RICHMOND — Virginians are evenly split over whether the Confederate flag should be stripped from state license plates, according to a new poll that also found that half of voters say Gov. Terry McAuliffe is doing a good job.
A Quinnipiac University poll released Monday found that 46 percent of voters say the flag should be taken off state plates and 45 percent say it should stay. McAuliffe (D) ordered the flag’s removal from a specialty Sons of Confederate Veterans plate in June.
His move, which the Confederate organization is fighting in court, came amid a nationwide backlash against the flag, following the shooting deaths of nine members of a historically African American church in Charleston, S.C. Police said suspect Dylann Roof had set out to start a “race war.”
McAuliffe’s announcement also came after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Texas was free to reject a specialized license plate featuring the Confederate flag.
The poll found that 50 percent of voters approve of the way McAuliffe has been doing his job as governor, while 31 percent disapprove. The approval number was unchanged but disapproval had ticked up since April, when another Quinnipiac survey found that 28 percent disapproved of McAuliffe’s performance.
The difference was just outside the poll’s margin of error, which is plus or minus 2.8 percentage points. The poll surveyed 1,029 voters between July 9 and July 20.
Voters had a higher opinion of two former governors now serving in the U.S. Senate. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D), who narrowly won reelection in the fall, has the approval of 59 percent of voters, with 26 percent disapproving of his performance. Freshman Sen. Timothy M. Kaine (D) has the approval of 52 percent, with 30 percent disapproving.
Views of McAuliffe’s performance differ sharply along partisan lines. McAuliffe, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, has the approval of 77 percent of Democrats and 49 percent of independents but just 33 percent of Republicans.
Support for the Confederate flag’s appearance on specialty license plates also breaks sharply along partisan lines. Among Democrats, 73 percent said the image should be removed, while 71 percent of Republicans said the flag insignia should remain an option on state plates. Among independents, 48 percent say the flag should go, while 42 percent oppose its removal.
Race also shapes views on the issue, with 55 percent of white voters and 73 percent of black voters in favor of eliminating the flag option.
“Not surprisingly, there are wide partisan and racial differences among Virginians on the Confederate flag on license plate question, but there is very little gender gap on the issue,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the poll.