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Virginia Politics
Posted at 06:54 AM ET, 10/12/2011

Poll: Virginians optimistic about Va. — but not U.S.

Virginians are three times more satisfied about the direction of the state than they are of the nation’s direction, according to a poll released Wednesday by Quinnipiac University.

Sixty-six percent of registered voters polled said the state is moving on the right course, while only 19 percent think the same about the nation.

They generally approve of the way their elected officials are handling their jobs, with Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) and U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D) receiving the highest marks.
Gov. Bob McDonnell (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Sixty-two percent of registered voters in Virginia approve of the way McDonnell is handling his job, while 22 percent disapprove. McDonnell’s approval rating has steadily increased since June (55 percent) and September (61 percent).

Sixty-one percent of registered voters in Virginia approve of the way Warner is handling his job, while 24 percent disapprove. Warner’s approval was 57 percent in June and 64 percent in September.

The Connecticut university’s third poll on Virginia political issues also indicated that 52 percent of voters don’t want tolls on I-95; 42 percent said they do.

McDonnell has sought approval to impose tolls on the southern reaches of I-95 to raise revenue to improve the congested corridor.

Virginians say they favor, 60 percent to 28 percent, increasing tolls, rather than raising the gas tax, if the money is used to pay for road repairs in the state.

The Federal Highway Administration, which has authority over tolling on interstates, recently granted the state preliminary approval to move ahead with a proposal to require tolls from drivers heading into the state from North Carolina.

The state estimates it would collect $250 million in tolls in the first five years of operation and more than $50 million a year after that. Federal rules mandates the toll money be used to improve or expand capacity on the highway where it is collected.

If the state meets the requirements, Virginia officials have estimated it would take 18 to 24 months before toll collection would begin.

“Overwhelmingly, Virginia voters are happy with what’s going on in Richmond, but not so much with what’s coming out of Washington,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling institute. “All statewide elected officials, and even the state legislature, get thumbs up for their job performance. In these tough times that is pretty remarkable.”

McDonnell was elected in 2009 as part of a Republican sweep in Virginia along with Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, whom he is supporting for governor in 2013, and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II.

Bolling, who is running for governor in 2013, has a 35 percent approval rating, with 17 percent of voters disapproving.

Cuccinelli, who has said he may run against Bolling or Warner, has a 46 percent approval rating, with 30 percent of voters disapproving.

McDonnell, the state’s first Republican governor in eight years, took office last year in the aftermath of the worst recession since the Great Depression. He easily defeated his Democratic opponent, Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (Bath), by running as a pragmatic leader who could work across party lines to solve the state’s economic problems

Republicans approved of McDonnell’s job performance 87 percent to 6 percent; Democrats 40 percent to 40 percent and independents, 65 percent to 18 percent, according to the poll.

McDonnell and Warner frequently swap the title of the most popular elected official in the state. Warner, the popular former governor, had seen his numbers drop in polls since moving from Richmond, where he
Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
famously convinced a Republican legislature to approve higher taxes in exchange for new investments in education, public safety and health care. But he has garnered national attention this year as he tried to work on a plan with a bipartisan group of senators, the so-called Gang of Six, to address the nation’s escalating debt. Warner faces reelection in 2014.

Sen. Jim Webb (D), who announced in February that he would not run for reelection, has a 51 percent approval rating, with 27 percent of voters disapproving.

Twenty-three percent of Virginians approve of the job U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) is doing; 24 percent disapprove. But 52 percent say they don’t know enough about him to form an opinion.

A month before Republicans try to seize control of the Democratic-led Senate, the divided General Assembly received a 47 percent approval rating, with 35 percent disapproving — making it the only legislature in any state surveyed by Quinnipiac to get a positive rating.

Thirty-eight percent of voters are more concerned about the safety of nuclear power after the North Anna nuclear plant was shut down following the August earthquake. Seven percent are less concerned and 52 percent say the shutdown did not affect their view.

They approve, 71 percent to 20 percent, of using nuclear power to produce electricity and support; and 60 percent to 32 percent, the construction of new nuclear plants in the the state.

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.

Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,459 registered voters Oct. 3-9. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.

On Tuesday, the university released its poll on next year’s U.S. Senate and presidential race in Virginia.

By  |  06:54 AM ET, 10/12/2011

 
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