Virginia Voters Tilt Mildly Right — Why Can’t Conservatives Win More Elections?

Question: Overall, would you say things in the UNITED STATES are heading more in the right direction or the wrong direction?

by James A. Bacon

Virginia voters describe themselves as ideologically moderate, leaning conservative, according to a new poll by the Wason Center for Civic Leadership at Christopher Newport University. Asked to place themselves on a 0-10 scale (liberal to conservative) with 5.0 being middle of the road, the 1,008 voters polled rated themselves 5.83 on average. Independents, the swing vote, pegged themselves at 5.72.

An obvious question arises: Why can’t conservatives win statewide elections in Virginia?

One possibility is that voters perceive Republicans as more conservative than they see Democrats as liberal. Respondents rated the Democratic Party as 1.97 points off the middle-of-the-road 5.0 mark nor while they rated Republicans as 2.45 points off the norm.

This raises a subsidiary question: Is the perception of Republicans as more extreme based on objective fact, an artifact of the parties’ messaging, or a distortion created by media misrepresentation?

Wason’s analysis plumbed voter views of national issues like health care, immigration and the Green New Deal as well of nationally known politicians, including such polarizing figures as Donald Trump and Alexandria Ocasi0-Cortez. The poll did not address state-level issues or state political figures.

Wason found that a majority of Virginia voters leaned toward liberal/Democratic positions on the national issues by modest margins. I see no reason to doubt the general soundness of Wason’s conclusions.

I firmly believe that Virginians skew slightly conservative in their political inclinations, just as Wason finds, but that their stances on particular issues is heavily influenced by how those issues are framed by national and local media. The information ecosystem skews heavily to the Left, and leftist narratives predominate.

Yes, yes, I know the response: Fox News! Wall Street Journal! New York Post! Crazed right-wing conspiracy blogs!!!! It is true, the mainstream media does not have an air-tight lock on the dissemination of news and views. But the nexus of the Washington Post, New York Times, other daily newspapers, the Associated Press, MSNBC, CNN, network news, Yahoo!, Apple News, the opening screen for Microsoft Edge, all leveraged by Twitter, Facebook, and Google, is infinitely larger and more powerful.

The media is the dominant force in politics in the United States — and Virginia. Maybe Wason will conduct a poll of working journalists in Virginia one day.

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13 responses to “Virginia Voters Tilt Mildly Right — Why Can’t Conservatives Win More Elections?”

  1. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Because they’re dangerous.

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      Lol. Dangerous. The geriatric ward that is running the country is dangerous. Apparently, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen (turns 75 in August) had a bit of a “senior moment” when she said yesterday that interest rates may have to rise in response to an overheated economy. Today, she “walked back” those comments. Apparently interest rates will be just fine now that Yellen has gone to CVS and gotten a refill of her over-the-counter brain fog reducer.

      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        Tsk, tsk, ageism. Irrational exuberance?

  2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    There are a couple of more hints in that poll that might help explain the status of the Republican party in Virginia. Even Republicans view their party as more conservative than the average Virginian. Republicans rated their party as 7.11 on that 1-10 scale, while the average Virginian is rated at 5.83. On the other hand, Democrats view their party as closer to moderate, rating it as 4.0.

    On the issues that are relevant to the state level, overall, 76% of Virginians supported Medicare-for-all, while 75% Republicans favored repeal of Obamacare. On renewable energy, there is 82% percent overall in favor.

    1. tmtfairfax Avatar

      Everybody favors free things. Renewable energy great until someone tells the public what it will cost. I read an article suggesting the typical American is willing to pay $177 a year for everything from electricity to vehicle & fuel to retrofitting homes. What are the added costs for converting the entire system to renewable, including storage and infrastructure upgrades?

      What would be the added taxes necessary to put everyone on Medicare for all? Do those of us who don’t have or want Medicare Part B have to convert? And if the employers of illegal immigrants and government agencies don’t have to follow the immigration laws, why do I have to follow a national Medicare law?

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        I’m not a big fan of Medicare for All but most folks who don’t get employer-provided but work for a living – want health insurance and the GOP seems bound and determined to screw them over – and that costs them votes big time.

        People on ObamaCare – by the way do NOT – get it free. Some of them pay $1000 a month for it.

  3. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    Based on what I’m hearing in the current flood of messaging, the important things to Saturday’s delegates include ending abortion (no governor can), protecting everybody’s AR 15 (uh, most of us have no such gun), and making sure teachers don’t tell students that All White People Are Evil, the assumed message of Critical Race Theory. Oh, and they claim they can prevent Facebook, from playing their games, which of course no governor can….And don’t forget keeping the Trump Flame alive…

    At least nobody is standing in front of statues of Dead Confederate Generals, but that’s implied…and some did previously.

    Perhaps, perhaps, a couple of them have careful preserved the option to pivot to education, jobs, transportation and the other bread and butter issues. I bet the other two front runners, Youngkin and Snyder, if pushed to the wall would admit they have zero plans to try to roll back the Medicaid expansion that Cox gets attacked for supporting. But as long as they drone on about the non-issues that motivate the non-thinking, real questions do not get posed…..

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      But Steve, it’s the primary. Those candidates are not trying to appeal to those who would need to think about their positions. They’re appealing to those who believe.

      Once the candiates have been nominated, THEN the real work starts, e.g., “How do I walk back the pictures and statements to appeal to a broader group?” I fear your party’ choices will be embarrassing.

    2. LarrytheG Avatar

      I think the GOP is leaving folks like Steve high and dry – they’ve gone full rogue… Will Kirk Cox be “chenyed”?

  4. James Kiser Avatar
    James Kiser

    I agree about the media especially local. Look at who owns the media. Papers in the Valley are connected to the Charlottesville paper which apparently is owned by the Bozo’s Post. Both local news stations, Charlottesville which is radical left and Harrisonburg which is very liberal report all positive news about democrats and news about republicans is negative. Unless the Republican is a Rino like Hanger.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      People on the right DO READ Media though. That’s where they picked up conspiracy theories about the elections and other issues – and act accordingly.

      Pretending there is no media for Conservatives to read is silly.

      There is a ton of it and a fair amount of it traffics in disinformation, misinformation, outright lies and conspiracy theories to clear effect – and the polls confirm it.

    2. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Then I’m a RINO, too, James, because Emmett is my friend and has been for 30+ years and our priorities often align. In eight words you demonstrated why the party has and may continue to fail. This may be my last effort in this arena. I can’t cram myself into the phone booth with those who spend their lives hunting for RINOs. Candidates who meet your narrow worldview do not appeal in statewide general elections.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Good to hear the hard right voices here in BR though. It really does help to see the complete landscape of the GOP.

        A Venn diagram of the GOP these days would be interesting. Clearly one segment is now white nationalists who are actually teamed up with other hard right GOP to oust what they consider RINOs and CINOs.

        I bet Kirk Cox is considered a RINO also.

        It’s hard to really separate the GOP, once elected. Voters who lean right are afraid what they’ll get is hard right governance and legislation.

        Especially true of people of color, blacks, Hispanics, and Asians.

        And I don’t think rural Va will ever find the current hard right GOP – TOO far right but Urban and Suburban Va is not going to vote hard right for the reasons given above.

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