About that Wason Poll…

by James A. Bacon

Virginia voters disagree with Governor Glenn Youngkin on major issues such as his crusade against Critical Race Theory and masks in schools. Furthermore, only 41% of voters say they approve of his job performance compared to 43% who disapprove. That’s what The Washington Post extracted from a poll just released by Christopher Newport University’s Wason Center

The WaPo offered no explanation of Youngkin’s sudden reversal in popularity since his election in November, other than to note that his executive orders “generated strong feelings” and “stoked divisive issues.”

The Post regurgitates the Wason poll results uncritically, even repeating the numbers for a question that clearly biased the outcome: asking voters whether or not the commonwealth should spend surplus revenues on “underfunded government services” like education, public safety, and social services. Nice job, guys!

There’s another reason to suspect the poll findings.

Of the 701 Virginians surveyed, 20% identified as conservative and 4% very conservative compared to 26% liberal and 9% very liberal, with 34% classifying themselves as moderate. That’s a 11-percentage point tilt in favor of liberals.

Compare that to a May 2021 poll which asked Virginia voters to place themselves on a 1 to 10 scale of liberal to conservative. Virginia voters’ average score was 5.83, tilting significantly to the conservative side. Partisan affiliations can be fickle, but ideological leanings are fairly stable over time. Sorry, Wason, but your voter sample looks as biased as your question about the budget surplus.

If we give credence to the Post, after Youngkin has been in office less than two months, we‘re expected to believe that voters disagree with him on almost every major issue he campaigned on (or allegedly campaigned on) — the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, not teaching the history of racism (a phony issue I debunked yesterday), Critical Race Theory in schools, masks in schools, and vaccine mandates. (Poll respondents did favor two Youngkin initiatives: putting resource officers in schools and repealing the sales tax on groceries.) 

“The honeymoon is over,” Delegate Don L. Scott Jr., D-Portsmouth, declared Monday in speech on the House floor that the Post described as “blistering.” Said Scott: “It’s hard to be this bad, this fast.… He’s too extreme, too divisive.”

Youngkin spokesperson Macaulay Porter blew off the poll, telling the Post that polling has been consistently off the mark. “Governor Youngkin,” she said, “looks forward to delivering on more promises that he made during the campaign.”

She’s right about one thing: Wason did get it wrong in its Oct. 27, 2021, pre-election poll. That showed Democrat Terry McAuliffe leading Youngkin 49% to 47%, Attorney General Mark Herring ahead of Jason Miyares by 48% to 47%, and Hala Ayala with a one-point lead over Winsome Sears in the race for lieutenant governor.

We know how that turned out.

The one thing useful about the WaPo story is that it has expressed its anti-Youngkin narrative in the starkest of terms: the Governor is polarizing the electorate by stoking “divisive issues.” Expect the Democrats’ media allies to hammer that theme relentlessly — Youngkin the extremist, Youngkin the divider. Will the tactic prove effective? I am not bold enough to predict. We’ll see in due time.

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15 responses to “About that Wason Poll…”

  1. Eric the half a troll Avatar
    Eric the half a troll

    “…not teaching the history of racism (a phony issue I debunked yesterday)…”

    Simply saying it ain’t so is not debunking, especially when the votes of House GOP members support the contention that it is indeed true.

  2. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    4% very conservative? That ain’t bad. I’d have figured fewer than that could figure out what the bell meant…

  3. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead

    Youngkin should continue visiting all across the Commonwealth. Take the message straight to the voters.

  4. walter smith Avatar
    walter smith

    As everyone knows, opposing divisive issues is divisive!
    War is Peace!
    Freedom is Slavery!

  5. energyNOW_Fan Avatar

    Put is this way, in a hypothetical election between Repub candidate who was world’s greatest hero, and the Dem candidate was the worlds greatest criminal, somebody I know well would vote for straight Dem ballot as early as she could vote ahead of the election.

    1. Merchantseamen Avatar

      The reason they vote DemonRat is Daddy voted Democrat. Two of my in-laws..”daddy voted Democrat. I always vote that way.” Uh they went to college. They are smarrrrt.

  6. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    Shocking that he actually won, right? The poll is a classic hatchet job but the sample bias is clearly the most important problem. Add on question bias here and there. Fair estimate, the results are off about 4-5% and read it accordingly. (50-50 becomes 48-52). Still some results to ponder. No question bias in the vaccine mandate questions.

    But the electorate as a whole and the turnout in any particular election are two different things. Youngkin won due to higher GOP turnout and a lack of Democratic energy for their scintillating huckster of a retread candidate, who uttered one of the dumbest lines in my experience. That’s why I only adjust a couple of points. When the poll shows Biden 13 points underwater, how wrong can it be? That’s with a blue tinged sample.

    Some are dubious of polls paid for my advocacy groups. Me, based on long observation neither this one nor the one often published from Roanoke College have much validity. We do use Mason Dixon, clearly pros, we do not ask them for a thumb on the scale. Their demographics were 29% R, 35% D and 36% I.

  7. Baconator with extra cheese Avatar
    Baconator with extra cheese

    Youngkin should go all in on populism. Go big, concentrate on cutting taxes, and he may end up in DC.

  8. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    For comparison, check out the same organization’s poll 4 years ago. Just the summary on line, so not the full set of questions or sample data. No mention of Northam favorability being tested (it may have been.) Lots of questions on issues that were prominent, but also of most interest to the Democrats: Medicaid expansion, minimum wage, early voting….

  9. LarrytheG Avatar

    The poll results with respect to Youngkin are not valid because of the question about the budget surplus? Even then, even Youngkin has been saying that education and law enforcement needed more funding, right?

    No one poll is definitive, and clearly the polls about this election (and others prior) have been “off”.

    I’d also want to see the geographic regions numbers. Anyone who thinks Youngkin has strong support in urbanized regions or among teachers and supporters of public education needs to re-think. He went too far right too fast – and folks in some places are not want to send him more GOP in the GA.

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      The poll results w Youngkin might be a bit off due to the sample error, not any other questions. I have since confirmed Wason didn’t ask that about Northam 4 years ago. Gee. Why not then but now? Hmmm?

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        I don’t that much stock in one poll. Other polls did ask about Northam and despite the blackface, he remained fairly popular with MOST Virginians but certainly not Conservatives. Youngkin is very popular with conservatives but how does he fare with folks who are not Conservatives? in that regard, I think the Watson poll might be more correct than not and Youngkin is at a crossroads as to how he wants to govern and it’s starting to feel like _not_ as a Moderate! IMHO of course! His problem is that the electorate is deeply divided and reaching out to moderates will likely piss off his base, who really are in a fighting mood.

  10. It has seemed like a very short honeymoon for Youngkin.

  11. The Wasson Center is a democrat push poll org. Look who set it up. Judy Ford.

  12. Merchantseamen Avatar

    Why is it always education is underfunded? Always. What happens to the hundreds of millions of dollars dumped into that system? How about the billions thrown out the windows during the plandemic? Follow the money. Maybe then the politicians and public sector union bosses could give an honest answer?….maybe…. To make it clear I don’t give a hoot who was in the white house or governors mansion in the past 50 years. This has been taking place regardless. Every candidate “more money for education” every election cycle.

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