The latest public opinion survey of likely voters in Virginia, conducted by a South Carolina research initiative led by political scientist Dr. Scott Huffmon, shows Democrat Hillary Clinton with a 5-point lead over Republican Donald Trump. Winthrop Poll Director Huffmon says, “With several negative ‘October surprises’ coming out and affecting both candidates, we have seen a tightening of the race in national polls. However, while Clinton’s lead in Virginia has shrunk from its highest point, she still leads Donald Trump in the Commonwealth.” Bob Leweke spoke with Dr. Huffmon about the results, just one week before Election Day.
Through telephone interviews, callers surveyed 712 likely voters in Virginia by landline and cell phones between October 23 and October 30, 2016. Results which use all respondents have a margin of error of approximately +/- 3.6% at the 95% confidence level. Subgroups have higher margins of error.
Likely voters also shared how they would describe these three politicians:
· Hillary Clinton: 83% of Democrats said favorable, only 6% of Republicans gave her that mark.
· Donald Trump: 96% of Democrats said unfavorable, 68% of Republicans rated him favorable.
· Va. Governor Terry McAuliffe: 76% of Democrats said favorable, 66% of Republicans said unfavorable.
According to Dr. Huffmon, “Virginia voters don’t have a particularly favorable view of either Trump or Clinton. While Clinton’s favorability with her base is stronger than Trump’s, Republicans aren’t likely to cross party lines to vote for someone who 93% of them view unfavorably.”
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA AND GOVERNOR MCAULIFFE
President Barack Obama’s approval rating in Virginia is at 52%. The two-term president’s ratings are split along party lines – Democratic leaning voters give him a 95% approval rating, while Republican-leaning voters disapprove of him at an 89% rate.
Governor McAuliffe’s approval rating stands at 44% while 42% of all respondents disapproved of the job he is doing as governor. Three out of four Democratic leaning voters approve of McAuliffe, now in his second year of office. Republicans think differently: only 14% approve of him, while 73% do not.
Nearly 60% of the Virginia likely voters said the country is headed in the wrong direction. Republicans have a bleak view – 95% reported a negative impression. Poll respondents all together cited the economy, 15.3%; politicians/government, 10.9%; racism, 8.4%; jobs/unemployment, 7.1%; and terrorism, 5.2%, as the most pressing problems for the country. Still, 48% said the country’s economy is either very or fairly good.
Sixty-one percent said the Old Dominion’s economy was either very or fairly good. As for the most important problems facing the state, the economy, 14.6%; education, 11.7%; jobs/unemployment, 10.5%; politicians/government, 6.3%; and roads/bridges/infrastructure, 6%, was cited.
When asked about their personal financial situation, 60% of all respondents said their finances were excellent or good.
DRUGS, AMENDMENTS AND IMMIGRATION
Three out of five likely Virginia voters feel that marijuana should be legalized for medical purposes. They are more cautious though about the drug for recreational uses: 45% said to legalize it, while 48% opposed it.
As for prescription drugs such as pain medications, sleep aids, treatment for ADHD, etc., likely voters overwhelmingly (69%) felt like there was abuse of pills in their area.
Huffmon notes, “Prescription drug abuse is a growing national concern and Virginia is no different. Likely voters see this as a real problem.”
In addition to the presidential election, Virginia voters will see two constitutional amendments on their ballots. One amendment would put provisions of Virginia’s right-to-work law into the state constitution. Half of the poll respondents said they oppose the amendment because it would make it illegal for workplaces to require labor union membership for employment.
A second proposed constitutional amendment on the Virginia ballot is meant to aid the families of first responders killed in the line of duty. It would allow local governments to exempt a surviving spouse’s property from taxation, a move that 82% of likely voters said they would support.
Immigration is another area where major differences between the nation’s two parties surface. Sixty-four percent of Democrats said that they strongly believe that the United States should not restrict immigration of Muslims to this country. On the Republican side, 54% said the nation strongly should, while 14% said the nation somewhat should.
According to Huffmon, “Trump made a ban on Muslim immigration a key talking point of his campaign. This is clearly something that splits the parties in Virginia, but while a majority of Republicans favor the ban, the sentiment is not universal with more than 1 in 5 saying they oppose such a ban.”
Meanwhile, half of the Republican respondents said they approve of the Tea Party movement. About one quarter of both Democrats and Republicans said they were not familiar enough with the movement to comment. Only six percent of all likely voters said they consider themselves part of the movement.
Dr. Huffmon is a Professor of Political Science, and the founder and director of the Social & Behavioral Research Laboratory at Winthrop University.