Virginia state capitol.
Virginia state capitol. (Getty Images)

Close election reveals divided priorities among Virginians

A new VCU poll finds Virginians split on their views about the direction of the commonwealth.

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CONTACTS: L. Douglas Wilder                        
Phone: (804) 827-0776

Robyn McDougle
Associate Dean of Research and Outreach                     
Phone: (804) 721-6703

As Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin prepares to be inaugurated as the 74th governor, the close election and divided legislature highlight policy differences among Virginians. A new statewide Commonwealth Poll, conducted by the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University, found that 30% of Virginians cited the economy as the most important issue behind their vote in the statewide November election. Education (21%), women’s reproductive rights (16%), the coronavirus (12%) and taxes (9%) were additional reasons for voting.

Republicans were more focused on the economy (44%) than independents (30%) and Democrats (16%). Independents (25%) were the most concerned about education, while Republicans (20%) and Democrats (19%) prioritized education similarly. Democrats were far more focused on women’s reproductive rights (30%) than independents (14%) and Republicans (4%), and also prioritized the coronavirus higher (16%) than independents (11%) and Republicans (8%). Finally, Republicans were much more likely to say that their top consideration in the November election was taxes (15%), compared to 9% of independents and 3% of Democrats.

Are the country and the commonwealth heading in the right direction?

Almost 60% of Virginians stated that they felt the country is on the wrong track, while 36% felt the country is heading in the right direction. Democrats were more likely to feel that the country is heading in the right direction (65%) than independents (32%) or Republicans (11%). Almost 90% of Republicans in Virginia felt that the country is on the wrong track.

Virginians were more evenly divided on their feelings toward the state, with 51% of respondents saying that things were heading in the right direction and 40% saying that things were on the wrong track. Politically, about half of independents (55%), Democrats (51%) and Republicans (50%) believe the commonwealth is heading in the right direction.

“These new poll results confirm what was revealed prior to the election. (The Commonwealth Poll was the first to suggest the closeness of the gubernatorial race). Education is and appears to continue to be tops among voter concerns. Taxes and the economy are accompanying priorities with voters. The poll results indicate more concerns about issues affecting people than party affiliation,” said former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder.

Biden approval

Almost half (47%) of Virginians disapproved of the way Joe Biden is handling his job as president of the United States, and 46% approve. However, the split along political lines is stark. Four in 5 Democrats approved of how he is handling the job (80%), while 44% of independents approved, and only 10% of Republicans approved.

For the full poll results and analysis, visit