Headshots of President Joe Biden (left) and Gov. Glenn Youngkin (right)
The Wilder School's poll asked Virginians about a potential presidential race between President Joe Biden and Gov. Glenn Youngkin, as well as their approval ratings and recent Supreme Court decisions. (File photos)

VCU Wilder School Commonwealth Poll shows Virginians favor Youngkin over Biden for president

Virginians also favor Biden over Trump and are evenly split between Biden and DeSantis, the poll found.

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If the election for president were held today in Virginia and the candidates were current President Joe Biden and current Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, 44% of Virginians said they would vote for Youngkin while 37% would vote for Biden, according to the new Commonwealth Poll conducted by the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University.

If the candidates were Biden and former President Donald Trump, 43% of respondents favored Biden while 40% favored Trump. If the candidates were Biden and current Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the vote would be evenly split, with each candidate receiving 41%.

Among all three hypothetical elections, voting intentions were largely split by political party. Democrats (77%) indicated they would vote for Biden across all three proposed presidential match-ups while Republicans (83%) would vote for their party’s nominee. Among the Republican candidates, Independents were slightly more likely to favor either Trump (40%) or DeSantis (37%) compared with Youngkin (31%), though all three register more support than Biden among Independents.

“Voters are showing no clear and distinct preference for Democrats or Republicans in elections from the statehouse to the White House,” said L. Douglas Wilder, who served as the 66th governor of Virginia. “This is a continuing trend and should be a ‘wakeup call’ to Democrats and Republicans. Voters are looking for leadership at all levels and want their voices heard. The people are attuned to the issues impacting their lives, demanding that elected officials represent their interests, regardless of political party.”

The Commonwealth Poll obtained landline and mobile telephone interviews from July 14-25, 2023, with a representative sample of 804 adults living in Virginia. It has a margin of error of 5.46 percentage points. Full results can be found at research.wilder.vcu.edu/commonwealth-polls.

Approval of President Biden

The poll also found that 39% of Virginians approved of how Biden is handling his job as president compared with 54% who disapprove. There was a divide based on political party, with 72% of Democrats, 18% of Independents and 6% of Republicans saying they approve of how Biden is handling his job.

Approval of Governor Youngkin

Virginians were more likely to approve of how Youngkin is handling his job as governor, with 49% approving and 31% disapproving. His approval rating has increased from last year’s poll (July 2022), when it registered at 38%. Youngkin’s approval rating varied across key demographics, with 29% of 18- to 34-year-olds, 65% of 35- to 54-year-olds and 52% of those 55 or older reporting that they approve of how Youngkin is handling his job. Approval levels were also split by education — those with a high school diploma or less (34%) and those with some college but without a degree (58%) were more likely to approve of Youngkin compared with respondents with a college degree or higher (41%). Men were more likely to approve of Youngkin than women, with 53% of men and 46% of women citing approval, and white respondents (59%) were more likely to report approval than Black respondents (31%). Approval of Youngkin was heavily split along party lines, with 78% of Republicans reporting approval compared with 28% of Democrats and 34% of Independents.

Recent SCOTUS decisions

In recent months, the Supreme Court has made two decisions that have been particularly controversial: prohibiting the use of affirmative action in college admissions decisions and prohibiting Biden’s student loan forgiveness proposal. When asked about these decisions, Virginians were evenly split on the idea of affirmative action, with 41% agreeing that it should be banned and 41% disagreeing. Republicans were most likely to believe that affirmative action should be banned (73%) compared with Democrats (15%) and Independents (45%). Division was also clear by race, with 79% of Black Virginians believing affirmative action in college admissions should not be banned compared with 33% of white respondents.

More Virginians (49%) believe that the Department of Education should be able to move forward with its student loan forgiveness program than do not (42%). Feelings on this issue were also divided along party lines, with 80% of Democrats stating the DOE should be able to move forward with the program compared with 17% of Republicans and 40% of Independents. By age group, 18- to 34-year-olds most heavily supported the student loan forgiveness program — 64% indicated they believe the DOE should be able to move forward compared with 46% of those ages 35 to 54 and 46% of those 55 or older. Opinions were also split by race, with almost nine out of 10 Black Virginians (89%) saying the DOE should be able to proceed compared with only 40% of white Virginians.

The race for U.S. Senate

While Virginians favored Youngkin in a hypothetical presidential run, in a race for the U.S. Senate, incumbent Tim Kaine (47%) was favored over Youngkin (42%). By party, 86% of Democrats said they would vote for Kaine and 86% of Republicans would vote for Youngkin. Among Independents, 45% favored Youngkin compared with 29% supporting Kaine.

Control of the General Assembly

When asked about House of Delegates control following the November 2023 election, 47% of Virginians said they would prefer a Republican majority and 41% would prefer a Democratic majority. For the state Senate, Virginians were evenly split between favoring a Democratic (44%) or a Republican majority (44%).  Most Democrats would prefer a Democratic majority in the House of Delegates (80%) and the Senate (88%), and around nine out of 10 Republicans would prefer Republican control in both chambers (92% for the House of Delegates and 94% for the Senate). Independents favored Republican control, with 39% supporting a Republican majority the House (compared with 15% favoring a Democratic majority) and 36% favoring Republican control of the Senate (compared with 14% favoring a Democratic majority).

“Our recent poll is indicative of the role Independents are playing in today’s elections,” Wilder said. “I’ve always said that Virginians are independent thinkers and will not allow outside influences to sway their beliefs.”

Approval of the General Assembly

Regarding the Virginia legislature’s handling of its job, 36% of respondents approved and 30% disapproved. By party, 40% of Democrats and 36% of Republicans approved, while approval among Independents was considerably lower at 17%. In addition, respondents in Northwest Virginia were somewhat more likely to disapprove (43%) compared with other regions of Virginia (29% on average).