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Poll backs McDonnell, abortion clinic rules

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Gov. Bob McDonnell's popularity is growing in Virginia, where a majority of voters also support a controversial new law to regulate abortion clinics like hospitals, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday.

The Republican governor notched a robust 61 percent job-approval rating, up from 55 percent in a June Quinnipiac poll. Twenty-one percent of respondents said they disapproved of his job performance, down from 26 percent in June.

"Virtually every other governor in the country must be envious about Bob McDonnell's numbers," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

The survey released Wednesday also showed that 55 percent of respondents support a new Virginia law that requires abortion clinics to be regulated like hospitals. Proponents of the law have argued that it is in the interest of protecting women's health, while opponents have derided it as a politically motivated ploy to restrict access to abortions in the state. Opponents also say that new physical requirements for facilities that perform abortions could force most of them to close.

But just 22 percent of those polled said they do not support the regulations, which the state Board of Health is set to weigh in on Thursday.

Only a quarter of those surveyed said they had heard of or read about the regulations.

"There is strong support for the new abortion law among men and women. Opponents apparently have been unable to convince the electorate that this is an unwarranted back-door way to stop abortions," Mr. Brown said. "Even Democrats, by a plurality, support the measure."

The poll showed that by a 50-percent-to-41-percent margin, Virginians say that abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

The Virginia legislature received a 48 percent job-approval rating and a 34-percent disapproval rating, and the numbers appear to indicate that despite Mr. McDonnell's popularity and all-out push to ensure that Republicans take control of the state Senate after this falls elections, voters prefer divided government. Democrats currently control the Senate, while Republicans hold a majority in the House of Delegates.

A quarter of those polled wanted to see both chambers controlled by Democrats and a quarter wanted the same for Republicans. Forty-three percent said they wanted the current split to continue.

Sen. Mark R. Warner, a Democrat, continues to enjoy high marks as well. His 64-percent-to-22-percent approval split is the highest of any statewide official. Fifty-one percent of voters approve of the job performance of retiring Sen. Jim Webb, a Democrat, while Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, a Republican, saw a 39-percent-to-15-percent split. Forty-seven percent of respondents approved of Republican Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II's job performance, while 29 percent disapproved.

The survey of 1,368 registered voters, was conducted September 6-12 and has a margin of error of 2.7 percentage points.

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