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Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s approval rating has taken a hit for the first time since he took office in January of last year. The Republican’s approval is down six points from February, with 51% of Virginians reporting that they are supportive of the way he is handling his job, according to a new poll released Wednesday by the Institute for Policy and Opinion Research at Roanoke College.
Youngkin’s favorability rating is also down six points to 46% (from 52% in February). Significant partisan gaps in the governor’s approval and favorability continue from previous polls, with a 52-point gap in approval (34% of Democrats and 86% of Republicans), and 54-point gap in favorability (27% of Democrats and 81% of Republicans).
These numbers mark the lowest ratings that Youngkin received in this poll during the first 15 months of his four-year term as Virginia’s top executive.
Those numbers also reflect changes in party identification. This poll found a more Democratic, and less Republican, electorate than the previous Roanoke College Poll in March. In the March poll, 30% of respondents said they were Democrats and 25% said they were Republicans. In this poll, 34% said they were Democrats and 21% said they were Republicans — so a 5% advantage for Democrats has become a 13% advantage. Youngkin’s ratings with Democrats, Republicans and independents are virtually unchanged from the March poll; what’s changed is that more people now identify as Democrats, which serves to pull his numbers down. Among independents, Youngkin had a 54% approval rating in March; now it’s 52%.
Virginians are also almost equally divided when it comes to the state legislature, with 50% of voters approving of the way lawmakers are handling their job – a slight increase from 48% in February. This number includes a 10-point partisan gap in approval (58% Democrats, 48% Republicans).
The partisan divide spills over into Virginians’ view of the direction of the commonwealth. Just 48% report that things are going in the right direction, which is down seven percentage points from 55% in February. There is a modest 12-point partisan gap, with 47% of Democrats sharing a more pessimistic view, and 59% of Republicans being more optimistic.
At the national level, President Joe Biden’s approval and favorability ratings are up slightly to 42% – from 38% in February – and 43% (from 40% in February), respectively, though both changes are within the survey’s statistical margin of error.
As for former President Donald Trump, the current frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president, about six in 10 Virginians report an unfavorable view of him, which is up five points from February and is the highest unfavorable rating in our poll since January 2016.
Once again, there are substantial partisan gaps in favorability ratings for both Biden and Trump, including a 73-point gap for Biden (80% of Democrats, 7% of Republicans) and 65-point gap for Trump (11% of Democrats, 76% of Republicans).
As for the U.S. Congress, Virginians’ approval rating is down about four points to 19% (from 23% in February and 27% in November). This is the Roanoke College poll’s lowest-recorded approval rating for Congress since August 2021.
One in four Virginians believes things are going in the right direction in the country, while seven in 10 think things are on the wrong track, which is statistically unchanged from the last poll (27% and 69% in February, respectively). There is a 37-point partisan gap in Virginians’ belief that things in the country are going in the right direction (45% of Democrats, 8% of Republicans).
“The main takeaway from our May poll is that more Virginians are reporting concern about the direction things are going in Virginia and in the nation,” said Bryan Parsons, senior political analyst at the Institute for Policy and Opinion Research at Roanoke College.
“We also see this reflected in our Political Anxiety Index, which is up overall and among Democrats since the last time we measured it in November,” Parsons said. “We see a drop in the number of Virginians who think citizens can do a lot to influence government, as well as an increase in those who think the country’s best years are behind us. These factors are part of Virginians’ higher levels of pessimism about the commonwealth and nation.”
While half of Virginians approve of the job Youngkin is doing as governor, his approval and favorability ratings are down a bit since the last poll, Parsons added. “Our recent Consumer Sentiment Report showed that Virginians are increasingly optimistic about the economy, so it may be a surprise that the public does not appear to be rewarding the governor with a higher job approval rating.”
However, a lot of research links public optimism about the economy to favorable evaluations of the president, which the poll finds in a slight uptick in Biden’s approval and favorability ratings, Parsons said. “The consistent story of Virginia and national politics, however, continues to be the way partisanship shapes how the public evaluates political leaders, which is reflected in substantial gaps between Democrats’ and Republicans’ approval of both Youngkin and Biden.”
For its latest poll, the Institute for Policy and Opinion Research at Roanoke College interviewed 678 adult residents of Virginia between May 14 and May 23, in a survey addressing topics such as approval and favorability ratings for Gov. Glenn Youngkin and other political figures. The survey has a margin of error of 4.43%.