White House at night.
President Joseph Biden's approval rating is 39% among Virginians, according to the latest Commonwealth Poll from the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at VCU. (Getty Images)

Commonwealth Poll: Virginians disapprove of President Biden but satisfied with status of Virginia’s abortion laws

Biden approval at only 39%, while half of respondents say Virginia’s abortion laws are reasonable.

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L. Douglas Wilder
Distinguished Professor                                               
Phone: (804) 827-0776
Email: ldwilder@vcu.edu

Robyn McDougle
Associate Dean of Research and Outreach                               
Phone: (804) 721-6703
Email: rdmcdougle@vcu.edu  

A new Commonwealth Poll by the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University shows respondents are unsupportive of the job President Joseph Biden is doing as president. This data follows national trends that show similar approval levels toward the president. Among party lines, Biden is popular among Democrats (78.8% approval) and unpopular among Republicans (91.8% disapproval), with only 35.2% of those identifying as Independents approving of how Biden is handling the job.

On the issue of abortion, half of respondents believe Virginia’s abortion laws are reasonable and should not be altered – another 18% believe the laws are too restrictive, while 25% believe they are too lenient. Currently, Virginia allows abortion in the first and second trimesters with third-trimester abortions allowed in certain limited circumstances.

“The issues — the pandemic, increasing cost of living, gasoline prices and pervasive crime — are best measured by the most affected areas: the people,” said L. Douglas Wilder, who served as the 66th governor of Virginia. “The lack of support for this administration demonstrates that they are missing the mark.”

With respect to the handling of the United States’ response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, 46% of respondents support the way the U.S. has handled the invasion while 42% oppose. Those 34 years and younger oppose the response (49.8%) and those 55 and older support the response (56.3%).

On the issue of guns, 43% support tightening restrictions while 40% believe there needs to be an increased focus on providing mental health services to help prevent mass shootings.

The poll featured landline and mobile telephone interviews from June 30-July 9, 2022, with a representative sample of 813 adults living in Virginia. It has a margin of error of 5.81%.

Infographic with the text: Virginians weigh in on federal issues. 39% approve of the way Biden is handling his job as president. 50% say that state abortion laws shouldn't be altered. 46% approve of how the U.S. is handling the invasion of Ukraine. 43% wish to tighten restrictions on gun ownership. Commonwealth Poll - July 2022. Conducted by the VCU Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs
(Commonwealth Poll)

Biden approval

Around 4 in 10 Virginians approve of the way that Joe Biden is handling his job as president (39%) and 55% disapprove. However, there is a drastic split in approval based on political party. Nearly 8 out of 10 Democrats approve of how he is handling his job (79%), 35% of Independents approve, and only 6% of Republicans approve.  

Abortion laws

Half of Virginians polled (50%) said that state abortion laws are reasonable and should not be altered while 25% said they are too lenient and 18% said they are too strict. Democrats were more likely to say that Virginia’s abortion laws are either reasonable (56%) or too strict (35%), while Republicans were most likely to say the laws are too lenient (45%) or reasonable (41%). A majority of Independents said that the laws are reasonable (56%).

U.S. handling of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

On the international political front, respondents were also asked whether they support or oppose how the U.S. has handled Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Virginians were close to evenly split in support and opposition with 46% supporting and 42% opposing. Despite this, support is sharply divided by political party — the majority of Democrats support how the invasion has been handled (71%) while just 30% of Republicans and 42% of Independents signaled support.

Addressing national gun violence and mass shootings

Finally, poll respondents were asked about their opinion on how to effectively respond to mass shootings in the U.S. with two options: 1) an increased focus on providing mental health services to those most in need or 2) to tighten restrictions on who can purchase and who can own a gun.

Virginians were evenly split across the two options with 40% preferring the mental health response and 43% preferring the gun control response. Once again, there was a large preference split by participants based on party identification. Democrats (65%), and to a lesser extent Independents (45%), primarily support the gun control option, while Republicans (68%) favor the mental health response. Looking across racial demographics, Black respondents favor the gun control option (61%), while white respondents were split with 46% preferring a mental health response and 40% a gun control response.

Wilder said, “It is interesting to see Black respondents favoring the gun control option in addressing mass shootings in the U.S. while white respondents are split between a mental health response and a gun control response.”

For the full poll results and analysis, visit oppo.vcu.edu/policy-poll.