A new survey is shining an interesting light on changes people want to see in Virginia. At issue: same-sex marriages and politicians with their hands out.
Both would require laws to change. Not just that; some of these things would require constitutional amendments. But in the short term, we can also see how these hot-button issues could affect the outcomes of this year's races on November 5.
In a poll of more than 900 registered voters, one thing is clear: most Virginians want to see some changes made in Richmond. That starts with a major overhaul of the state's gift laws for politicians.
Seventy-four percent of voters say they support banning gifts over $100 to office holders and their families. The poll also shows 55 percent of voters want to overturn the state's ban on gay marriage. But changing the law would require a constitutional amendment, which can be a tall order to fill. The law is currently being challenged in federal court.
Then there's the issue of expanding Medicaid in the commonwealth under the Affordable Care Act. The poll shows a slim majority of voters support expansion, 51 to 39 percent. The Virginia chapter of Americans for Prosperity is staunchly opposed, and says the poll results are flawed.
"Polling is a fickle business. It's a mix of science and art, so I just don't think that the question was framed properly," said Dave Schwartz, the chapter's director.
The group worries care will be inadequate, and that the federal government will not be able to come through with the money to help fund the expansion.
But supporters say not expanding would mean forfeiting big bucks.
"I think the poll shows a majority of Virginians want Medicaid expansion. It's already paid for by the federal government through our taxpayer dollars; they can either come here or go to another state," said 71st District Delegate Jennifer McClellan (D).
Medicaid expansion is one of the biggest issues in the race for governor this year. Democrat Terry McAuliffe supports expansion, saying he would use expansion funds to help pay for other initiatives. Republican Ken Cuccinelli opposes it.
Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University Press Release
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – Virginia voters support expanding Medicaid under Obamacare and repealing the state ban on same-sex marriage, but they oppose using vouchers to provide public money for religious schools, according to a poll released today by the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University. Those positions align with Democrat Terry McAuliffe in Virginia's gubernatorial election.
In light of the gift scandal surrounding Gov. Bob McDonnell, an overwhelming majority of voters say Virginia should put a $100 cap on the value of gifts to public officials and their families, and should create a bipartisan ethics commission. McAuliffe proposes the $100 cap; Cuccinelli proposes a cap but would leave the number to the General Assembly. On another issue where the candidates hold similar views, a majority of voters support having legislative districts drawn by an independent commission, rather than by the General Assembly.
"McAuliffe and Cuccinelli generally agree on ethics reform and redistricting reform, and so do a majority of likely voters," said Quentin Kidd, director of the Wason Center. "Where McAuliffe and Cuccinelli take opposite views -- on Medicaid expansion, same-sex marriage and religious school vouchers -- a majority of likely voters line up with McAuliffe's position."
By the numbers, likely voters support Medicaid expansion (51-42); oppose the ban on same-sex marriage (56-36); oppose school vouchers (58-31); support a gift cap (76-17); support creation of an ethics commission (64-26); and support creation of an independent redistricting commission (43-32).
The statewide races for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general are overshadowing legislative races across Virginia. Although all 100 seats in the House of Delegates are on the ballot and more than half are in contested elections, four out of five likely voters say they either don't have a contested House race in their district or don't know. However, asked in a generic ballot question which party's candidate they support for the House of Delegates, likely voters favored Republicans over Democrats, 46 percent to 40 percent.
The Wason Center surveyed 944 registered Virginia voters, including 753 likely voters, Oct. 8-13. The total margin of error is +/- 3.1%; the likely voter margin of error is +/-3.6%.
The survey and Kidd's analysis are attached. He is available for interviews.
The first round of this Wason Center survey, released Tuesday, Oct. 15, showed McAuliffe leading Cuccinelli by 7 percent among likely voters, 46 percent to 39 percent. Libertarian Robert Sarvis' 11 percent showing suggests that Virginia's next governor will be elected with less than 50 percent of the vote for the first time since the Civil Rights era. Regarding the federal government shutdown, a large majority said neither candidate bears responsibility, but of those who said the candidates do bear some responsibility, most faulted Cuccinelli. The full survey and analysis are at the Wason Center's website: http://cpp.cnu.edu.