Va. poll shows support for Democrats’ priorities in 2020 General Assembly

Democrats taking control of Virginia’s General Assembly next month have significant support for key priorities, a new poll suggests.

According to the poll released Monday morning by the Christopher Newport University Wason Center for Public Policy, voters strongly support expanding background checks for gun sales; enacting a “red flag” law to temporarily remove guns from those who pose a threat to themselves or others; and decriminalizing marijuana possession.

A narrower majority — 54% to 42% — support banning assault-style weapons, another issue that is expected to be debated in Richmond after the two-month session starts Jan. 8.

There is a tight divide, however, over whether local governments should have the authority to remove or change Confederate monuments. State law currently protects the monuments.

There is wide support for raising Virginia’s minimum wage (72% to 28%) to at least $10.10 per hour, significant support for automatic voter registration (64% to 31%), and significant support for allowing no-excuse early voting in the three weeks leading up to Election Day (74% to 23%).

The poll also suggests significant support for the Equal Rights Amendment, although it remains unclear whether it is too late for Virginia’s approval to actually count as the 38th and final state needed to ratify the amendment banning discrimination based on sex.

A majority of those asked (70%) also support sending to Virginia voters a redistricting-reform constitutional amendment. It would designate a bipartisan commission — rather than the General Assembly — to redraw legislative lines in 2021.

The poll is based on interviews last month with 901 registered Virginia voters after Democrats won control of both chambers of the General Assembly for the first time in decades. The poll’s margin of error is 3.4%.

It also finds Gov. Ralph Northam has a 52% approval rating and a 36% disapproval rating, continuing the Democrat’s recovery in the polls since he admitted last winter to once wearing blackface in the 1980s.

Northam presents his two-year budget plan Tuesday to the General Assembly’s money committees.

Among the proposals Northam has previewed are additional teacher raises; some additional prekindergarten slots for at-risk kids; free community college for low-income students getting degrees in certain fields; some additional health care spending; ongoing affordable housing efforts; stormwater cleanup; and offshore wind farm efforts.

Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax’s approval and disapproval ratings are at 32%.

Overall, the poll suggests 48% of voters believe Virginia is headed in the right direction, while 41% believe the commonwealth is headed in the wrong direction.

Only 29% said the country as a whole is headed in the right direction.

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