McAuliffe gets tepid approval rating in poll


Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, left, with state House delegates this month, earns far higher marks from fellow Democrats than from Republicans. (Bob Brown/AP)

Most Virginians are upbeat about the next four years under Gov. Terry McAuliffe just two months after he won office with less than 50 percent of the vote, a new poll says.

Voters are optimistic about the Democrat’s term by 57 to 32 percent in a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday.

But McAuliffe’s own approval rating remains tepid, with 44 percent approving of the job he is doing, 29 percent disapproving and 27 percent undecided.

Virginians give McAuliffe lukewarm grades on personal characteristics, with 44 percent saying he is honest and trustworthy and 46 percent saying he cares about their needs and problems.

By 53 percent to 31 percent, Virginians do say he has strong leadership qualities.

“Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s initial report card from Virginia voters is good, but not great,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. “A plurality — but not a majority — approves of his early days in the governor’s mansion, and for the most part, he gets similar ratings when voters are asked about his personal characteristics. The exception is that a majority see him as a strong leader.”

The polling occurred as Mc­Auliffe has been locked in a highly partisan battle with House Republicans over whether to expand Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act. The impasse has stalled budget negotiations and threatens to shut down the state government if it is not resolved by July 1, the start of the new fiscal year.

The Quinnipiac survey suggests that few Virginians think Richmond should put so much emphasis on that issue: Just 4 percent of those polled said Medicaid should be the top priority for the governor or legislature this year. Nineteen percent said the top focus should be jobs and unemployment.

Views of McAuliffe vary sharply along partisan lines, with Democrats giving him far higher marks than Republicans.

Virginians overall were much more bullish about the commonwealth than about its governor, with 56 percent of voters “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with the direction the state is headed in and 43 percent “somewhat dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied.”

Fifty-seven percent of voters said the state’s economy is excellent or good, while 41 percent approve of the way McAuliffe is handling it.

“Virginians are optimistic about the future under their new governor, and a majority is satisfied with the way things are going in their state, better than the voter outlook in some other parts of the country,” Brown said.

From March 19 to 24, Quinn­ipiac University surveyed 1,288 voters on land lines and cellphones. The poll has 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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