Virginia Poll Numbers Are Telling You Just One Thing

With stagflation around the corner, as goes Washington, so goes the Commonwealth.

Between the upcoming Dobbs decision, threats of violence against Catholic parishes — and a massive shout-out to AG Jason Miyares for being one of the few voices to stand up and defend them — and a few other tidbits here and there, it has been a busy month and an entirely unproductive writing season.

Of course, I did get my licks in with regards to cancel culture and the problem of illiteracy:

As the Irish poet William Butler Yeats reminds us, education is the kindling of fire, not the filling of a bucket. Giving children a love of learning and fostering their intellectual curiosity is the best inoculation against stupid in the public square. Flood the zone with great and even controversial literature and watch as students surprise you with the results. Inspiring confidence in the good, beautiful and true is the surest guarantee that bad ideas gather dust rather than a cult following.

The op-ed ran originally in the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star and was picked up by the Roanoke Times without the paywall.

Hope you enjoy it!

Of course, the Virginia General Assembly has finally voted on a budget where Republicans overwhelmingly carried the day on small items and Democrats put up a rather hyperbolic defense against even the tiniest of infractions against the Northam era — and eventually caved. The state budget now having found a new home on the desk of the governor, it now falls to Glenn Youngkin to edit and revise before sending it back to Mistah Speakah.

Which means that now the news cycle is slow we can move on to that very best of distractions for the chattering class — polls.

Case in point is a Public Policy Polling (PPP) poll shared by former Democratic Minority Leader Eileen Filler-Corn — which isn’t exactly the friendliest to Republicans.

Then again, neither is Roanoke College — whose polling showed a far different and rosier picture for Virginia Republicans.

A caveat about all polling. Like Rasmussen or any other polling firm, it isn’t enough just to poll the electorate as-is, but rather as a forecasting of where you think the public is headed given any number of variables — campaign spending, events, voter enthusiasm, and so forth. Toss in the paid hacks whose job it is to tell you what such and such numbers actually mean and it is no small wonder why most Virginians don’t trust the polls — mostly because most of us can’t read polls and those of us who can labor like scholars trying to tease out itty-bitty nuances in order to make us sound like Nostradamus.

(Yes — I have my own methods and when employed, I’m pretty confident that my spreadsheet and the math behind it can get awfully close to reality… having called the trajectory for both Trump in 2016 and Youngkin in 2021 pretty darned well. All of us are snobs at the end of the day — caveat lector!)

So what’s the hubbub?

Roanoke College shows Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin’s favorability rate at 53%, ticking up three points from 50% in February. Meanwhile, PPP shows Youngkin at just 43%. What neither side wants to tell you that most Virginia governors are either in the low 60s or upper 40s no matter what they do.

Biden’s favorability ratings? 37% in the Roanoke poll; 50% in the PPP poll.

So what gives?

One way to squirrel this one out is to compare the questions that are rather similar. When asked whether the country was headed in the right direction or the wrong direction, both PPP and Roanoke came out at 76% and 77% saying America was headed in the wrong direction.

Trump unfavorables? 55% and 59% respectively.

Yet two numbers in the PPP poll — again, the Democratic-leaning pollster — should stick out like a sore thumb. On repealing the gasoline tax? 65% support a state of emergency (which by all accounts is going to be a very long emergency). On CRT in public schools? 50% strongly oppose and another 15% oppose — two marquee issues for the Democratic Party that their progressive base simply will not allow the liberal leadership set down.

Interesting enough is that we don’t get a generic ballot question from Roanoke, though the PPP poll shows an R+1 (RCP has R+2.2 while Rasmussen — the Republican firm — has the generic ballot at R+8).

In a head-to-head contest between Joe Biden and Donald Trump in Virginia? Biden wins +10 according to PPP, which is just about where Biden was in 2020 when he enjoyed a 15pt higher approval rating and had not abandoned Afghanistan, sent gas prices spiraling northward, stumbled into the Russia-Ukraine conflict, sent inflation north of 8%, and helped push the J6 Commission into some sort of makeshift constitutional convention.

Which is where the rubber meets the road.

If you are inclined to believe that 2022 is going to look a lot like 2020, then the PPP poll is going to work for you.

If you are inclined to think that Biden’s approval ratings dropping 15 points since August 2020 is going to have an impact on the elections, then the Roanoke College poll is going to be more your speed.

Then there’s this little tidbit buried in the methodology of the PPP poll:

That — ladies and gentlemen — is how you skew a poll. Guess how smartphone and text users typically vote?

Now to be fair, Roanoke College also went online:

A total of 648 residents of Virginia, 18 or older, were included in this study. Telephone interviews, conducted in English, comprised 403 of the respondents and 245 responses were drawn from a proprietary online panel of Virginians.

But not text messages.

The real number — and this is something no one on either side really wants to hear — is that the approval rating of any Virginia governor is going to reflect the approval rating of whomever is in the White House.

Right now? Joe Biden is at 43% — down about 8.6% in the RCP average.

Where was he in November 2021? Right about 43%.

How did Republicans do in November 2021? About R+1.9 in Virginia — just 50,000 votes.

Which means if you split the difference between Roanoke’s 37% favorable ratings for Biden and PPP’s 50% you get. . . well hey, whaddyaknow: Biden at 43.5%.

Which means Youngkin’s actual favorables are probably somewhere near 50% — if both Roanoke and PPP have decent methodologies (they do) trying to explain the world according to the assumptions built into the respective polls. Which is safe to assume because of the correlations elsewhere and can be backfilled with more data points.

Sure is fun to yell about it though.

Twitter avatar for @RTDSchapiroJeff E. Schapiro @RTDSchapiro

Get what you’re saying, @Jacob_Alderman_ but 43% isn’t even treading water. Party polls – whether Democratic or Republican – should be handled gingerly. That doesn’t stop pols from leaking ‘em, the press from reporting ‘em – or partisans from embracing ‘em as God’s truth.

Jacob Alderman @Jacob_Alderman_

@RTDSchapiro @GovernorVA @EFillerCorn @ppppolls @POTUS Reading comprehension must not be a strong suit of yours. This is not being underwater: “By a 43%-34% margin, Virginians approve of Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s job performance so far.”

Boring as it is.

But folks are paid to be this way. The rest of us have to smile and tolerate it.

Meanwhile, if you’re wondering what this has anything to do with things, the correct answer is the one you feel in your gut.

Nothing has really moved the needle except for two things way beyond the control of Richmond: inflationary pressures caused by Washington and scarcity in goods caused by the conflict in the Ukraine — the classic definition of Jimmy Carter-era stagflation.

Which is where we are headed, folks. Or already are.

Approval rates being held hostage to political and economic realities, the era of plenty fueled by the peace dividend, market bubbled, and massive debt spending is all coming home to roost. Good luck catching the grenades!

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