Poll: Majority say General Assembly special session failed to address systemic racism

A group of people standing. A person wearing a backpack with a sign stating "Long Overdue. J...
Crowds gathered throughout the summer in Richmond and across the country to protest police brutality and systemic racism. (Kevin Morley, University Marketing)

Gov. Ralph Northam called the 2020 special session of the General Assembly to address the forecasted budget shortfall and the ongoing calls for social and criminal justice reforms in Virginia. Only 14% of Virginians felt that the policies passed to address systemic racism confront the issue while 18% feel that they do not address the issues at all, according to a new statewide Commonwealth Poll conducted by the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University.

“An overwhelming majority of Virginians feel that the 2020 special session of the General Assembly called by Governor Northam failed to address systemic racism or address the issue at all. Also, a plurality disapprove of Governor Northam’s use of $1 million for a yearlong investigation into racism at [Virginia Military Institute], and a majority also believe ethnic and racial diversity at the state leadership level and at the local level has led to increased segregation in our education system,” said former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder.

Forty-seven percent of Virginians disapprove of Northam’s, $1 million, yearlong racism investigation at VMI while 41% approve of the investigation. Republicans, whites and those without a college education were more likely to disapprove of the racism investigation at 76%, 54% and 44% respectively.

The lack of racial and ethnic diversity in education at leadership and school district levels is also of concern. A majority of Virginians, 53%, are concerned about schools and the education system becoming increasingly segregated while 43% say they are not concerned. Democrats and minorities were more likely to be concerned, at 83% and 69% respectively.

The Winter 2021 Commonwealth Poll involved telephone interviews with a representative sample of 827 adults, age 18 or older, living in Virginia. Interviews were conducted by landline (413) and cellphone (414, including 254 without a landline) from Dec 11-30. The margin of error for the complete set of weighted data is 5.39 percentage points.

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

About VCU and VCU Health

Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 30,000 students in 233 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Twenty-two of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 11 schools and three colleges. The VCU Health brand represents the VCU health sciences academic programs, the VCU Massey Cancer Center and the VCU Health System, which comprises VCU Medical Center (the only academic medical center in the region), Community Memorial Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, and MCV Physicians. The clinical enterprise includes a collaboration with Sheltering Arms Institute for physical rehabilitation services. For more, please visit www.vcu.edu and vcuhealth.org.

About the VCU L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs

Ranked No. 45 among 275 graduate schools of public affairs by U.S. News & World Report and No. 39 in Public Management & Leadership, the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University advances excellence in governance and promotes evidence-based public policy in Virginia and beyond. The school offers an array of graduate, post baccalaureate and doctoral programs in virtually every policy area including criminal justice, homeland security and emergency preparedness, public administration, public policy and administration, and urban and regional studies and planning. Additionally, the Wilder School is home to a robust Center for Public Policy that provides applied research in the areas of state and local government, social equity and leadership and a range of services to clients in state and local government, nonprofit organizations, businesses and the general public. Learn more at wilder.vcu.edu.