Poll: McDonnell’s approval rating dips

RICHMOND — Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell’s approval rating has slipped to its lowest level in two years, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday.

Forty-nine percent of voters approve of the job McDonnell (R) is doing, down from 53 percent in a March 27 survey, according to the Quinnipiac survey. The governor’s job approval is the lowest since Quinnipiac began polling Virginia voters on state matters two years ago, and it is the first time his approval rating has dipped below 50 percent in the survey.

But the drop doesn’t appear to be related to McDonnell's ties to a businessman who paid the $15,000 catering bill at his daughter’s wedding. Fourty-four of voters say McDonnell’s ties to the businessman, Star Scientific chief executive Jonnie R. Williams Sr., are “just politics” rather than a “major issue,” the poll found.

The Washington Post reported in March that Williams had paid for catering at the June 2011 wedding of McDonnell’s daughter and that McDonnell had not reported the gift. The governor has said he was not required to do so because the payment was a present to his daughter, not him. Virginia officials are required to disclose any gifts over $50, but not those given to immediate family.

“The relationship between Gov. Bob McDonnell and businessman Jonnie Williams Sr. has been a major story in the news media, but seems so far to have little impact on voters’ views of the governor, which remain relatively positive,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “That could change depending on developments, but at this point many more voters see the matter as ‘just politics’ than as a major issue. The governor retains a favorable view in the eyes of Virginia voters.”

Fifty-nine percent of Virginians say McDonnell has “high personal moral and ethical standards,” while 16 percent say he does not, and 25 percent say they are unsure.

The Quinnipiac poll follows a recent Washington Post survey that found McDonnell still has solid popularity among voters across the political spectrum.

The Post poll found that 64 percent of voters in the commonwealth say they approve of the job McDonnell is doing, up six percentage points from two Post surveys last year. That approval rating was as high as it had been in periodic Post polls over his tenure.

From May 8 to May 13, Quinnipiac surveyed 1,286 registered voters on land lines and cell phones. The poll has a a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.

Laura Vozzella covers Virginia politics for The Washington Post.
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