By Dr. Harry Wilson

Roanoke College Poll: Is it 2016 yet?

Clinton leads Trump; ties with Bush, Rubio, Walker. Abortion views unchanged; mixed opinion on Confederate flag.

Among Virginians, likely Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump (45%-32%), but is in a virtual tie with Jeb Bush (42%-41%), Marco Rubio (41%-40%), and Scott Walker (42%-38%), according to The Roanoke College Poll. Despite the attention given to the Planned Parenthood videos, opinion regarding abortion is unchanged since July, 2013. Virginians polled are more likely to see the Confederate battle flag as a symbol of Southern pride (42%) rather than as a racist symbol (31%).

The Roanoke College Poll interviewed 608 residents in Virginia between August 10 and August 20 and has a margin of error of +4 percent.

Is it 2016 yet?

Well, no it's not, but it would be interesting if it were. In potential 2016 Presidential match-ups, Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump by 13 points (45%-32%), but other Republicans fare much better. Jeb Bush (42%-41%) and Marco Rubio (41%-40%) each trail Clinton by 1 percent, and Scott Walker is behind by 4 percent (42%-38%), all within the margin of error. The RC Poll has not asked about these Republicans in the past, butClinton led three other rivals in September, 2014 by larger margins (Clinton led Christie 47%-37%, Paul 51%-35%, and Ryan (who is not running) 50%-37%).

Among the current group, there is a strong gender gap with each, (larger with Trump), but no significant age differences. Clinton trails Bush, Rubio, and Walker among Independents by 10-17 points, but leads each among moderates by margins ranging from 25 to 35 percent. She narrowly leads Trump among Independents (+2%) but has a 38-point lead among moderates. She trails each of the Republicans among white voters, but no Republican is in double-digits among African Americans.

Confederate battle flag controversy

Virginians polled are more likely to see the flag as a symbol of Southern pride (42%) rather than as a racist symbol (31%). Whites tend to see it as Southern pride (53%), while African-Americans tend to view it as a racist symbol (56%). There are also regional differences present, with Northern Virginia and Tidewater evenly split, while other regions trend in the direction of Southern pride. Nearly one-third (31%) of respondents said they had an ancestor in the Civil War, and they were more likely to see it as a source of Southern pride (60%), while only 30 percent of those who did not have a relative in the war view the flag that way. Although the numbers are small (and margin of error much larger), it is interesting that a plurality of those with relatives on both sides of the war see it as a source of Southern pride (49%; N=49), and majorities of those whose relatives fought for the North (58%; N=26) or the South (68%; N=99) see the flag in that light.

Regardless of their view of the flag, majorities of Virginians oppose removing it from vanity license plates (53%), as has been ordered by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, and they are overwhelmingly opposed (86%) to removing the statues commemorating the Civil War soldiers so common at courthouses across the Commonwealth.


“Clinton’s lead over potential Republican opponents appears to have shrunk ... While she appears to be replicating the Obama winning coalition among blacks and women, she is not creating an age gap.”

Dr. Harry Wilson, director of IPOR

Abortion and Planned Parenthood

Opinion regarding the legality of abortion is virtually unchanged from the July 2013 Roanoke College Poll, suggesting that the Planned Parenthood videos have had little or no effect on overall opinion. A plurality of Virginians (46%) think that abortion should be legal under some circumstances (unchanged from 2013), while fewer think it should be legal in all circumstances (31%, up 1% from 2013), or illegal in all circumstances (17%, down 1% from 2013).

A plurality of residents (41%) have a favorable view of Planned Parenthood, while 30 percent have an unfavorable view. Less than one-third (29%) said they had actually watched any portion of the videos, and more than half (55%) said they had not been following the story closely at all (29% said somewhat closely). Those opposed to abortion in all circumstances were more likely to have watched some of the videos, but attention to the issue was almost evenly distributed among all three groups.

Views of Obama, McAuliffe, and the nation

Nearly two-thirds of Virginians (62%) think the country has gotten off on the wrong track, while 29 percent think things are generally going in the right direction (January, 2015: 52% wrong track; October, 2014: 67% wrong track). Forty-two percent approve of the job Barack Obama is doing as president (Jan. 2015: 38% approved; Oct. 2014: 32% approved), as his approval continues to rise. He is now even, as 42 percent disapprove of the job he is doing. Gov. McAuliffe's approval is at 44 percent, while 15 percent disapprove (Jan. 2015:47% approved; Oct. 2014: 41% approved)


"Clinton's lead over potential Republican opponents appears to have shrunk, although the comparisons are not perfect," said Harry Wilson, director of the Institute for Policy and Opinion Research. "Of course, it is still very early, but no one likes to lose momentum. While she appears to be replicating the Obama winning coalition among blacks and women, she is not creating an age gap."

"Despite the media attention to the Planned Parenthood videos, overall opinion regarding abortion is unchanged. Opinion regarding abortion is generally thought to change slowly, if at all, and that certainly seems true in this case. We may have reached a tipping point on symbols, especially when it comes to removing statues dedicated to Civil War veterans. The racial and regional differences regarding the flag are what we would expect to see. Perhaps most interesting is that those who had ancestors who fought for North were more sympathetic to the battle flag and its symbolism than those who did not have any ancestor in the War."


The Roanoke College Poll is funded by Roanoke College as a public service.


Interviewing for The Roanoke College Poll was conducted by The Institute for Policy and Opinion Research at Roanoke College in Salem, Va. between Aug. 10 and Aug. 20, 2015. A total of 608 Virginia residents 18 or older were interviewed. Telephone interviews were conducted in English. The random digit dial sample was obtained from asde Survey Sampler and includes both Virginia land line and cell phone exchanges so that all cell phone and residential land line telephone numbers, including unlisted numbers from Virginia exchanges, had a known chance of inclusion. Cell phones constituted 37 percent of the completed interviews.

Questions answered by the entire sample of 608 residents are subject to a sampling error of plus or minus approximately 4 percent at the 95 percent level of confidence. This means that in 95 out of 100 samples like the one used here, the results obtained should be no more than 4 percentage points above or below the figure that would be obtained by interviewing all Virginia residents who have a home telephone or a cell phone. Where the results of subgroups are reported, the sampling error is higher. For example, the sample of 535 registered voters has a margin of error of + 4.24%.

Quotas were used to ensure that different regions of the Commonwealth were proportionately represented. The data were statistically weighted for gender, race, age, and political party. Weighting was done to match the demographic groups' representation in the 2012 Virginia exit poll. The margin of error was not adjusted for design effects due to weighting.

A copy of the questionnaire and all toplines may be found here.

More information about the Poll may be obtained by contacting Dr. Harry Wilson at wilson@roanoke.edu or (540) 375-2415 or the Roanoke College Public Relations Office at (540) 375-2282. The Roanoke College Poll is funded by Roanoke College as a public service.

1 The election questions were asked of registered voters and those who are not registered but said it was at least somewhat likely they would register and vote in the 2016 election. When only registered voters are included, N declines from 585 to 535, and the margins are virtually unchanged. Among registered voters only, Clinton leads Trump (43%-32%), Bush (42%-40%), Rubio (42%-40%), and Walker (42%-38%).

CONTACT: Dr. Harry L. Wilson, Director
(540) 375-2415 (Office)