Most Virginians polled approve of a decision by the University of Virginia’s governing board to reinstate the schools’s popular president, Teresa Sullivan, after an ouster attempt and a subsequent uproar on campus, according to a new poll released Wednesday.
The Quinnipiac University Poll on Virginia political issues shows 27 percent of voters have a favorable opinion of Sullivan, and 21 percent have an unfavorable view of U-Va. Rector Helen Dragas. Most respondents said they had no opinion.
The view of the state’s flagship school has remained largely unaffected by the controversy. Seventy percent of registered voters who responded say their opinion has not changed.
“The U-Va. leadership soap opera played out with little impact on Virginia voters,’’ said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling institute. “Among the voters who followed the drama, there was a public relations winner, Dr. Teresa Sullivan, and a loser, Helen Dragas.’’
Gov. Bob McDonnell, who threatened to fire the entire board, got a 37 percent approval rating for his handling of the leadership crisis. Sixteen percent disapproved, and the remainder had no opinion.
Dragas, a Virginia Beach developer, was appointed to the board in 2008 by McDonnell’s Democratic predecessor, Timothy M. Kaine. Many Sullivan supporters had demanded that Dragas step down or that McDonnell not reappoint her.
But the U-Va. situation did not help McDonnell (R), whose job approval rating has fallen over the last few months in the wake of several other controversies, including his support of a bill to require ultrasounds before abortions. He had a 55 percent approval rating, slightly up from 53 percent in March but the increase is not statistically significant due to the margin of error. The March rating was the lowest of his tenure as measured by Quinnipiac.
Approval ratings for Sen. Mark Warner (D) and Sen. Jim Webb (D) also fell dramatically, though Warner continues to score the best numbers in the state, with a 57 percent approval rating. Twenty-four percent said they disapprove of Warner’s performance as senator.
McDonnell was elected in 2009 as part of a Republican sweep in Virginia along with Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, now rivals for the governor’s mansion in 2013.
Bolling has a 36 percent approval rating, with 19 percent of voters disapproving. Cuccinelli has a 44 percent approval rating, with 31 percent of voters disapproving.
Several months after the General Assembly’s most heated sessions in months, the GOP led legislature received a 41 percent approval rating, with 41 percent disapproving.
On another policy issue, voters say by a margin of 62 percent to 34 percent they would favor a law similar to the one in Arizona that would require police to verify the legal status of someone they have already stopped or arrested if they suspect that the person is in the country illegally.
By 53 percent to 40 percent, however, voters support President Barack Obama’s policy in which younger illegal immigrants who came to the country as children will be able to obtain work permits and not face deportation.
Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,673 registered voters July 10–16. There is a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.
The school conducts public opinion surveys in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida, Ohio and Virginia.
On Thursday, the university will release its poll on the U.S. Senate and presidential race in Virginia.