Virginians Weigh In On Key Issues As General Assembly Makes Important Decisions

Voters largely undecided on Cuccinelli and McAuliffe for Governor in 2013

Virginia_state_flagVirginians are not favorably inclined toward Gov. Bob McDonnell’s transportation funding/tax plan, but they don’t like other revenue enhancers either, according to The Roanoke College Poll. Virginia residents are more likely to agree with McDonnell’s education proposals, and they are split on allowing uranium mining.


Residents of the Commonwealth remain divided regarding how to deal with funding transportation in Virginia. Over the past several years, The Roanoke College Poll asked residents to choose among four options to fund transportation, and the results have been mostly stable. At present, shifting funds from other budget areas (28%) is more popular than raising taxes and designating them for highways (24%), creating toll roads (19%) or using existing funds as far as they go (18%).

McDonnell’s proposal to eliminate the gas tax while raising the sales tax and some vehicle fees was opposed by almost half (49%) of respondents and favored by just one-third (33%).

Residents support additional state funding for passenger trains (55%), but are split regarding additional funding for freight trains (42% favor/41% oppose).

Other General Assembly and Virginia issues

The public is evenly split on lifting the ban on uranium mining in Virginia, with 39 percent favoring mining, while 38 percent are opposed.

Strong majorities of respondents favor cell phone restrictions while driving. Eighty-two percent favor making texting while driving a primary offense, and 61 percent favor a law making the use of a hand-held cell phone while driving a primary offense.

Regarding education, a majority (70%) favor tying teachers’ raises to performance as well as eliminating tenure for teachers (54%). A majority of residents (66%) favor allowing school systems to begin the school year before Labor Day regardless of the number of weather-related cancellations in previous years.

Respondents support the requirement that voters show valid identification prior to voting (83%). They also favor drug testing welfare recipients (76%). They were relatively evenly split with regard to the state setting up its own health insurance exchanges (36%) or relying on those of the federal government (32%) to comply with the Affordable Care Act.

Virginians would welcome the opportunity to reelect their governor (69%) and a plurality (48%) favor allowing hunting on Sunday, two issues that are often voted down by the General Assembly.

The Virginia Race for Governor—2013

Cuccinelli leads McAuliffe (33%-26%), but 41% of respondents are undecided. Including Bolling reduces Cuccinelli’s lead over McAuliffe slightly (25%-19%), giving minimal support to the theory that Bolling would take votes from Cuccinelli. In that scenario, Bolling gains the support of 12 percent, and the percentage of respondents who are undecided increases to 44 percent. Including only registered voters, the percentages in the one-on-one matchup are identical, while in the three-way race, McAuliffe drops one point to 18 percent, and Bolling picks up that point to rise to 13 percent.

Examining the favorable ratings for each candidate, the reason for the high percentage of undecided is clear. A majority of Virginia residents do not know enough about either McAuliffe (62%) or Bolling (60%) to have an opinion about them, and 46 percent don’t have an opinion of Cuccinelli. Interestingly, Bolling’s breakdown is most favorable (18% favorable/9% unfavorable) compared to Cuccinelli (22%/24%) and McAuliffe (10%/16%). Still, it would be fair to say that residents are not well-acquainted with any of the likely candidates for governor.

Views of Virginia and the U.S.

Virginians’ views on the country and the Commonwealth are somewhat more pessimistic than they were in October. A majority of U.S. citizens (61%) think the United States is on the wrong track while 30 percent think the country is headed in the right direction. Perceptions of the Commonwealth are more optimistic than the country (49% think Virginia is headed in the right direction; 35% think it is on the wrong track). Each is about three points more negative, compared to October.


“Looking ahead to the gubernatorial election, we see two or three candidates who are largely unknown to the general public,” said Dr. Harry Wilson, director of the Institute for Policy and Opinion Research. “The unfavorable numbers for both Cuccinelli and McAuliffe suggest that both have to define themselves. Of course, they will also spend a lot of time trying to define their opponent. They are both fairly blank slates, though the unfavorable numbers could be a concern for both.”

“On transportation, it seems that citizens would like to have their problems solved at no cost to them,” Wilson said. “That may be an appealing idea, but it is obviously not feasible. As for additional revenue, most Virginians won’t give it up willingly.”

Interviewing for The Roanoke College Poll was conducted by The Institute for Policy and Opinion Research at Roanoke College between Jan. 14 and Jan. 22, 2013. Quotas were used to ensure that different regions of the Commonwealth were proportionately represented. The data were statistically weighted for gender, race, and age.

A copy of the questionnaire and all frequencies may be found on the Roanoke College web site.

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