Poll: Northam’s disapproval rating doubles but voters want him to stay

northamGov. Northam

In the wake of Governor Ralph Northam’s “blackface” scandal, his disapproval rating has more than doubled since December, from 24% to 49%, according to a new survey of registered voters by the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University. Asked if Northam should resign, a slight majority says he should stay in office (52%-42%). In his own party, 29% of Democrats say he should resign.

A Quinnipiac University poll in February found that 48 percent of Virginia voters, including a large percentage of black voters, say Northam should stay. By a much wider 65–26 percent, voters say Gov. Northam should not be impeached.

Disapproval of Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who has been accused by two women of sexual assault in 2000 and 2004, jumped from 13% in December to 39% in this survey. Among voters who know about the allegations, 45% said he should stay in office and 42% said he should resign.

Disapproval of Attorney General Mark Herring, who admitted wearing blackface as a costume in 1980, went from 17% to 28%. Among voters who know about Herring’s admission, 64% said he should stay in office and 28% said he should resign.

“Probably because of the nature of the allegations against him, Justin Fairfax appears more damaged than Mark Herring,” said Dr. Quentin Kidd, director of the Wason Center.

Many voters unaware

However, 23% of voters appear unaware of even the highly publicized Northam scandal, so any “Top Three” drag on Democratic candidates may be limited overall.  With control of both Virginia Senate and House of Delegates on the line this November, Democrats hold a slight edge on the generic ballot test, 43% to 39%.

“If Democrats increase their participation rate significantly over the 2015 cycle, it could have a tremendous impact, as we saw in both 2017 and 2018,” said Dr. Rachel Bitecofer, assistant director of the Wason Center.

Here are some of the other findings in the survey:

  • Asked which party cares about the middle class, the working class, the poor, African Americans, women, men, and children, voters choose Democrats in all but one category. Voters say Republicans care about men.
  • Democrats’ push for fewer abortion restrictions and Republicans’ push for more abortion restrictions are both out of step with the median voter’s preference on this contentious policy issue.

The Wason Center conducted 1,067 interviews of registered voters, including 342 on landline and 725 on cell phone, conducted March 11-31. The survey’s margin of error is +/- 3%.



About the Author

Truman Lewis
A former reporter and bureau chief, Truman Lewis has covered presidential campaigns, state politics and stories ranging from organized crime to environmental and consumer protection.