RICHMOND — More than half of Virginians believe former governor Robert F. McDonnell should go to prison after a jury found him guilty of 11 counts of public corruption, according to a poll released Monday.
The poll, sponsored by the University of Mary Washington’s Center for Leadership and Media Studies, found 60 percent of adults said McDonnell (R) should be sentenced to prison time, while 28 percent say he should not and 12 percent weren’t sure or wouldn’t answer.
The result comes five weeks after the trial of McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, who were convicted of selling the state’s highest office in exchange for luxury goods and $120,000 in loans from businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. A sentencing hearing is set for Jan. 6.
The couple could face decades in federal prison, but of those who responded that the former governor should be put behind bars, nearly half — 46 percent — said he should serve one to five years, while 16 percent said he deserved six to 10 years. Another 21 percent said they didn’t know.
“The strong public support for prison time demonstrates the extent to which the public is furious with ethical misconduct in Richmond,” said Stephen J. Farnsworth, a professor of political science at Mary Washington. “These results demonstrate the depth of voter anger with politicians who are thought to take better care of the well-connected than of ordinary citizens. Lawmakers ignore this resentment at their peril.”
According to Farnsworth’s analysis of the data, there was a slight gender gap: 71 percent of women and 64 percent of men said the former governor should be sent to prison.
There also were differences along party lines: 75 percent of Democrats, 70 percent of independents and 57 percent of Republicans wanted to see McDonnell put behind bars.
On behalf of the university, Princeton Survey Research Associates International surveyed 1,000 Virginians by phone from Oct. 1 to Oct. 6. The poll has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.