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By Dr. Harry Wilson

Roanoke College Poll: Virginians support much of Democratic agenda in General Assembly

As Democrats prepare to take control of both houses of the General Assembly in January along with the three major statewide offices they currently hold, The Roanoke College Poll has found support for several of their agenda items. The Institute for Policy and Opinion Research interviewed 609 Virginia residents between Nov. 10 and Nov. 20 and has a margin of error of +4 percent.

Support for various Democratic initiatives ranged from 84 percent for universal background checks for all firearm purchases to 38 percent for amending Virginia’s Right-to-Work laws. The latter was the only proposal that was not supported by a majority of respondents.







Universal background checks for firearm purchase



Red flag law (family member)



Pass Equal Rights Amendment



Regulations that may slow effects of climate change



Raise minimum wage to $15 over several years



Reduce prison population and prison racial disparities



Assault weapons ban



Make it easier for a woman to obtain an abortion



Require workers to pay dues in unionized workplace



President Trump, Direction of the Country, and Governor Northam

A majority of Virginians (51%) disapprove of the way President Trump his handling his job, and just under one-third (32%) approve. Public impeachment hearings began on the third day of the poll.

Nearly two-thirds (65%) of respondents think the country is on the wrong track, while 26 percent think it is headed in the right direction. President Trump’s approval is up slightly since August, while those saying the country is heading in the right direction is the lowest it has been in two years. Approval for Virginia Governor Ralph Northam declined slightly to 35 percent. Given their support for various gun measures noted above, it is interesting that Virginians are more likely to say it is important to protect the right of Americans to own guns (47%) than to control gun ownership (43%).

Political anxiety

IPOR continues to track political anxiety in the Commonwealth. More than eight in ten (81%) of Virginians trust the federal government to do what is right only some of the time or never. However, a majority (58%) thinks that ordinary citizens can do a lot to influence the federal government. A plurality (43%) thinks their side is losing more than winning in politics today.

Most respondents (55%) think the country’s best years are ahead of it, while one-third (32%) think its best years have passed. Overall, a large majority of Virginians (90%) continues to see the nation divided regarding the important issues facing the U.S. 

Half of respondents (50%) are dissatisfied with how the federal government is (or isn’t) working. Another 19 percent are angry, while only 21 percent are satisfied, and three percent are enthusiastic. Each of these measures remain relatively constant over time, but responses of subgroups vary.


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


“To borrow a phrase from Elvis, it may be a ‘Blue Christmas’ in Virginia,” said Harry Wilson, director of the Roanoke College Poll. “The policy preferences expressed in this poll reinforce the Democratic victories in the General Assembly races in early November. A majority of Virginians seem to be on board with much of the Democratic agenda for the state although support for some policies is stronger than for others.”

As seen in national polls, President Trump’s approval appears impervious to political events. His approval is up slightly since August but is still quite low. If a public impeachment inquiry doesn’t move that needle, then it is difficult to imagine what will.”


Interviewing for The Roanoke College Poll was conducted by The Institute for Policy and Opinion Research at Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia between Nov. 10 and Nov. 20, 2019. A total of 609 Virginia residents were interviewed. Telephone interviews were conducted in English and Spanish.

The landline sample consisted of random-digit numbers generated in proportion to the Virginia population so that all residential telephone numbers, including unlisted numbers, had a known chance of inclusion. Cellphone samples were purchased from Marketing Systems Group and Call Delivery Systems. Cellphones comprised 55 percent of the completed interviews.

Questions answered by the entire sample of 609 respondents 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 Virginians who have a home telephone or a cell phone. Where the results of subgroups are reported, the sampling error is higher.

Quotas were used to ensure that different regions of the Commonwealth were proportionately represented. The data were statistically weighted for gender, race, and age. Weighting was done to match Virginia census data. The margin of error was not adjusted for design effects due to weighting.

A copy of the questionnaire and topline may be found here.

For more about the Institute for Public Opinion Research, click here

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