Roanoke College

RC Poll: Virginia General Assembly and important issues

  • RC Poll: Virginia General Assembly and important issues

  • 01/24/13
  • Virginians 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.

    In the likely matchup in November's gubernatorial election, more Virginians are undecided (41%) in their choice for Governor, than those who support Republican Ken Cuccinelli (33%) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe (26%). Including a possible run by Bill Bolling as an Independent increases the percentage of respondents who are undecided (44%), followed by those who support Cuccinelli (25%), McAuliffe (19%), and Bolling (12%).

    The Roanoke College Poll interviewed 583 Virginia residents between Jan. 14 and Jan. 22 and has a margin of error of +4.1 percent. 

    Part two of the January Roanoke College Poll, focusing on gun issues, will be released early next week.


    Residents of the Commonwealth remain divided regarding how to deal with funding transportation in Virginia. Over the past several years, The Roanoke College Poll has 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%). Other proposals are also unpopular. Poll respondents opposed toll roads (60%); linking the gas tax to inflation (52%); and increasing fees for driver's licenses and vehicle registration (48%). A plurality (49%) favored shifting money from the general revenue fund to increase funding for transportation.

    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

    As referenced above, 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.

    Elected officials' approval ratings and favorable/unfavorable views


    President Obama's favorable rating is 50 percent (42% unfavorable), almost unchanged since before his reelection. Governor McDonnell sits at a 48 percent favorable rating, also essentially unchanged from October. Senator Mark Warner's favorable rating tops the list at 53 percent, while recently elected Senator Tim Kaine holds a 44 percent favorable rating.

    President Obama's approval rating is 44 percent (unchanged from October), and 46 percent disapprove of the job he is doing (down from 50% in October). Governor McDonnell's approval rating is 54 percent (up 3%), while Congressional approval is 10 percent (up 2%).

    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 (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 in Salem, Va. between Jan. 14 and Jan. 22, 2013. A total of 583 Virginia residents were interviewed. The sample of land lines and cell phones was prepared by Survey Sampling Inc. of Fairfield, Conn. and was created so that all cell phone and residential telephone numbers, including unlisted numbers, had a known chance of inclusion. Cell phones constituted 17 percent of the completed interviews.

    Questions answered by the entire sample of 583 residents are subject to a sampling error of plus or minus approximately 4.1 percent at the 95 percent level of confidence. This means that in 95 out of 100 samples like the one used here, the results obtained should be no more than 4.1 percentage points above or below the figure that would be obtained by interviewing all Virginia residents who have a home telephone or a cell phone. Where the results of subgroups are reported, the sampling error is higher. 

    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 here.

  • Dr. Harry Wilson
  • (540) 375-2415 (office), (540) 992-1333 (home), (540) 293-4206 (cell)