Virginians were troubled by the gasoline crisis well before the onset of long lines at area gas stations and favored imposition of government controls on gas sales, according to a poll released today.
The poll, conducted by a newly-formed Richmond consulting firm headed by an influential Virginia political figure, shows that residents of the state-by a margin of nearly 3 to 2 - wanted the federal government to begin rationing gasoline supplies. Imposition of an odd-even sales plan based on automobile license tag numbers also found strong support in the state, according to the poll.
The findings on government controls indicate that even a month ago a majority of Virginians viewed the gas shortage as a problem serious enough to demand governmental intervention.
Since the poll was prepared by Northern American Marketing Corp., a firm headed by William A. Royall Jr., the former chief aide to Virginia Gov. John N. Dalton, it is likely that its findings will place added pressure on the governor to take a more active role in the current gasoline crisis.
Dalton on Friday imposed minimums on gas sales in Northern Virginia.That step came only a day after he said he would seek voluntary steps to cut gas lines in the region.
Virginians were skeptical of the gasoline shortage, with only one in four believing the crisis is genuine. Three of ten persons interviewed blamed government or industry for the problem and 40 percent found fault with both government and business.
"It clearly shows people don't trust business to do the job," said Larry Sabato, University of Virginia government professor and a respected poll analyst, who was given an advance look at the findings.
"I would expect the sentiment for rationing would be even stronger today," he said. "There's nothing like having to wait in a gas line."
Sabato noted that despite their confusion, Virginians appear more willing to believe the energy crisis genuine than the nation as whole, where recent polls have shown at least three out of five persons think the crunch is phony. Their endorsement of gas rationing reflects similar support in national surveys.
But those surveyed are more definite when it comes to a solution. Northern Virginians favored gas rationing by a 2 to 1 ratio, but statewide the ratio dropped to about 3 to 2 in favor of rationing.
The poll consisted of 630 telephone interviews with selected Virginians. About 135 of those surveyed were northern Virginians. The statewide margin of error was plus or minus 4 percent, while in Northern Virginia it was about plus or minus 8 percent.
The survey, taken during the week of May 18 to 25, showed most Virginians favor continued development of nuclear power plants in the state despite the Three Mile Island plant accident in Pennsylvania.
The poll, which North American hopes to do quarterly and sell to various clients, also surveyed attitudes toward state issues and 1980 presidential contenders. It found that Gerald Ford and Edward Kennedy were the top choices of Virginia voters.