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From University of Mary Washington

President Donald Trump received mostly negative evaluations in a new Virginia statewide survey by the University of Mary Washington, with 55 percent of adult Virginians saying they disapprove of his job performance, while 37 percent approve.

Trump’s numbers were notably more negative than public evaluations of President Barack Obama in five previous UMW surveys of Virginians from 2013 to 2016, when between 43 and 52 percent of respondents said they approved of Obama’s performance in office.

The latest statewide poll of 1,000 state residents was conducted for UMW by Princeton Survey Research Associates International Sept. 5-12.

Trump’s campaign included promises to change the way things work in Washington, and 28 percent of those surveyed said that he was changing the capital for the better. A total of 38 percent of those surveyed said that the president was changing things for the worse, and 29 percent said that Trump was not changing Washington much either way.

Of those surveyed, 34 percent said that Trump has “the right kind of temperament and personality to be a good president,” and 35 percent said that Trump understands “the problems of people like you.” Other character evaluations also were more negative than positive, with 36 percent saying they considered Trump “honest and trustworthy” and 44 percent agreeing with the statement that Trump “has strong qualities of leadership.”

All four of those measures are within four percentage points of the responses by Virginians to those same questions when they were asked about Trump last September.

“The latest Mary Washington survey demonstrates that President Trump remains quite unpopular overall in Virginia,” said Stephen J. Farnsworth, professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington and director of its Center for Leadership and Media Studies. “Voters fault Trump for several personal characteristics, just like they did when he was a candidate for president last year.”

In a September 2016 survey, 33 percent of Virginians said they had a generally positive evaluation of Trump, as compared to 63 percent who had a generally negative view of the then-candidate. The Democratic ticket of Hillary Clinton and Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, as the vice presidential nominee won the commonwealth by 5.4 percentage points last November.

The new statewide evaluation of Trump is comparable to those found in national surveys, where approval of the president in recent weeks has averaged around 40 percent.

Terry McAuliffe, the current governor, is notably more popular than Trump in the state, with 50 percent of Virginians saying they approve of McAuliffe’s job performance and 33 percent expressing disapproval. The governor, who cannot seek re-election this November because of term limits, had a 53 positive/35 negative rating in a September 2016 UMW survey.

Virginians view the federal government about as critically as they have in the past. When asked if things in the U.S. are headed largely in the right or wrong direction, 56 percent said we were going the wrong way, as compared to 60 percent in a September 2016 survey. When asked if they agreed with the statement that “people like me don’t have any say in what the government does,” 53 percent concurred this month and in a September 2016 survey.

“Cynicism seems to be a staple of citizen evaluations of the federal government these days, whether the president is Donald Trump or Barack Obama,” Farnsworth said.

Virginians tend to be more positive about their state government, with only 40 percent saying the commonwealth was headed in the wrong direction in the new UMW survey.

The Virginia survey revealed gender and racial gaps in Trump approval. Among women, 64 percent disapprove of Trump, as compared to 46 percent of men. Four out of five (80 percent) African-Americans disapprove of Trump, as do 64 percent of Hispanic voters and 47 percent of whites.

Among partisans, Trump commands the support of 79 percent of people who define themselves as Republicans, 39 percent of those who say they are independent and 5 percent who identify as Democrats.

Survey Information

The University of Mary Washington’s Virginia Survey Fall 2017 obtained telephone interviews with a representative sample of 1,000 adults, ages 18 or older, living in Virginia.

Telephone interviews were conducted by landline (350) and cell phone (650, including 352 without a landline phone). The survey was conducted by Princeton Survey Research
Associates International (PSRAI). Interviews were done in English under the direction of Princeton Data Source from September 5 to 12, 2017. Statistical results are weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies. The margin of sampling error for the complete set of weighted data is ± 3.8 percentage points.

For the full survey, see Topline.

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