Virginia residents support marijuana legalization, paid sick leave

Virginia residents are weighing in on issues they want to see prioritized by the Virginia General as it debates new laws.

The State of the Commonwealth online poll released by the Wason Center for Civic Leadership at Christopher Newport University finds strong support for legalizing marijuana and having employers with more than 25 employees provide a minimum of five paid sick days per year.

On legalizing marijuana:

Our survey shows strong support for marijuana legalization (68% support/strongly support to 32% oppose/strongly oppose), a measure championed by Gov. Ralph Northam. Majorities of Virginians across demographic and partisan lines back legalization, though to different degrees. Younger Virginians’ support is strong, with 79% of those ages 18-44 either supporting or strongly supporting the proposal, compared to 57% for those 45 and older. In addition, 78% of Black voters surveyed favor legalization, compared to 65% of white voters. Democrats show greater support for legalization than Republicans (80%- 51%).”

Researchers said 1,039 people, including 897 voters, participated.

When it comes to the workplace, 88% support or strongly support the idea of five paid sick leave days.

Another 68% showed support for allowing public employees to unionize.

As for the state budget, with an unexpected decrease in the state’s revenue due to the pandemic, a majority, 68%, support more spending on health care while 66% say K-12 education should be a priority.

A poll done by the university late last year found voters satisfied with Virginia’s COVID-19 school options, but three out of four worried their children would fall behind in school because of disruptions due to the pandemic.

On the death penalty, 56% would like to see it repealed. And 55% want to see mandatory minimum sentences eliminated.

The center’s analysis finds:

Most Republicans oppose/strongly oppose repealing the death penalty (64%), while a large majority of Democrats support/strongly support the proposal (74%). Black registered voters are more likely to support the repeal (72%) than white voters (52%). This division aligns with arguments that the death penalty is disproportionately used against Black defendants. Joining the 25 states that do not now impose the death penalty would be a significant change for Virginia, which is second only to Texas in executions carried out since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.”

Social services including housing aid, economic development and public safety garnered 60% support. More money for tourism and prisons ranked low on the list of priorities.

Seventy percent supported tax rebates for electric vehicles. Seven percent strongly opposed the idea.

“The General Assembly has shown great interest in renewable energy and climate mitigation policies in the past year, so it’s not surprising to see continued environmental protection efforts,” said Rebecca Bromley-Trujillo, research director of the Wason Center. “Support for electric vehicles is likely a response to the increased salience of climate issues, given the environmental risks Virginia faces associated with sea level rise and warmer temperatures.”

The online poll was based on interviews with 1,039 Virginia residents, including 897 registered voters, from Jan. 18 to Jan. 25. Because it was an online panel survey and not a random sample survey, the precision of the poll was calculated using a credibility interval, rather than a margin of sampling error. The credibility interval, which was weighted, was +/- 4.8%.

The scientific quality of credibility intervals has been called into question by the American Association for Public Opinion Research.

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