Virginia Poll: Republican voters open to a Youngkin presidential run

The governor also says he feels the same momentum ahead of the midterms as he did before his...
The governor also says he feels the same momentum ahead of the midterms as he did before his own election last year.(WWBT)
Published: Dec. 7, 2022 at 10:32 AM EST
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SALEM, Va. (WDBJ/Roanoke College Poll) - Support for Governor Glenn Youngkin’s potential presidential run has increased among Virginia Republican voters, according to a recent Roanoke College poll.

The poll found that 34% of all Virginia voters believe Youngkin should run for president, that number increases to 52% when exclusively polling Republicans. 52% of voters believe Youngkin shouldn’t run for president. The same poll found that 59% of all Virginia voters somewhat or strongly disagree with former President Donald Trump’s decision to run again in 2024; when only Republicans are polled, only 59% felt somewhat or strongly that he should run.

When the Roanoke College Poll asked Republicans in August who they would vote for in the Republican primary, 28% picked Youngkin, while 62% selected Trump; in the November poll, Youngkin gained substantial ground, taking 39% of the Republican vote compared to 52% for Trump. Just 7% mentioned voting for someone else or said they haven’t decided.

Approvals, Favorable/Unfavorable, Direction of Virginia, Country

According to the poll, Youngkin’s approval rating has remained relatively constant (53% in May, 55% in August and 52% now); disapproval increased to 41% (up from 35% in August), which mirrors his disapproval rating shortly after he took office in January; Democrats’ approval of his job dropped to 31% from 37% in August. Approval for President Joe Biden has increased slightly, as well, up to 41% compared to 39% in August. Job approval for the U.S. Congress is up, now at 27% compared to 23% in August and 21% in February; Republicans and Independents drove that increase.

The poll says 50% of Virginians currently have a favorable view of Youngkin, but 40% have an unfavorable view, which is up from 37% in August. The increase in unfavorable views, unsurprisingly, comes from Democratic sentiment. President Joe Biden’s favorability has increased to 44% in November compared to 41% in August and his unfavorability fell from 55% in August to 51% in November. The poll found that former President Trump’s favorability has continued its downward trend, falling from 37% in August to 33% in November. 60% of Virginia voters have an unfavorable view of the former president, according to the poll. Consistent with how Republicans in Virginia see Trump compared to Youngkin, the favorability of Trump amongst the Republican Party has also dropped from 77% to 72%.

When asked about the country, 28% of respondents said things are going in the right direction, up from 25% in August; 68% replied that things have gotten off on the wrong track, down from 72%. Regarding the commonwealth, 47% say the state is heading in the right direction, while 48% say it’s going in the wrong direction, expressing less optimism in the state compared to August.

American Democracy and the Economy

Following a recent CBS News/YouGov Battleground Tracker survey, we asked Virginians, “when they think about the next few years, which is a bigger concern for them right now” – “having a strong economy” or “having a functioning democracy.” The poll found that 51% of Virginians report being more concerned about having a strong economy, while 46% reported being more concerned about having a functioning democracy. Much like the results reported in the CBS News/YouGov poll, the poll found differences across party affiliation, with 67% of Republicans being more concerned about the economy and 63% of Democrats being more concerned about a functioning democracy. Independents were slightly more concerned about the economy.

This aligns with the most important issues Virginians believe are facing the commonwealth today. 50% of Virginians cite inflation, the economy or jobs as the most important issue facing the commonwealth, while gun policy, abortion, crime and climate change each garnered about 9% of the respondents as the most important issue. Election integrity and race issues were cited by about 4% or 5% of respondents.

Abortion and the Supreme Court

Prior to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in June that overturned Roe v. Wade, the Roanoke College Poll found in May that 35% of Virginians felt abortion should be legal under any circumstance, 53% felt it should be legal under certain circumstances, and only 11% believed abortion should be totally illegal. Six months later, the Roanoke College Poll now found that 42% of respondents in Virginia feel that abortion should be legal under all circumstances, 45% believe it should be legal under some circumstances, and just 11% favor a total ban on abortion.

In August, 35% of Virginians agreed with the court’s decision to overturn the 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade decision; that has decreased to 27% in this month’s poll. More Republicans and Independents here in Virginia now disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision than in August.

However, 40% of Virginians have a favorable view of the Supreme Court compared to 37% in August. 53% continue to have an unfavorable view. This increase was driven primarily by a slightly more favorable view of the court by Democrats in Virginia.

Russia and Ukraine

With the ongoing war in Ukraine now in its 10th month, 75% of Virginians continue to follow the news either very or somewhat closely. Democrats report following the news more closely now at 84% compared to 80% in August while the opposite is true of Republicans (70% in August, 62% now). Fewer Virginians, though (55% now, 64% in August), believe that the worst is still yet to come; this change comes from both Democrats and Independents.

Gridlock in Washington

The Roanoke College Poll began shortly after the midterm elections on Nov. 8 when control of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives started to become clearer. The poll found that 42% of Virginians feel that the results will “make no difference” in the ability of Washington to get things done, but more Virginias (29%) than not (25%) believe that the midterm election results will make it “more likely” for Congress to get things done for the country. The pol saw modest differences across party lines, with 39% of Democrats reporting that the midterm results will make it “more likely” to get things done in Washington, while only 26% of Republicans and 24% of Independents responded similarly.

Political Anxiety

IPOR has tracked political anxiety in the commonwealth since mid-2016, and those results were last reported in May. In this November poll, 78% of Virginians report trusting the federal government to do what is right only some of the time or never, virtually unchanged from May. 58% of Virginians think that ordinary citizens can do a lot to influence the federal government, up six points from May. The poll found 58% think their side is losing more than winning in politics today, and 32% think their side is winning more than losing, which represents a significant change in both responses from May. Separated by party, 56% of Democrats feel on the winning side, while only 18% of Republicans feel that way.

On one hand, 50% of Virginians believe that the country’s best years are ahead of it, which represents a six-point increase since May. Similarly, while a large majority of Virginians, 82%, continue to see the nation divided regarding the important issues facing the country, 16% think that Americans are united in the challenges we face, the highest it has been since the index’s inception.

On the other hand, 51% of Virginians are dissatisfied with how the federal government is working, with another 17% reporting feeling angry, 24% feeling satisfied, and just 6% feeling enthusiastic. In the aggregate, each of these measures has remained relatively stable over time, but the responses of subgroups have varied, particularly those of Democrats and Republicans, depending upon which party is in power.


“The story from this poll is that Virginians have mixed feelings about the direction things are going in the country and in Virginia,” said Dr. Bryan Parsons, senior political analyst at IPOR and the Roanoke College Poll. “While we see a slight rise in the percentage of Virginians who believe things are going in the right direction in the country, we see a slight drop in the percentage of those who believe things are going in the right direction in Virginia. Adding to that, slightly more than four in 10 Virginians believe that the results of the recent midterm elections will make no difference in being able to get things done in Washington.”

“This poll also shows small yet noticeable changes in the approval ratings for both President Biden and Gov. Youngkin. President Biden’s approval rating is up slightly from our May poll earlier in the year. Gov. Youngkin’s approval rating is down slightly, but the more noticeable change is that his disapproval rating is up six points from the same May poll earlier in the year.”

“The favorability ratings for Biden and Youngkin are also worth mentioning since Virginians’ overall favorability of both leaders have improved slightly from our May poll earlier in the year. As for former President Trump, this poll records the highest unfavorable rating in IPOR polls since January 2016, with six in 10 Virginians reporting an unfavorable opinion of him.”

“Looking ahead to the 2024 presidential election, about a third of Virginians think that Gov. Youngkin should seek the Republican nomination, including a slight majority of Republicans (52%). As for former President Trump, a majority of Virginians (59%) either somewhat or strongly disagree with his decision to run for president in 2024. Republicans, however, are more supportive, with nearly six in 10 Republicans reporting that they somewhat or strongly agree with his decision to run. Interestingly, when we asked about a potential matchup between Youngkin and Trump in a Republican primary, a slight majority of Republicans (52%) reported that they would vote for Trump compared to 39% of Republicans who reported that they would vote for Youngkin instead.”

“Virginians’ unfavorable opinions of the U.S. Supreme Court remain unchanged from our last poll in August, but the percentage of Virginians who disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade is up six points from August and up nine points from May, when we asked Virginians their attitudes about the draft opinion released before the decision. This result suggests that Virginians’ overall disagreement with the decision persists from when the news broke earlier this summer.”

“The percentage of Virginians who reported that they have been following the news about the war in Ukraine is virtually unchanged since our last poll in August, which suggests that we do not see any evidence of news fatigue about Ukraine. With that said, we saw a nine-point increase in the percentage of Virginians who think that the worst of the war is over. A little more than a third (36%) of Virginians reported that they think the worst of the war is over compared to 27% when we last conducted our poll in August.”

“Despite the record turnout we saw among young voters in the midterm elections, a little more than four in 10 Virginians think that the midterm results will not make a difference in the ability to get things done in Washington. Ultimately, additional gridlock in Washington may not do much to move the needle on the levels of political anxiety we continue to track in our polls.”

“Perhaps the most promising result for our November poll is that 16% of Virginians think that Americans are united in the issues and challenges facing the United States. While this is admittedly a small percentage compared to the eight in 10 who think we are still divided, the share of Virginians who think we are united is the highest that IPOR has recorded since we first began asking this question in August 2017, and it is an eight-point increase from August 2021. It is far too early to say that this result suggests we are becoming less divided, but perhaps it is a small step in the right direction.”


Interviewing for the Roanoke College Poll was conducted by The Institute for Policy and Opinion Research at Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia, between Nov. 13 and Nov. 22, 2022. A total of 652 residents of Virginia, 18 or older, were included in this study. Telephone interviews, conducted in English, comprised 393 of the respondents, and 259 responses were drawn from a proprietary online panel of Virginians. The landline sample consisted of random-digit numbers generated in proportion to the Virginia population so that all residential telephone numbers, including unlisted numbers, had a known chance of inclusion. Cellphone samples were purchased from Marketing Systems Group and comprised 56% of the completed telephone interviews. Lucid, LLC, facilitated the online panel. Questions answered by the entire sample of 652 respondents are subject to an error margin of plus or minus approximately 4.48% at the 95% level of confidence.