You might think that with all the fussing from conservatives about the revenue portion of his transportation plan and coverage about gifts from donors that Virginia voters might be disenchanted with Gov. Bob McDonnell. Actually, he’s never been more popular.
The Post reports that 64 percent of registered Virginia voters and 76 percent of Republicans approve of his performance: “The positive ratings cut across the political spectrum, with the biggest improvement coming among Democratic voters. Fifty-two percent of them say McDonnell is doing a good job, compared with 38 percent last September.” And despite the investigation into gifts McDonnell received from a friend and donor, 59 percent of voters say McDonnell has “high personal moral and ethical standards.” Only 16 percent say he doesn’t.
This is a cautionary tale on multiple fronts. First, while national conservatives are fiercely opposed to any tax increase, Virginia voters, including Republicans, view the transportation plan as a breakthrough. Moreover, as a fiscal conservative, McDonnell built credibility on cutting wasteful spending. Therefore, when he did come to the voters with a plan that included new revenue, they were receptive.
Second, with no real political opponents hammering him and the gift issue still only a set of allegations, McDonnell hasn’t lost voters’ trust. If they, for example, didn’t like his performance and suspected him of previous misconduct, the allegations might have done more to drag down his approval. But neither is true. Moreover, most voters aren’t even paying attention to the issue. (“Just 32 percent of all Virginia residents say they are following even somewhat closely, including a slender 9 percent following ‘very closely.'”)
More information may shift opinion. But it is a helpful reminder that public opinion can diverge sharply from what media elites and activists are saying.