.
And as lawmakers grapple with creating a marketplace for cannabis, 60% of Virginia voters support recreational marijuana sales, with another 55% stating that localities should be allowed to host casinos should their residents approve one in a referendum.
Bromley-Trujillo said that Virginians have “a fascinating mix of opinions” when it comes to this varied list of issues confronting the governor and the General Assembly this session.
“They believe parents should approve before their child changes their pronouns. They narrowly back individual income tax cuts, but oppose corporate tax cuts. They want to see the current ‘legal limbo’ surrounding marijuana in the commonwealth be settled by allowing for recreational sales,” Bromley-Trujillo said.
“These are interesting times in the commonwealth and this poll finds an electorate engaged with the issues at hand and offering up fascinating opinions on the direction the state should go.”
Youngkin spokeswoman Macaulay Porter said in a text message that the governor’s approval ratings are “significantly outperforming” Biden’s because he has delivered on his promises.
“With $4 billion in tax relief for Virginians, the largest K-12 education budget in Virginia’s history and key efforts like Operation Bold Blue Line to keep our communities safe, the governor has brought people together around common sense solutions and delivered results,” Porter said.
This story has been updated on Jan. 28 at 11:23 a.m. to include a statement from a Youngkin spokeswoman.