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Roanoke College Poll: Biden and Trump Tied in Virginia

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump are tied (42%-42%) in a head-to-head matchup in Virginia, while Biden holds a two-point lead (40%-38%) when other candidates are included, according to the Roanoke College Poll. The Institute for Policy and Opinion Research (IPOR) at Roanoke College interviewed 711 likely voters in Virginia between May 12 and May 21, 2024. The survey has a weighted margin of error of 4.24%.

2024 General Election 

Although only 2% of likely voters say they are undecided at this early point in the campaign, another 14% (two-way) to 20% (five-way) say they will vote for a candidate other than Biden or Trump (Kennedy 8%; Stein 3%; West 1%; Other 8%). This is the first time the Roanoke College Poll has shown the candidates tied, although the polls in February 2024 and November 2023 showed them within the margin of error.

Two-thirds (64%) of likely voters are very certain of their vote choice, and another 28% are somewhat certain. Just over half (52%) are very enthusiastic about voting, and another 27% are somewhat enthusiastic. Still, one in five are either not too (14%) or not at all (7%) enthusiastic. The economy dominates among the most important issues, being cited by 44% of respondents. Immigration (14%) and abortion (13%) were chosen more frequently than foreign affairs (8%) and crime (5%).

A majority of likely voters (63%) think that Biden legitimately won the election in 2020, but one-third (34%) say he won because of election irregularities. Nearly three-fourths (73%) think that Trump legitimately won in 2016, but 21% think he won because he colluded with Russians. As expected, partisans see those elections differently with 94% of Republicans saying Trump won legitimately, compared to 53% of Democrats, while 91% of Democrats say Biden won legitimately, while only 29% of Republicans agree.

There is concern for potential violent protests regardless of who wins the presidency in November. Although more are concerned about potentially violent protests by Trump supporters if Biden wins (36% very concerned; 31% somewhat concerned), there is also concern about violent protests by Biden supporters if Trump wins (19% very concerned; 29% somewhat concerned). Democrats were much more concerned about Trump supporters’ reactions (54% very concerned; 30% somewhat concerned), while Republicans were about equally concerned regardless of who wins.

Respondents are more likely to view the Trump years as mostly good for the country (44% mostly good; 33% mostly bad), and they see the Biden years more negatively (25% mostly good; 47% mostly bad). Republicans are very enthusiastic about the Trump years (87% see them as mostly good), while half (50%) of Democrats think of Biden’s years as mostly good. About equal numbers of likely voters think Biden and Trump mostly tell the truth and mean what they say (37% for each) rather than just saying things to get elected (59% for Biden; 58% for Trump).

Job Approval, Favorable/Unfavorable, and Directions of Virginia and Nation 

Evaluations of the direction of the country and the commonwealth are mostly unchanged since February and are similar over several years. A small majority (53%) thinks that Virginia is headed in the right direction, while 70% think the country is on the wrong track. Job approval for President Biden (35%), Gov. Glenn Youngkin (52%), and Congress (19%) are likewise barely changed from February. Biden’s 61% disapproval rating ties his all-time Roanoke College Poll disapproval high from February. Youngkin’s ratings have been steady for a year, while Congress continues to inch its way back up to approval near 20%.

Favorability ratings for federal officials and institutions generally continue in negative numbers with Donald Trump (36% favorable/57% unfavorable) and Joe Biden (36% favorable/58% unfavorable) leading in the wrong way. The U.S. Supreme Court fares slightly better with 44% favorable and 48% unfavorable. U.S. Senator Tim Kaine breaks the underwater trend with 43% favorable and 39% unfavorable, but those ratings are lower than the last time he ran for reelection. Youngkin’s ratings remain steady (49% favorable/40% unfavorable), continuing a long-term trend of Virginians holding more positive views of governors (Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative).

Regarding the events of Jan. 6, 2021, a plurality of respondents (44%) think it was an insurrection. Another 30% see it as a riot, similar to other riots, and 22% view it as a mostly peaceful protest where a few people became violent. In comparison, 14% of those polled see the social justice protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death in 2020 as insurrections, while 51% think they were riots, and 22% view them as mostly peaceful protests.

Except for the direction of Virginia, each of these ratings are the result of major perception gaps between Democrats and Republicans. Overall, Democrats think the country is headed in the right direction, approve of the job being done by Biden, disapprove of Youngkin’s performance, and are negative regarding Congress. Republicans are the opposite of each, other than being even more negative toward Congress. The same is true for favorability ratings of public figures and the Supreme Court. Independents are typically between the two, sometimes closer to Republicans and sometimes closer to Democrats.

Political Anxiety 

IPOR continues to track political anxiety in the commonwealth, which tends to remain more stable overall, while anxiety waxes and wanes among partisans as their party is in or out of power. The overall index of 94.84 is down from its all-time high of 121.15 in November 2023, mostly because of a decrease in anxiety among Democrats.

 

Most respondents trust the government in Washington to do what is right only sometimes (57%) or never (22%). While a majority (51%) thinks that ordinary citizens can influence the federal government, almost the same number (48%, just below the all-time high of 49%) think that citizens can’t influence the government.

A majority (61%) also thinks their side has been losing more than winning on important issues. Half (50%) of likely voters are dissatisfied with how the federal government is working and another 21% are angry. Half (50%) also think the country’s best years are behind us, while 45% think the best years lie in the future. This question has trended more negatively in the past several years. A large majority (86%) sees the nation as divided regarding the important issues facing it.

Analysis 

“These results suggest that Virginia could be ‘in play’ in November,” said Dr. Harry Wilson, senior political analyst for IPOR and Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Roanoke College, “but five months is an eternity in politics. This tie or two-point lead seems dramatic, but they are within the margin of error of the results of the February 2024 and November 2023 Roanoke College Polls. Still, it seems that Trump is narrowing Biden’s lead, which has all but disappeared.”

“Both candidates are polling very well among their partisans, and there is a miniscule number of undecided voters before the parties officially nominate the candidates. This suggests that those voters who say they will vote for another candidate will possibly swing the election one way or the other. Do they vote for a third-party candidate? Do they move to one of the major party candidates? Or do they decide to abstain from voting?”

“While Biden and Trump are viewed negatively about equally, it is not good news for Biden that Trump’s years as president are seen more positively and that the economy (which other polls show as a weakness for Biden) is by far the most important issue.”

“While it isn’t anything ‘new,’ we continue to see evidence that Democrats are from Mercury and Republicans are from Neptune (or Pluto if you prefer the demoted planet). Or vice versa. They view American politics through very different lenses or, perhaps, from different planets. It’s difficult to find consensus on anything when two-thirds (67%) of Republicans think Biden’s win was illegitimate and 41% of Democrats think Trump’s victory was illegitimate.”

Methodology  

Interviewing for the Roanoke College Poll was conducted by The Institute for Policy and Opinion Research (IPOR) at Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia, between May 12 and May 21, 2024.

The Roanoke College Poll is funded by Roanoke College as a public service.

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