Sixty-one percent of registered voters in Virginia approve of the way Gov. Bob McDonnell is handling his job, while 21percent disapprove, according to a poll released Wednesday by Quinnipiac University.
McDonnell (R) and Sen. Mark Warner (D) - or maybe just their staffs - have engaged in a friendly rivalry the last few months over which has the highest approval rating. Recent polls have gone back and forth.
In the latest poll, Warner has a slight edge over McDonnell. Sixty-four percent of registered voters in Virginia approve of the way Warner is handling his job, while 22 percent disapprove.
The Connecticut university’s second poll on Virginia political issues also shows that voters approve, 55 percent to 22 percent, treating abortion clinics as ambulatory surgery centers and requiring that they meet hospital-type regulations.
The Board of Health is expected to vote on emergency regulations for clinics Thursday. The General Assembly passed a bill this spring to mandate that the rules be written no more than 280 days after the bill was signed into law.
The law is popular even though 50 percent of Virginians say abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Forty-one percent disapprove. Fifty percent of registered voters say the law is a way to safeguard women’s health, while 33 percent see it as unnecessary and an effort to put abortion clinics out of business.
Support of the regulations crosses party lines; 62 percent among Republicans, 57 percent of independents and 47 percent of Democrats support it.
“Opponents apparently have been unable to convince the electorate that this is an unwarranted back-door way to stop abortions,’’ said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
The independent Quinnipiac poll, conducted by live interviewers with registered voters on land lines and cell phones, releases periodic voter surveys of office holders, candidates and issues in Connecticut, New York, New York City, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida. This year, it added Virginia, increasingly considered a swing election state.
Virginia Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R), who is running for governor in 2013, has a 39 percent approval rating, with 15 percent of voters disapproving.
State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who has said he may run against Bolling or Warner, has a 47 percent approval rating, with 29 percent of voters disapproving. Cuccinelli, who has made a name for himself by suing the U.S. government, took a small hit last week when his lawsuit on the federal health care law was tossed out of court.
Brown called McDonnell’s latest approval ratings among the best in the country.
Voters like McDonnell personally by a margin of 56 percent to 14 percent, and like policies by a margin of 52 percent to 26.
“Not only is he personally popular, but so too is his budget,’’ Brown said. “Virtually every other governor in the country must be envious about Bob McDonnell’s numbers.”
Warner, who faces re-election in 2014, got the highest approval rating of any statewide official. The popular former governor had seen his numbers drop in polls since moving from Richmond, where he persuaded a GOP-led legislature to adopt a budget that made record investments in education, public safety and health care by imposing higher sales and cigarette taxes. But he has garnered national attention in the last few months as he tried to work on a plan with a bipartisan group of senators to address the nation’s escalating debt.
Two months before Republicans try to seize control of the Democratic-led Senate, the poll shows that 25 percent would like both houses controlled by Democrats; 25 percent want the Republicans in control and 43 percent say they want the current split control to continue.
The divided Virginia General Assembly received a 48 percent approval rating, with 34 percent disapproving.
Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,368 registered voters between Sept. 6-12. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.
On Thursday, the university will release its poll on next year’s U.S. Senate and presidential race in Virginia.