Voters lean Republican, favor minimum wage increase, gun control, redistricting reform

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1 September 24, 2015 Voters lean Republican, favor minimum wage increase, gun control, redistricting reform Summary of Key Findings 1. Overall, Republicans have an advantage in the Nov. 3 election, but the crucial contest for control of the Virginia Senate is a statistical tie. 2. School performance and college costs are voters top priorities, with concern about fixing traffic congestion surprisingly low. 3. Voters are solidly in favor of increasing the minimum wage, requiring tougher background checks for gun buyers, tightening regulation on payday lenders and creating an independent commission to draw political boundaries -- taking that power away from the General Assembly. 4. Relatively few voters say they are paying attention to the candidates or election news, and the survey projects turnout at about 26%. 5. A majority of voters think things are going in the right direction in Virginia but going in the wrong direction in the country. For Further Information Contact: Dr. Quentin Kidd, Director Office (757) Wason Center for Public Policy Mobile (757) Tom Kramer, Assistant Director Office (757) Wason Center for Public Policy Mobile (804)

2 Analysis The State of Things and Job Approval: Virginians are happier with the direction of the state than the direction of the country. Only 28% say things in the U.S. are mostly going in the right direction, with more than twice that saying things are going in the wrong direction. At the same time, 46% say things in the Commonwealth are mostly going in the right direction, with fewer disapproving. Approval of the direction of the Commonwealth has dropped 5% since January. President Barack Obama s job approval among registered Virginia voters is still under water, but it increased by 2 points since April, standing at 43%, with 50% disapproving and 7% not sure. Gov. Terry McAuliffe s job approval is at its highest level since he took office, currently standing at 53%, with 23% disapproving and 25% not sure. McAuliffe s job approval in the Wason Center s January 2014 survey was at 52%. Sen. Mark Warner s job approval has not returned to its pre-election highs, standing now at 53%, with 26% disapproving and 21% not sure. Warner s job approval in Wason Center surveys of January 2014 and October 2011 was at 63% and 66%, respectively. Sen. Tim Kaine, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, and Attorney General Mark Herring s job approvals are all in positive territory, but below 50%. Kaine stands at 44%, with 31% disapproving and 25% not sure. Northam stands at 26%, with 12% disapproving and 62% not sure a high number for someone thought to be the Democrats front runner for governor in Herring stands at 39%, with 19% disapproving and 42% not sure. Overall, would you say things in the Commonwealth of Virginia are heading more in the direction? Right 46 Mixed (vol) 15 Wrong 35 Dk/ref (vol) 4 Trends: Jan Jan Jan Feb Oct Right Mixed (vol) Wrong Dk/ref (vol) Overall, would you say things in the United States are heading more in the direction? Right 28 Mixed (vol) 9 Wrong 61 Dk/ref (vol) 2 Trends: April 2015 Feb Jan Jan Jan Right Mixed (vol) Wrong Dk/ref (vol)

3 of the way Barack Obama is handling his job as President? Approve 43 Disapprove 50 Dk/ref (vol) 7 Trends: April 2015 Feb Jan Feb Jan Approve Disapprove Dk/ref (vol) of the way Terry McAuliffe is handling his job as Governor? Approve 53 Disapprove 23 Dk/ref (vol) 25 Trends: Jan Sept Apr Approve Disapprove Dk/ref (vol) of the way Mark Warner is handling his job as U.S. Senator? Approve 53 Disapprove 26 Dk/ref (vol) 21 Trends: Jan Oct Approve Disapprove of the way Tim Kaine is handling his job as U.S. Senator? of the way Ralph Northam is handling his job as Lt. Governor? of the way Mark Herring is handling his job as Attorney General? Approve 44 Disapprove 31 Dk/ref (vol) 25 Approve 26 Disapprove 12 Dk/ref (vol) 62 Approve 39 Disapprove 19 Dk/ref (vol) 42 3

4 General Assembly Elections and the Likely Voters Model: In the generic ballot test for the House of Delegates, 41% of all voters say they would support the Republican candidate and 36% say they would support the Democratic candidate, but among likely voters the Republican advantage increases to 47% to 34%. In the generic ballot test for the Virginia Senate, 40% of all voters say they would support the Republican candidate and 39% say they would support the Democratic candidate, but among likely voters the Republican advantage increases to 48% to 35%. Among all voters, Democrats and Republicans are statistically tied in the critical contest for control of the Virginia Senate, but among likely voters Republicans have an advantage, said Dr. Quentin Kidd, director of the Wason Center for Public Policy. However, these results also suggest that Democrats have time to engage their likely voters, especially in the six highly contested Senate races that will decide whether they can break the Republican hold on the legislature. While all 140 seats in the General Assembly are up for reelection in November, few voters appear to be paying close attention. Only 41% of voters say they have given quite a lot or some attention to the upcoming elections, while 58% say they have given little or no attention. Only 34% of voters say they have followed news about the candidates for House of Delegates and Virginia Senate, while 66% say they have not followed news very closely or at all. Even so, 90% of respondents say they plan to vote. Using the results of the three questions that measure how engaged voters are in the election process so far, the Wason Center created a likely voters model by scoring respondent s answers. If a respondent reported giving quite a lot or some thought, they were given a score of +1. If a respondent reported following news very closely or somewhat closely, they were given a score of +1. If a respondent said they would vote, they were given a score of +1. The resulting likely voters model scores every respondent on a scale from 0 (will not vote) to +3 (likely to vote), and suggests that 26% of registered voters are likely to vote. Given the survey s margin of error of +/- 3.4%, we can estimate turnout at this point to be in the range of 23% to 29%. These results demonstrate a classic pattern in Virginia s off-off-year elections, said Kidd. A far greater proportion of voters say they intend to vote than are actually paying attention to news about the elections or paying attention to the candidates for office. Our likely voters model allows us to understand who is actually likely to vote, and it suggests turnout at around 26%. 4

5 As you know, this November Virginia will hold elections for House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate. How much thought have you given to these upcoming elections And how closely have you have been following news about the candidates for the House of Delegates and Virginia Senate, would you say... Do you yourself plan to vote in the upcoming November election, or not? Quite a lot 17 Some 24 Only a little 36 None (vol) 22 Very closely 8 Somewhat closely 26 Not very closely 39 Not at all (vol) 27 Dk/ref (vol) Yes 90 No 7 Dk/ref (vol) 4 Likely Voters Model = An additive index constructed from the thought, following, and vote questions above. Will not vote 9 Very unlikely to vote 44 Could possibly vote 21 Likely to vote 26 Thinking about just the HOUSE OF DELEGATES, if the election for the HOUSE OF DELEGATES were held TODAY, would you vote for [RANDOMIZE: the Republican Party s candidate or the Democratic Party s candidate ]? Thinking about just the VIRGINIA SENATE, if the election for the VIRGINIA SENATE were held TODAY, would you vote for [RANDOMIZE: the Republican Party s candidate or the Democratic Party s candidate ]? All Likely voters voters Republican Democrat Other/Undecided (vol) Dk/ref (vol) 9 6 All voters Likely voters Republican Democrat Other/Undecided (vol)

6 General Assembly Priorities: Asked to rate the importance of some of the critical issues that will face the next General Assembly, voters are very interested in improving the performance of the Commonwealth s public schools and making higher education more affordable. Both are ranked as a highest priority by a majority of voters. When asked to say which ONE priority should be the top priority of the next General Assembly, 34% of voters say improving the performance of public schools, with 18% saying working to make Virginia s economy less dependent on federal spending, followed by finding a way to reduce gun violence (14%), making higher education more affordable (13%), and improving Virginia s healthcare system (12%). Working to reduce traffic congestion is the least important issue, with only 8% saying it should be the top priority of the next General Assembly. It s not surprising that voters continue to be interested in the quality of education in the Commonwealth, said Tom Kramer, assistant director of the Wason Center. But the low concern over traffic congestion suggests that voters are seeing progress from those controversial increases in the gas tax and highway funding passed by Gov. Bob McDonnell and the Assembly in I m going to read a list of policy goals that the next General Assembly might consider. Please rate how big a priority you feel each should be on a 1 to 5 scale, where 5 means HIGHEST PRIORITY, 1 means LOWEST PRIORITY, and 3 is in the MIDDLE. [RANDOMIZE Q14-Q19] 1 - lowest highest Dk/ref (vol) Improving the performance of our public schools Working to reduce traffic congestion Finding a way to reduce gun violence Making higher education more affordable Improving Virginia s healthcare system Working to make Virginia s economy less dependent on federal spending I m going to read that list of policy goals again, and I d like you to tell me which ONE you feel should be the top priority for the General Assembly and Governor to work on first. [RANDOMIZE CHOICES] Improving the performance of our public schools 34 Working to reduce traffic congestion 8 Finding a way to reduce gun violence 14 Making higher education more affordable 13 Improving Virginia s healthcare system 12 Working to make Virginia s economy less dependent on federal spending 18 6

7 Legislative Issues: Proposals on the minimum wage, gun control, payday lending and redistricting reform found solid support from Virginia voters in the survey. Voters back an increase in the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour by 2017, with 65% saying they support an increase in the minimum wage and 32% opposing it. In the wake of the recent shootings in Virginia and across the nation, a very strong majority of voters (75%) back requiring more thorough background checks for anyone attempting to purchase firearms. Just under a quarter (22%) oppose more thorough background checks, and 2% have no view. A very strong majority of voters (82%) support increased regulation of payday lenders, while 12% oppose such increased regulation. Changing the Virginia constitution to establish an independent redistricting commission is supported by more voters (46%) than oppose it (36%), with 19% of voters volunteering that they either have no view or do not know enough to have a view. Virginia s constitution gives the General Assembly the sole power to redistrict. Some people propose changing the Virginia constitution by taking authority over redistricting away from the General Assembly and establish an independent redistricting commission to draw new district boundaries. Do you [RANDOMIZE: support or oppose ] this proposal? As a result of recent shootings in Virginia and across the nation, some people have proposed requiring more thorough background checks, such as more in depth psychological evaluations, for anyone who is attempting to purchase firearms. Do you [RANDOMIZE: support or oppose ] this proposal? Support 46 No View (vol) 8 Oppose 36 1 Support 75 No View (vol) 2 Oppose 22 Currently Virginia s minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Some people think that the General Assembly should raise the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour by Do you [RANDOMIZE: support or oppose ] this proposal? Now I d like to ask you about payday lending. Payday lenders are companies that generally operate through storefronts or the internet. They make small loans, often at high interest rates that are usually due back on the borrower s next payday. Some people think that payday lenders in Virginia should be more regulated. Do you [RANDOMIZE: support or oppose ] this proposal? Support 65 No View (vol) 2 Oppose 32 Dk/ref (vol) 2 Support 82 No View (vol) 3 Oppose 12 Dk/ref (vol) 3 7

8 Demographic Toplines EDUC: High school or less 14 Some college 25 Vocational or technical training 3 College graduate 35 Graduate study or more 23 Dk/ref (vol) HISPANIC: Yes 3 No 96 RACE: White 72 Black or African American 18 Other 9 RELIG: Protestant 31 Christian (non-specific) (vol) 23 Catholic 14 Jewish 2 Other 15 None 14 Dk/ref (vol) 3 PARTYID: Democrat 32 Republican 30 Independent 32 Other party (vol) 1 No preference/party (vol) 4 AGE: & older 43 INCOME: Under $25,000 6 $25-$49, $50-$74, $75-$99, $100,000-$149, Over $150, REGION: Northern Virginia 33 Richmond/Central 21 Hampton Roads 23 South/Southwest 23 SEX: Male 49 Female 51 How the survey was conducted: The results of this poll are based on 851 interviews of registered Virginia voters, including 417 on landline and 434 on cell phone, conducted September 15-23, Percentages may not equal 100 due to rounding. The margin of error for the whole survey is +/- 3.4% at the 95% level of confidence. All error margins have been adjusted to account for the survey s design effect, which is 1.05 in this survey. The design effect is a factor representing the survey s deviation from a simple random sample, and takes into account decreases in precision due to sample design and weighting procedures. In addition to sampling error, the other potential sources of error include non-response, question wording, and interviewer error. The response rate (AAPOR RRI Standard Definition) for the survey was 23%. Five callbacks were employed in the fielding process. Live calling was conducted by trained interviewers at the Wason Center for Public Policy Survey Research Lab at Christopher Newport University. The data reported here are weighted using an iterative weighting process on sex, age, race and region of residence to reflect as closely as possible the demographic composition of registered voters in Virginia. The survey was designed by Dr. Quentin Kidd of the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University. 8

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