Approval ratings for Virginia leaders fall

RICHMOND, VA – FEBRUARY 02: Virginia Governor Ralph Northam speaks with reporters at a press conference at the Governor’s mansion on February 2, 2019 in Richmond, Virginia. Northam denies allegations that he is pictured in a yearbook photo wearing racist attire. (Photo by Alex Edelman/Getty Images)

Governor Ralph Northam’s popularity has fallen sharply following the discovery of a blackface photo in his medical school yearbook, according to a new poll. The survey by the Wason Center at Christopher Newport University shows Northam’s approval rating has dropped 19 points since December and is now lower than President Trump’s. His approval rating now stands at 40% compared to the President’s 44%.

The good news for Northam in the Wason poll is a majority say he should stay in office by a margin of 52%-42%. And voters favor Democrats (43%-39%) in the upcoming General Assembly elections. Republicans hold slight majorities in the House and Senate and November’s elections are expected to be tightly contested. In a release accompanying the poll Wason Center assistant director Dr. Rachel Bitercofer noted turnout will be significant. “If Democrats increase their participation rate significantly over the 2015 cycle, it could have a tremendous impact, as we saw in both 2017 and 2018,” Dr. Bitecofer said.

Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax and Attorney General Mark Herring also face backlash from voters over scandals facing them. Fairfax has been accused of sexual assault by two women. He has denied those charges. 45% of voters say he should remain in office, while 42% said he should step down. Attorney General Herring admitted to wearing blackface at a party in 1980, but 64% of voters said he should stay in office, while 28% think he should resign. Approval ratings for both Fairfax and Herring have fallen, according to the poll.

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