A narrow majority of Virginians want to end the controversial requirement that girls receive the HPV vaccine, according to a new poll on social issues in the state.
The Quinnipiac University survey also finds that Virginia voters strongly support subjecting welfare recipients to drug tests, making it easier to fire public school teachers and allowing the school year to start before Labor Day.
The Virginia House approved a bill in late January to repeal the state’s 2007 requirement for girls to receive the human papillomavirus vaccine before enrolling in sixth grade. Virginia was the first state in the country to implement such a mandate. The issue has become increasingly controversial and has drawn more scrutiny of late, particularly since Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) was attacked during his presidential campaign for signing a similar law.
The poll shows that Virginians support repealing the requirement, 50 percent to 42 percent. Women feel more strongly, backing the change by a 54 percent to 40 percent margin, while men are nearly even on the question, 46 percent to 44 percent.
The issue also reveals a partisan split: 59 percent of Republicans want to repeal the law, while 54 percent of Democrats prefer to keep it.
“On most issues, women are more in sync with Democrats, but on the HPV vaccine question they are more in tune with the view of Republicans,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
Supporters see the vaccine and the mandate as an effective way to prevent girls from getting cervical cancer later in life, but opponents contend that the vaccine could encourage some young girls to become sexually active and say that it should be a question for parents to decide.
Bills are also pending in the Virginia House and Senate that would require welfare recipients to be screened and possibly tested for drugs as a condition of their receiving benefits. It’s not clear whether a bill on the subject will advance this year.
Virginia voters supported the idea of drug testing by a 76 percent to 21 percent margin. There is backing from both white and black voters for the policy, with 77 percent of whites and 68 percent of blacks in favor.
On the education front, there is a clear partisan divide on the question of whether it should be easier to fire teachers. While 64 percent of Republicans and 55 percent of independent voters support the idea, 61 percent of Democrats are opposed. There is more unity on the issue of when schools should open, with majorities of all three groups — and 57 percent overall — believing they should be allowed to start classes before Labor Day. A bill to change the state’s three decade-old policy requiring schools to open after the holiday stalled in a senate committee last month.
Gov. Robert McDonnell (R) remains popular, according to the poll, with 58 percent of Virginians approving of his job performance and 24 percent disapproving. A December Quinnipac poll gave McDonnell a 57 percent job-approval rating, and he scored 62 percent in an October survey.
McDonnell’s scores are better than the two prominent Republicans — Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli — who are jockeying to succeed him in 2013. Bolling got a 38 percent approve, 19 percent disapprove rating in the Quinnipiac survey, while Cuccinelli’s numbers stand at 46-31.
Forty-seven percent of Virginians approve of the overall job performance of the General Assembly, while 31 percent disapprove.