Give economic issues priority, Virginians say in Quinnipiac poll

PRIORITIES: Voters in a Quinnipiac poll were twice as likely to say jobs or the economy should be Richmond’s focus as they were health care or Medicaid.

By Kathryn Watson | Watchdog.org, Virginia Bureau

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Gov. Terry McAuliffe in a letter this year told budget negotiators Medicaid is the “most important decision” facing the Legislature.

Virginians see things differently, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday.

Just 4 percent of Virginians polled said Medicaid should be for the priority for McAuliffe and the Legislature in 2014. Nine percent said health care should be the top focus.

Jobs, unemployment and the economy won out, with 27 percent of respondents giving it top priority.

They’re not favorable figures for McAuliffe.

“The contrast between House Republicans and the governor on the issues important to Virginians couldn’t be clearer,” said Matthew Moran, spokesman for Speaker of the House Bill Howell. “The House of Delegates passed over 30 pieces of legislation this year addressing important priorities like jobs, economic development, government reform and K-12 education. While we were doing that the governor was throwing parties and holding happy hours.”

The governor’s office didn’t immediately respond for a comment on the poll’s results. In the poll, 41 percent of respondents approved of the way McAuliffe is doing his job, compared with 33 percent who disapproved.

But prioritizing economic issues above all else isn’t specific to Virginia, said Peter Brown, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

“We can go to virtually every state in the country and the top concern will be the economy,” Brown told Watchdog.org.

Quinnipiac surveyed 1,288 Virginia voters March 19-24, via calls to their cell phones and land-lines. The margin of error was plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.

The division that’s ensued in Richmond over the Medicaid and budget battle doesn’t seem to be helping the General Assembly’s approval ratings, either. Those are at a three-year low. Only 37 percent of the poll’s respondents approved of the way the Legislature is doing its job; 45 percent disapproved. That’s down from a slight approval margin — 42 percent to 41 percent — in September.

Why? Richmond looks more like Washington — something Watchdog.org said would happen in a news analysis in January — and people don’t like it, one political analyst says.

“I think the reason you’re seeing that number down even further — it wasn’t like it was terribly high to begin with — I would say you’re probably seeing respondents give a stronger disapproval than approval feeling much for the same reason that they do for Congress and Washington — the feeling of, we’re polarized, bitter partisanship, and inability to find a compromise,” said Geoff Skelley, political analyst with the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.

“And, obviously, this poll was taken in the midst of a major budget battle, and I’m sure that plays a role as well. The inability to pass a budget I’m sure doesn’t do well for a poll.”

Real Clear Politics’ most recent aggregation of approval ratings has Congress at a miserable 12.3 percent.

Kathryn Watson is an investigative reporter for Watchdog.org, and can be reached at kwatson@watchdog.org.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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