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Roanoke College Poll Reveals State Preferences

Citizens of the Commonwealth have weighed in with their attitudes toward taxes, energy sources, protecting the environment, and a George Allen – Tim Kaine matchup in the Virginia Senate election in 2012. Gov. Kaine had not formally announced his intentions when the poll was conducted, but it was widely believed that he would run for the Senate and Kaine officially announced April 7th. Sen. Allen had previously announced his candidacy.

In a very early look at the possible battle for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Jim Webb, registered voters in the Commonwealth preferred former Gov. and U.S. Sen. George Allen, a Republican, over former Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, by 45 percent to 32 percent with 23 percent undecided.  [The margin of error for this question was + 5.2 percent because it was asked only of the 360 registered voters in the sample.]

Among the battleground groups, Kaine led among political moderates (41%-34%), while Allen led among Independent voters (40%-35%). Not surprisingly, Allen led among Republicans (78%-4%) and conservatives (68%-10%) while Kaine led among Democrats (79%-12%) and liberals (83%-10%).  Allen’s lead could be attributed to the large number of conservatives in Virginia, a finding that closely matches the December, 2010 Roanoke College Poll.

General Views on Virginia and the Nation

Perceptions of the Commonwealth have improved since the December poll, with almost half (49%) saying that things in Virginia are going in the right direction and 36 percent saying things are on the wrong track. (December results were 45 percent right direction and 43 percent wrong track.)  At the same time, Governor Bob McDonnell’s approval rating is now 66 percent, up from 57 percent in December.

With regard to the nation, 71 percent of respondents believe that things are on the wrong track with only 20 percent believing that things are going in the right direction.  This is essentially unchanged from December.  President Obama’s approval rating is now 34 percent, compared to 36 percent in December, well within the polls’ margin of error.

Taxes, the Budget Deficit, and Wealth

A majority of respondents (59%) prefer that the federal budget deficit be reduced through a combination of budget cuts and tax increases, but more than one-third (37%) prefer budget cuts alone, and only 4 percent want tax increases alone. (This represents a 12 percent increase for budget cuts alone and a 13 percent decrease for a combined approach from December when a similar question about state finances was asked.)  Interestingly, respondents were split regarding whether the government should (47%) or should not (46%) redistribute wealth by increasing taxes on the rich.

Respondents perceive that the rich are paying too little in federal taxes (63%), while middle income people are paying their fair share (53%) or too much (39%) in taxes. Opinion was evenly split regarding the poor paying their fair share (40%) or too much (39%), but 20 percent did say the poor are paying too little. Two-thirds (67%) said that corporations are paying too little. More than half of respondents (58%) thought that everyone should pay something in taxes, regardless of how much or how little they make, but 36 percent said that not everyone should pay. Most people (69%) perceive their tax burden this year as fair. A plurality of Virginia residents (44%) think they should pay less than 20 percent of their income in taxes.

Residents of Virginia seem to be evenly split with regard to support for either the Fair Tax (41% think it is a good idea; 41% think it is not a good idea) or the Flat Tax (43% think it is a good idea; 44% think it is not). That said, they prefer either the Fair Tax (34%) or the Flat Tax (31%) to the current system of taxation (23%). While this seems to somewhat contradict the preference expressed above that the rich pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes, it may reflect a general discontent with the current tax code.

Energy and the Environment

Offered a choice of protecting the environment or promoting economic growth, respondents chose the former (47%-31%). However, when offered the choice of protecting the environment or developing domestic energy sources, they chose the latter (43%-39%).

A majority of respondents (56%) think there is solid evidence of global warming (see frequencies link for precise wording). A plurality thought this is due primarily to human activities such as burning fossil fuels (40%), but nearly as many (35%) thought it is due primarily to natural patterns in the environment, and 18% thought it is attributable to both. Respondents were much more likely, however, to think that the national debt (56%) posed a greater threat to future generations than environmental damage (28%).

Interviewing for The Roanoke College Poll was conducted by The Institute for Opinion and Policy Research at Roanoke College with a sample that consisted of 437 residents of Virginia. Questions answered by the entire sample of 437 likely voters are subject to a sampling error of plus or minus approximately 4.7 percent .

A copy of the questions and all frequencies may be found on the Roanoke College web site at: http://bit.ly/fX4mPW.

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