Home Polling WaPo-Schar School Poll: Va. Dems Still Approve (66%-23%) of Northam; 57% of...

WaPo-Schar School Poll: Va. Dems Still Approve (66%-23%) of Northam; 57% of Dems, 58% of African Americans Do NOT Think Northam Should Step Down


There’s an interesting new poll by the Washington Post and GMU’s Schar School of Policy and Government out this evening. For the full results, see here. Also, see below for some highlights that jumped out at me.

  • Overall, Virginians are divided in terms of whether they approve (or not) of the job Gov. Ralph Northam is doing, with 43% approving and 44% disapproving.
  • There’s a stark partisan divide here, with Democrats *approving* of Northam by a nearly 3:1 margin (66%-23%), while Republicans disapprove by a huge, 72%-17% margin.
  • There’s also a stark racial divide, with African Americans approving of the job Northam’s doing by a nearly 2:1 margin (58%-30%), while whites disapprove by a 50%-38% margin.
  • The older people are, the more they approve of Northam: 50%-40% among those age 65+; 47%-41% among those age 40-64; but underwater (33%-51%) among those age 18-39.
  • A whopping 85% of Virginians have seen or heard a lot (74%) or some (12%) about the Northam med school yearbook KKK/”blackface” photos. Only 7% have heard “nothing at all” about this.
  • Virginians are NOT happy (by a 71%-22% margin) with the way Northam responded to the discovery of these photos. Nor do they believe his changing explanations (they don’t buy it, by a 73%-20% margin). Those two questions, by the way, don’t show almost any partisan divide, which really drives home how poorly Northam handled this situation from a communications perspective.
  • Surprisingly, if you spend your time on social media – where opinions tend to be expressed VERY strongly – only 34% of Virginians say they were “very offended” by the yearbook photos, with 20% “somewhat offended” and 42% “not offended.”  Among African Americans, 41% were “very offended,” 20% “somewhat offended” and 39% “not offended.”
  • By a 53%-42% margin, Virginian accept Northam’s apology, with Democrats accepting it by a 63%-34% margin and African Americans accepting it by a 58%-41% margin.
  • Also, most Virginians (51%-34% margin) see the yearbook photos as an “isolated incident” rather than some sort of pattern indicating “broader racial prejudice” in Northam’s life. A majority (53%) of Democrats see it as an “isolated incident,” as does a plurality (48%-43%) of African Americans.
  • There’s a big generational difference on this question: older (65+) voters REALLY (61%-22%) see it as an “isolated incident,” with middle-aged (40-64) voters also strongly (57%-27%) seeing it that way. Among younger voters, 52% see it as “a sign of broader racial prejudice.”
  • As for whether Virginians want Northam to step down, they’re divided (47%-47%) overall, but Democrats don’t particularly want him to step down (by a 57%-40% margin), while Republicans *do* want him to step down (by a 56%-42% margin). These numbers make me wonder if Democratic elected officials/leaders – almost all of whom quickly called on Northam to quit, particularly after last Saturday’s press conference – are not in sync with Democratic rank-and-file voters on whether Northam to step down.
  • Perhaps most strikingly, African Americans do NOT want Northam to step down, by a 58%-37% margin, while whites narrowly (48%-46%) *do* want him to step down. And again, older voters do NOT want him to step down, while younger voters DO want him to step down.
  • As for AG Mark Herring, only 34% of Virginians think he should step down, with only 28% of Democrats and only 35% of African Americans thinking he should do so.
  • Regarding LG Justin Fairfax, by a 62%-25% margin, Virginians are NOT confident he could govern effectively, with almost no Republicans (8%) having any confidence, compared to 43% of Democrats. Among African Americans, only 39% have confidence in Fairfax’s ability to govern effectively vs. 53% who have some (37%) or no confidence at all (16%). Note that this poll was completed BEFORE the latest accusation of rape came out last night, so presumably the numbers would be worse – probably a LOT worse – now, especially given basically everyone calling for Fairfax to step down.
  • Hardly anybody (11%) has ever worn “blackface” or known anyone who did. These numbers are very consistent by age, with only a small difference by race.
  • Has Virginia “done enough to address the history of racial discrimination against blacks in Virginia?” By a 53%-38% margin, Virginians say “no.” There’s a big racial division on this question, with 78% of African Americans saying “no,” versus just 43% of whites saying “no.” There’s also a big partisan division here, with 72% of Dems saying “no,” versus just 29% of Republicans saying “no.”

Bottom lines: 1) It looks like Ralph Northam actually has a significant amount of support, particularly among Democrats and African Americans, with a solid majority in both those groups NOT wanting Northam to step down; 2) there’s minimal interest in seeing Mark Herring step down as AG; 3) Justin Fairfax was already in trouble BEFORE the news broke last night about an alleged rape at Duke University; 4) there are major racial and partisan divisions regarding whether or not (I’d argue emphatically NOT) Virginia has ” done enough to address the history of racial discrimination against blacks in Virginia.”

P.S. Ralph Northam is vowing to stay in office, and to use his position to “pursue racial reconciliation” (he “said he has asked his Cabinet secretaries to come up with specific proposals to begin addressing issues of inequality, such as expanding access to health care, housing and transportation, and to begin reporting suggestions on Monday”). I mean, since it looks like he’s staying put, I’d say if Northam really wants to focus on racial equity and healing, maybe some good can come out of this whole sorry affair?

P.P.S. It was pointed out to me that Daily Kos/Civiqs did a poll and that it has significantly different results from the WaPo/Schar poll. For instance, the Daily Kos/Civiqs poll found only a 34%-50% (-16 points) approval rating for Northam, compared to 43%-44% (-1 point) in the WaPo/Schar poll. And in the Daily Kos/Civiqs poll, a solid majority (58%-27%) of Democrats said that Northam should resign, compared to 57% of Democrats in the WaPo/Schar poll who said they do NOT want Northam to resign. I’m not sure what the reason is for these big differences, but it’s worth noting that they are there. In general, I’d trust the WaPo/Schar School polling (which certainly nailed it on VA-10 this past election) over Civiqs, a relatively new online poll which isn’t rated by 538.


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