- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 22, 2011

Virginia politicians and the state’s General Assembly receive high marks from voters — a sharp contrast with how the Old Dominion feels about its presidential choices, according to poll results released Thursday.

Virginians approve of Gov. Bob McDonnell’s job performance by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, 57 percent to 29 percent, the survey by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute shows. The Republican governor’s approval ratings since June have hovered between 55 percent and 62 percent in other Quinnipiac polls.

“Virginia retains its unusual status as a state where all the statewide elected officials, and the state legislature, are popular with voters,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the polling institute. “Of the seven states where Quinnipiac University conducts surveys, Virginia seems to have the greatest contentment with its politicians, both Republican and Democratic.”

A plurality of voters approve of retiring Sen. Jim Webb, a Democrat, who earned a split of 48 percent to 29 percent. Sen. Mark R. Warner’s approval rating, often the highest of any statewide official, topped 60 percent in the poll.

Mr. Warner, a Democrat, is said to be weighing a bid for governor in 2013, but spokesman Kevin Hall said the senator, who played a high-profile role in the debt-reduction talks as one of the “Gang of Six,” is focused on his current job.

“The Senate can be a frustrating place, but Sen. Warner is obsessed right now with his continuing efforts to build a broad congressional coalition that will work together for big and bipartisan solutions to our nation’s deficit and debt challenges,” Mr. Hall said.

A plurality of voters also approve the state legislature, which had a split of 46 percent to 36 percent.

Virginia’s other statewide elected officials also polled well. Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II remains more well-known than Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, though both Republicans received high marks from voters. The two men are on a collision course in the battle for the 2013 GOP gubernatorial nomination.

Thirty-five percent of voters approve of Mr. Bolling’s job performance, compared with 18 percent who disapprove. Mr. Cuccinelli had a split of 47 percent to 27 percent.

But voters’ satisfaction with statewide office holders did not carry over to approval for the presidential candidates.

A Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday showed that President Obama’s job approval rating stood at 42 percent among Virginia voters, similar to nationwide figures. Fifty-one percent of respondents said they disapproved of Mr. Obama’s job performance.

GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich also fared poorly, with 29 percent of Virginia respondents saying they had a favorable opinion of him compared with 45 percent saying they had an unfavorable opinion.

Mitt Romney scored better, with 37 percent saying they had a favorable opinion compared with 27 percent who consider him unfavorably.

The poll released Thursday also surveyed Virginia voters on several issues likely to dominate the 2012 legislative session, including whether the state should lift a 30-year ban on uranium mining.

Virginia Uranium Inc. wants to mine a purported 119-million-pound deposit at a Coles Hill site in Pittsylvania County. A National Academy of Sciences report released this week said the state, with a lack of history in the field, faces “steep hurdles” if the radioactive element is to be mined safely, but that international best practices could mitigate potential environmental and public health risks.

Forty-three percent said mining should be allowed, compared with 41 percent who were opposed.

Virginia voters also weighed in on the state’s budget situation. Mr. McDonnell on Monday released his two-year, $85 billion spending blueprint that balances the budget with no tax increases, though he did include $10 million in fees to help fund the Department of Motor Vehicles.

A plurality of voters, 48 percent to 42 percent, said a projected $1 billion deficit the state faces should be balanced with only spending cuts. The vote split along party lines: Republicans favored a cuts-only approach by a margin of 65 percent to 27 percent, while Democrats supported a mix of tax increases and cuts by 51 percent to 39 percent. Independents agreed with Democrats, 49 percent to 41 percent.

The poll surveyed 1,135 voters on land lines and cellphones from Dec. 13-19 and has a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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