RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginians’ faith in Gov. Ralph Northam’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has dipped 15% since April, according to a statewide poll released last week by the Center for Public Policy at VCU’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs.
Despite the drop, the survey found a majority of the state’s residents, 61%, approve of the governor’s overall response to COVID-19, compared to 76% when a similar poll was conducted in April.
“Not surprisingly, Virginians are concerned about the economy,” former governor L. Douglas Wilder said in a statement when the poll was released on July 30. “They now recognize the pandemic to be more important than before (the previous poll).”
The poll also found that most Virginians believe wearing a mask helps slow the spread of the virus, with 60% saying face coverings help a lot and 21% believing that they help a little. Democrats and minorities were more likely to state that masks are helping during the pandemic, the survey shows.
Hampton University released its own poll on the state’s response to the pandemic in July, which found that 54% of the 1,099 people interviewed approve of how Northam has handled the state’s response.
Raymond C. Scheppach, a professor of public policy at the University of Virginia and the former executive director of the National Governors Association (NGA), told 8News in Richmond on Thursday that the decline in Northam’s approval rating could be linked to the uptick in cases the state reported in July, but like Wilder, cited concerns over the economic fallout from the pandemic.
“Everybody was pretty optimistic, he [Northam] was getting good marks,” Scheppach said of the first few months of the pandemic. He continued, saying that concern grew once there was a “turnaround in infection rates.”
Scheppach said that the lack of guidance from the federal government has led people to look at how states are responding to the pandemic, putting the onus on governors. “Everybody knows it’s the governors’ responsibility,” he said.
While acknowledging there might be a slip in the governor’s approval, Scheppach noted that Northam’s rating is still higher than many other governors, especially Republican governors who have not imposed tighter restrictions as Northam.
The poll from VCU, which was conducted over the phone from July 11-19, surveyed 838 adults living in Virginia and has an estimated margin of error of plus or minus 5.19 percentage points of those sampled and 6.4 percentage points for likely voters.