By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau
FREDERICKSBURG — Virginia voters broadly support the reinstatement of University of Virginia President Theresa Sullivan while the Board of Visitors rector who led the effort to dump her comes up short in the court of public opinion, a new Quinnipiac University poll revealed Wednesday.
Virginians also had mixed feelings about about immigration laws, as poll respondents solidly backed Arizona’s tough approach to border control — even after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down key provisions — while more narrowly opposing deportation of young illegal immigrants.
The survey of 1,673 registered voters was conducted July 10-16 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points. The poll was conducted by live interviewers calling on land lines and cell phones.
Virginia voters surveyed approve by a margin of 47-7 percent the decision to bring Sullivan back, the independent Quinnipiac survey found. By 27-3 percent, voters surveyed have a favorable opinion of Sullivan while Rector Helen Dragas suffers a 21-5 unfavorable rating.
But the pollsters pointed out that large majorities of respondents said they hadn’t followed the controversy closely. Some 68 percent said they hadn’t heard enough about Sullivan, an appointee of former Gov. Tom Kaine, to form an opinion about her. Seventy-two percent said they hadn’t heard enough of Dragas.
Gov. Bob McDonnell gets a 37-16 percent approval rating for his handling of the UVA situation. Only 26 percent approve of his decision to reappoint Dragas as head of the school’s Board of Visitors, while 23 percent disapprove, with 51 percent undecided.
The public’s view of the Charlottesville school has remained largely unchanged by the controversy, with 70 percent of those surveyed saying it has not affected their view of the state’s flagship university.
“The UVA leadership soap opera played out with little impact on Virginia voters,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, based in Hamden, Conn.
“But for the most part the public’s view of UVA remains unchanged. Gov. Bob McDonnell also emerged from the whole thing as a public relations winner for his handling of the controversy,” Brown said.
The UVA dust-up, however, had little impact on McDonnell’s overall standing with voters. His 55-29 percent overall job approval rating remains virtually unchanged from the 53-30 percent rating June 6, before the Sullivan matter blew up over questions about spending, tuition costs and and implementation of online education.
On the Arizona law, the Virginia voters surveyed say 62-34 percent they would favor a law similar to the one in Arizona that would require police to verify the legal status of someone they have already stopped or arrested if they suspect that the person is in the country illegally.
Brown said the partisan split on this issue is mammoth, with 91 percent of Republicans, 59 percent of independent voters and 35 percent of Democrats favoring such a law.
By 53–40 percent, however, voters support President Barack Obama’s policy in which young illegal immigrants who came to the country as children will be able to obtain work permits and not face deportation. That issue, too, has a partisan split, with 80 percent of Democrats, 54 percent of independent voters and 28 percent of Republicans backing the policy.
“Virginians, like voters nationally, have mixed feelings about immigration policy. They like Obama’s decision to exempt some younger illegal immigrants from deportation. Yet, by almost two-to-one they would like the Virginia legislature to pass a law similar to the one in Arizona that the Supreme Court recently upheld,” said Brown.
Job approval ratings for other statewide elected officials are:
- U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, 57-24 percent.
- U.S. Sen. Jim Webb, 43-30 percent.
- Lt. Gov. Gov. Bill Bolling, 36-19 percent.
- Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, 44-31 percent.
- The General Assembly, split 41-41 percent.
Bolling and Cuccinelli are vying for the Republican nomination to succeed McDonnell as governor.