President Donald Trump’s low popularity among Virginia voters poses a risk for Republican Ed Gillespie in the campaign to be Virginia’s next governor. However, Democrat Ralph Northam may have his own vulnerability on the issue of whether to remove Confederate statues and monuments from parks and other public spaces. Those are the findings of a survey of likely voters released Tuesday Sept. 26 by the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University.
Trump’s approval rating among all likely voters stands at 35 percent, according to the survey. Northam voters are nearly united in their disapproval (96 percent), and more than half say that is a factor in their vote (51 percent). Among Gillespie voters, 75 percent approve of the job Trump is doing, but 16 percent disapprove. Almost three out of four Gillespie voters (72 percent) say Trump is not a factor in their choice.
“Disapproval of Trump and Congress is clearly motivating Northam’s voters,” said Rachel Bitecofer, assistant director of the Wason Center. “Gillespie voters mostly support Trump, but they’d rather keep him out of the picture here.”
Northam, the current lieutenant governor, leads former Republican National Committee Chair Gillespie, 47-41 percent, according to Wason Center survey results released on Monday. Libertarian Cliff Hyra polled at 4 percent. The poll’s margin of error is +/-3.7 percent.
On the issue of Confederate monuments, 54 percent of likely voters say they oppose removing them from public spaces, while 36 percent support the removal. Northam says he prefers that the monuments be moved to museums, but that local governments should make the decision. Gillespie says the monuments should stay in place with added historical context. Strong majorities of Northam voters (62 percent) and Democrats (62 percent) support removing the monuments, but 25 percent oppose it, and 26 percent say they symbolize Southern pride, not racism.