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Virginia Statewide Likely Voter Poll - February, 2014

Executive Summary:

While attitudes are changing, and policies shifting nationally for same-sex couples, Virginians are evenly split on the idea of legalizing same-sex marriage in the Commonwealth, according to a new statewide survey by the Hampton University Center for Public Policy. This is in slight contrast to the 47% percent of Virginian's who disagree with Attorney General Mark Herring and his decision not to defend Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage.

Survey respondents also weighed in with overwhelming support for the new law requiring voters to show some form of picture identification to vote. While diametrically opposed age groups face off in a near statistical tie "for" and "against" a new law that will soon allow online voter registration.

Despite a federal indictment after leaving office, respondents reserve judgment on guilt, but rate the job performance of former Governor Bob McDonnell while in office very high.

The poll was conducted by the Hampton University Center for Public Policy on February 6, 8, and 9, 2014, and included 803 registered voters who were screened as registered voters who are "likely" to vote in most elections.

The Herring Decision:

At the beginning of 2014, Attorney General Mark Herring announced his decision not to defend the ban on same-sex marriage in Virginia, calling it unconstitutional. It was a move that was not without controversy, and has Virginians divided across gender, race and party lines.

We asked respondents if they agree or disagree with Attorney General Herring's decision, and those who disagree have a majority (47%) while 42% agree with his decision, only 11% didn't know.

Sentiment against Herring's decision is strongest among men, 50% of whom disagree with his decision, compared to 40% who agree, and 10% responded they "don't know." There are a slight majority of women aligned with Herring, 45% support his decision compared to the 44% who do not support it and11% responded they "don't know".

There are differences along race lines as well. More whites disagree with the Attorney General's decision (49%) than agree (44%); however, more blacks are in agreement with the decision (43%) than in disagreement (38%).

Not surprisingly, attitudes and opinions differ considerably by region.

The areas with the highest percentages of respondents that disagree with Herring's decision include the Southeast (57%), Southwest (56%), NOVA-Exurbs (56%), Central Virginia (52%), and, Richmond (47%). Areas where most respondents are in agreement with the attorney General's decision are in the D.C. suburbs (57%) and the Tidewater/ Hampton Roads area (45%).

  DC Suburbs NOVA-Exurbs Richmond Area Central Tidewater-Hampton Roads Southeast Southwest
Agree 57% 31% 38% 41% 45% 35% 33%
Disagree 35% 56% 47% 52% 43% 57% 56%
Don't Know 9% 13% 14% 6% 12% 7% 10%

The Ban on Gay Marriage:

Public opinion in Virginia is evenly split on the ban on same-sex marriage in the state of Virginia.

When asked if the ban on same-sex marriage should remain in place, overall, 46% say yes, and 45% say no, 9% say "don't know" or "not sure."

On this subject, men and women have opposing views. Among men, 50% say the ban should stay in place (43% say no), while 47% of the women say the ban should be lifted (42% say keep the ban in place).

Many surveyed answered this controversial question along traditional party lines. Republicans responded "yes" an overwhelming 70% when asked if the ban against same-sex marriage in Virginia should remain in place (22% say "no"). Independents are split, 46% say "yes" and 44% say "no". Sixty-eight percent of the respondents who identify as Democrats say "no", lift the ban, compared to 24% who say keep the ban in place.

The majority of whites (47%) and blacks (40%) surveyed think the ban should stay in place compared to the 46% of whites and the 43% of blacks who think it should be lifted.

Attitudes and opinions differ considerably by region, as the chart below illustrates. We will see this pattern repeated consistently throughout this survey.

  DC Suburbs NOVA-Exurbs Richmond Area Central Virginia Tidewater/Hampton Roads Southeast Southwest
Yes 30 56 45 50 42 53 61
No 61 32 45 44 49 35 30
Don't Know/Not Sure 9 12 10 6 9 12 8

Gay Marriage:

With the Department of Justice moving this week to recognize lawful same-sex marriages, we asked respondents if they believe same-sex couples should be allowed legally to marry in the state of Virginia.

Statistically, likely voters in Virginia we surveyed are equally split and divisively opposed. Overall, 47% say yes, same-sex couples should be allowed to legally marry in Virginia, while 46% say no they should not.

Women (48%) more than men (45%) responded "yes" to allowing legal, same-sex marriage in Virginia. With regard to race, the numbers are identical among whites and blacks on the issue… 49% are against legal same-sex marriage and 46% are for it.

Q6. Legal Gay Marriage in Virginia - by Race

  Blacks Whites
Yes 46% 46%
No 49% 49%

Picture Identification Required To Vote:

Some would say many of the new voting laws around the country and in Virginia are aimed at easing and expanding access to the ballot box. Still others would call the new laws restrictive and limiting. Either way, one new law going into effect this summer requires individuals to present valid photo identification to vote in Virginia.

When asked if they agree with this new requirement, 68% say yes, while 27% of the respondents say no. This law takes effect on July 1, 2014.

Online Voter Registration

Online voter registration is another law new in the Commonwealth this year. Of the likely voters surveyed, responses overall are identical in support of the ability to register online (46%) and against (46%) it. However, the divide comes from distinctly different age groups. Those individuals surveyed under the age of forty-nine years old support online voter registration nearly three-to-one to those who are over the age of fifty.

The younger respondents in the age groups 18-34 (53%) and 35-49 (64%) comprised the majority of those who are in favor of online voter registration.

It is the 50-59 year olds (54%) and the 60-plus (46%) age groups that do not support the new law.

  18 - 34 35 - 49 50 - 59 60 - Over
Yes 53 64 38 45
No 38 32 54 46
Don't Know 9 4 8 9

Governor Bob McDonnell:

It is clear from those surveyed that voters have separated his job performance as the 71st Governor of Virginia from his post-job review, even amid a federal indictment.

McDonnell's tenure as Governor is rated highly by respondents, 58% say they "approve" of former Governor Bob McDonnell's performance as Governor. Only 26% disapprove and 16% say they "don't know."

As the only Governor in Virginia's history to have criminal charges filed against him, we asked respondents whether they believe McDonnell is guilty or not guilty of the formal charges filed against him in the federal indictment filed at the end of January, 2014. In the indictment, charges include making false statements, and, conspiracy to defraud the citizens of Virginia of their right to honest services. Overwhelmingly, 40% of those surveyed say they "don't know" or were "not sure" whether McDonnell was guilty or not guilty, and 36% say he is guilty, while 24% say he is not guilty.

Along racial lines, there is a stark difference of opinion of McDonnell's guilt. While 40% of whites "don't know" whether McDonnell is guilty or not guilty, 50% of blacks surveyed believe McDonnell is guilty of the charges in the federal indictment.

Q9. The former Governor of Virginia, Robert McDonnell, has had charges against him formally filed in a federal indictment accusing him of, among other things, making false statements and conspiracy to defraud the citizens of Virginia of their right to honest services. Mr. McDonnell has apologized for his poor judgment, returned gifts and loans, but says he did nothing illegal and will contest the charges at trial. Generally speaking, do you believe McDonnell is guilty or not guilty of the federal charges filed against him?

  DC Suburbs NOVA-Exurbs Richmond Area Central Virginia Tidewater/Hampton Roads Southeast Southwest
Guilty 34 32 29 25 16 23 25
Not Guilty 21 28 35 36 45 49 34
Don't Know 45 40 36 39 38 41 41

Methodology:

The statewide survey was conducted by a professional call center for the Hampton University Center for Public Policy under the general direction of Kelly Harvey Gill. Live interviews were conducted via telephone (20% cell phone/80% land line) on February 6, 8, and 9, 2014.

Interviews were stratified by county and cities to reflect historic voter trends. This survey was conducted using a listed sample purchased from SSI, Inc, (Survey Sampling International).

The overall margin of error for the entire sample of 803 likely voters is +/- 2.9% at a 95% confidence interval. The margin of error for subgroups like geographic regions is higher.