Poll: Virginia Elections Extremely Close As Schools, Reproductive Rights Hang In Balance

Pro-reproductive rights protesters in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

By Carolyn Fiddler

September 28, 2023

The future of Virginians’ reproductive rights and public schools are in the balance in November’s elections, and a new University of Mary Washington poll shows control of the state’s General Assembly is coming down to the wire.

The new poll’s toplines give Democrats a slight edge among registered voters—40% say they want a Democratic legislative majority and 37% prefer a Republican one—but when looking at “likely” voters, partisan control preference is evenly split at 42% each.

That simply emphasizes the importance of voter turnout once again for Virginians who want to see abortion remain legal and their public schools supported and funded.

“Virginia has rapidly returned to its purple state status,” said Stephen J. Farnsworth, professor of political science at UMW. “This new statewide survey shows that Virginia’s voters are basically evenly divided as they approach the upcoming Virginia legislative elections.”

The poll also evaluated the importance of certain people and policies on their vote in November’s elections.

Sixty-four percent of respondents said that “public school policies” will be a major factor in deciding their vote, and 53% said that the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade will be a major factor. GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin will be a major factor in 43% of voters’ decision in November.

UMW’s poll is consistent with other surveys this year that indicate Virginians’ strong support for reproductive rights. This poll found that 57% of Virginians believe that abortion should be legal in all (23%) or most (34%) cases. Just 8% of Virginians support a total ban on abortions. A Roanoke College poll from August found that just 12% of Virginians support a total abortion ban, while 86% believe abortion should be legal in all (36%) or some (50%) cases.

The poll also suggests that Virginians are enthusiastic about casting their ballots in this November’s legislative elections. Among registered voters, 85% are “absolutely certain” they will vote. As UMW has only released the poll’s topline results, it’s not clear how that enthusiasm is distributed among self-identified Republicans, Democrats, and independent voters.

The Virginia House Democratic Caucus seemed energized by the poll’s findings.

 “We’ve always known that with the MAGA extremist candidates they’ve put on the ballot that the stakes are higher than ever before,” executive director Amy Friedman told Dogwood. “Abortion’s on the ballot. Fully funding our public schools is on the ballot. Democracy is on the ballot. Voters are realizing that and are turning out to protect their fundamental rights and freedoms from the extreme MAGA Republicans in the Virginia GOP. Democrats are ready to win in November, and it’s clear the momentum is on our side.”

UMW’s Fall 2023 Virginia Survey was conducted from Sept. 5 – 11, 2023. The total sample included 1,000 Virginia residents, including 833 registered voters and 771 likely voters, and the margin of error is +/- 3.0%.

 

  • Carolyn Fiddler

    Carolyn Fiddler is Dogwood's chief political correspondent. She is also the nation’s foremost expert in state politics with almost two decades of experience in statehouse machinations, and her comic book collection is probably bigger than yours.

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