CNU Wason Center Poll: ERA, Gun Control, Minimum Wage, More

“This survey suggests there’s pent-up demand among voters for a lot of the Democrats’ policy agenda. There’s pent-up demand in the Democrats’ caucus, too, and it will be revealing to see what legislation the new majority prioritizes now that they’re in power.” -Quentin Kidd, Director, Wason Center for Public Policy

The Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University released a new poll on December 16, 2019, covering a variety of issues of interest to Virginia voters. From Dr. Quentin Kidd and Dr. Rachel Bitecofer:

NEWPORT NEWS — The new Democratic majority in the Virginia General Assembly has strong support among voters for key parts of its agenda, including enacting more gun restrictions, passing the Equal Rights Amendment, increasing the minimum wage and decriminalizing marijuana possession, according to a new poll by the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University. Voters also support passage of the state constitutional amendment to create a redistricting commission, reforming the system that allows legislators to drawn their own districts. But voters don’t want the legislature to give local governments authority to decide whether to remove or alter Confederate monuments.

The 2020 General Assembly session opens Jan. 8. For the first time in a generation, Democrats will be in full control, with majorities in the House of Delegates and the state Senate and a Democratic governor.


1) Voters strongly support requiring background checks on all gun sales (86%-13%) and passing a ‘red flag’ law (73%-23%); a slight majority (54%-44%) support banning assault-style weapons.

2) Voters strongly back the Equal Rights Amendment (80%-13%).

3) A slight majority oppose giving localities authority to remove or alter Confederate monuments (51%-44%).

4) Voters strongly support decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana (83%-14%).

5) Voters strongly support raising the minimum wage (72%-28%).

6) Voters strongly support automatic voter registration (64%-31%), but slightly oppose no-excuse absentee voting (51%-44%).

7) Voters strongly support passage of the redistricting reform constitutional amendment (70%-15%).

Leader approval-disapproval numbers

Governor Ralph Northam: 52%-36%. He continues his recovery from the low of 40% in the April 2019 Wason Center poll, which was conducted soon after the ‘blackface’ scandal broke.

Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax: 32%-32%. This is a much higher negative than 35%-13% a year ago, but not significantly changed from the April 2019 survey conducted soon after he was accused of sexual assaults in 2000 and 2004 – accusations he forcefully denies.

Attorney General Mark Herring: 36%-27%. He is down significantly from 42%-17% a year ago but not significantly changed from the April 2019 survey taken soon after he admitted wearing a blackface costume in college in 1980.

Flip of Virginia General Assembly: By a 10-point margin, 51%-41%, voters approve of the results of the November elections that gave Democrats control of both houses of the General Assembly.

President Donald Trump: 42%-55%. Trump’s ratings are roughly the same as in the April 2019 Wason Center survey but improved from the October 2019 Wason Center survey, which was taken at the height of Virginia’s statewide legislative campaign (37% approve, 61% disapprove).

Dig deeper into the survey here.

Demographics of Survey

From the survey: “The Wason Center conducted 901 interviews of registered Virginia voters, November 11-22, 2019. The margin of error for the survey is +/- 3.4%. The results of this poll are based on 901 interviews of registered Virginia voters, including 399 on landline and 502 on cell phone, conducted November 11-22, 2019.

“Percentages may not equal 100 due to rounding. The margin of error for the whole survey is +/- 3.4 % at the 95% level of confidence. All error margins have been adjusted to account for the survey’s design effect, which is 1.1 in this survey. The design effect is a factor representing the survey’s deviation from a simple random sample, and takes into account decreases in precision due to sample design and weighting procedures. Sub samples have a higher margin of error.

“In addition to sampling error, the other potential sources of error include non-response, question wording, and interviewer error. The response rate (AAPOR RRI Standard Definition) for the survey was 13%. Five callbacks were employed in the fielding process. Live calling was conducted by trained interviewers at the Wason Center for Public Policy Survey Research Lab at Christopher Newport University. The data reported here are weighted using an iterative weighting process on sex*age, race, education, mode or participation, and region of residence to reflect as closely as possible the demographic composition of registered Virginia voters. Questions 20-24 were commissioned by The Pew Charitable Trusts.”

High school or less: 45%
College or more: 55%

Consider themselves Hispanic/Latino: 4%
Do not consider themselves Hispanic/Latino: 95%
Don’t know: 1%

White: 72%
Black or African American: 19%
Other: 9%

Religion (protestant, Roman Catholic, Jewish, other, or no religion)
Protestant: 24%
Christian (non-specific): 25%
Catholic: 12%
Jewish: 1%
Other: 17%
None: 18%
Don’t know: 3%

Strong liberal: 7%
Liberal: 13%
Moderate, leaning liberal: 22%
Moderate, leaning conservative: 16%
Conservative: 19%
Strong conservative: 14%
Don’t know: 8%

Political Party
Republican: 31%
Democratic: 34%
Independent: 30%
No Preference: 3%
Other Party: 1%
Don’t know: 1%

18-24: 9%
25-34: 12%
35-44: 15%
45-54: 23%
55 and older: 41%

Under $25,000: 3%
$25-49,999: 11%
$50-74,999: 20%
$75-99,999: 15%
$100,000-149,999: 17%
Over $150,000: 24%
Don’t know: 10%

Northern Virginia: 34%
Richmond/Central: 21%
Hampton Roads: 24%
South/Southwest: 21%

Male: 49%
Female: 51%

See more survey results here.

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