RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – A new poll shows a majority of likely Virginia voters want to keep the state’s abortion law or have fewer restrictions but are split on whether they would support Democrats or the Republicans who back a proposal to ban the procedure after 15 weeks in the Nov. 7 elections.
Forty-two percent of likely voters surveyed in the new Wason Center for Civic Leadership at Christopher Newport University poll said they would support the Democrats’ candidate in their district in the Virginia General Assembly elections, compared to 41% of respondents who said they would back the Republican.
“This margin is particularly slim and well within the survey’s margin of error, suggesting that control of the General Assembly is truly up for grabs,” the Wason Center’s poll report reads.
All 140 General Assembly seats are on the ballot, although some candidates are running unopposed, raising the stakes of Virginia’s 2023 elections as both parties eye total control of the legislature.
The economy and inflation are at the top of the minds of 27% of likely voters in this year’s elections, followed by abortion (17%) and K-12 education (12%). Among Republicans polled, 41% said their top issue was the economy. For Democrats, 25% said abortion.
Republicans and Democrats have clashed over abortion access in Virginia since Roe fell, with GOP-backed proposals to restrict the procedure failing to pass through the Democratic-controlled state Senate.
This includes a ban on abortions after 15 weeks, with exceptions for rape, incest and when the mother’s life is in danger, a proposal championed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) that Republicans have coalesced around ahead of the elections.
Virginia allows abortions through the second trimester of pregnancy — or about 26 weeks — and after the second trimester only when three doctors conclude “the continuation of the pregnancy is likely to result in the death of the woman or substantially and irremediably impair the mental or physical health of the woman.” Most abortions in Virginia take place before 15 weeks.
Both sides have labeled the other as having an extreme stance, with bickering over what Democrats call a ban and Republicans have framed as a limit.
According to the Wason Center poll, 49% of likely voters want to keep the abortion law on the books and 23% want fewer restrictions on the procedure. Twenty-four percent of those surveyed said they want Virginia to impose more restrictions.
When asked about banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, 54% of likely voters polled said they oppose the proposal and 39% said they would back the change.
On voter enthusiasm, a factor that could help predict turnout, Democrats had an edge over Republicans. Seventy percent of Democratic likely voters said they have given the state elections a lot or some thought, compared to 61% of Republicans.
Gov. Youngkin’s approval numbers among likely voters in Virginia are far better compared to President Joe Biden’s, with 55% of respondents saying they approve of Youngkin’s job performance and 41% approving of Biden’s handling of the presidency.
Dr. Rebecca Bromley-Trujillo, the Wason Center’s research director, noted in a press briefing Tuesday that these approval ratings could have an impact on Virginia’s elections due to the increasingly nationalized nature of state politics.
The poll of 800 likely Virginia voters, conducted over the phone from Sept. 28 to Oct. 11, has a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points at the 95% level of confidence.