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New Virginia Poll Shows Support for Progressive Ideas, but Not Labels

Huge group of people holding signs supporting ERA on Virginia Capitol steps
Supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment rally on the steps of Virginia's Capitol in March, 2020. (Sara McCloskey/VPM News)

A new poll from Christopher Newport University's Wason Center finds the average Virginians describes themselves as slightly right-of-center when it comes to politics. At the same time, more than two-thirds of those polled support passing the Green New Deal, creating a legal pathway to citizenship for immigrants, and higher taxes on those making over a million dollars -- all ideas popularized by Democrats. 

The support for Democratic policies but centrist-to-conservative label is not unique to Virginia, according to CNU political scientist Rebecca Bromley-Trujillo.

“Americans as a whole tend to lean conservative in their ideology,” Bromley-Trujillo said. “And this usually is kind of based on broad values, like liberty or small government. But when you get into specific policy proposals, then you see more support for Democratic policies.”

Respondents were asked to describe themselves on a scale of 1 (very liberal) to 10 (very conservative); the average Virginian scored themselves at 5.83. Republicans self-placed at just over 8, while Democrats marked themselves at around 3.5.

The poll found a majority of Virginia voters -- including some Republicans -- support ideas generally associated with the left. That includes raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, Medicare for those who want it, creating a public option for health insurance, and increasing renewable energy investments.

Support for Medicare for all was roughly split between those opposed to and supporting the option. One idea embraced by Republicans did find bipartisan support: Two-thirds of Virginians support enhanced border security.

Bromley-Trujillo said the poll’s results helped explain why President Joe Biden emphasized bipartisan public support for elements of his roughly $4 trillion infrastructure proposal despite opposition from GOP lawmakers. And she said it also showed strategies for the two parties in upcoming statewide elections this November, when Virginians are set to elect a new governor, attorney general, and lieutenant governor as well as all 100 seats of the House of Delegates.

“For the Republican Party, emphasizing conservative values of individual liberty, and that kind of broad conservatism, would be probably for them the best messaging strategy,” Bromley-Trujillo said. “The Democratic Party messaging needs to be more around these bread and butter issues of the party.” 

Ben Paviour covers courts and criminal justice for VPM News with a focus on accountability.
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