RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Virginia voters have mixed views on Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s first weeks in office, a new poll shows, but there’s a clear partisan split on his job approval and support for his proposals.

Gov. Youngkin’s job approval rating is 85 percent among Republicans, compared to 81 percent of Democrats who said they disapprove of his short time as governor, according to a Wason Center poll released Monday. 

“In this highly polarized environment, we see partisans running to their corners on how they view the direction of the Commonwealth and the job of the governor,” Quentin Kidd, academic director of the Wason Center said in a statement accompanying the poll. 

Overall, 41 percent of Virginia voters approve of Youngkin’s job performance during his first few weeks in office and 43 percent disapprove. Sixteen percent said they did not know how they felt.

“Youngkin’s approval numbers are certainly lower than those of recent governors in Wason Center polling early in their term,” Kidd added.

Forty-five percent of voters said that the commonwealth is headed in the right direction, while 41 percent said they feel Virginia is moving the wrong way. These numbers have remained steady compared to similar polls over the last four years.  

Eight in 10 Republicans believe Virginia is moving in the right direction, compared to 45 percent of independents and 22 percent of Democrats, the poll found.

The poll of 701 registered voters, conducted by the Wason Center for Civic Leadership at Christopher Newport University from Jan. 26-Feb.15, found Virginians back Youngkin’s proposal to repeal the 2.5% grocery tax but not his calls to ban the teaching of critical race theory. 

The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percent, at a 95 percent confidence level. The poll shows enthusiasm for some of Youngkin’s early priorities and opposition to others.

Nearly half of Virginia voters, 45 percent, want a full repeal of the state’s 2.5% sales tax on groceries. There is bipartisan support of cutting the tax, but Youngkin and Republicans backed a full repeal while Senate Democrats aim to keep a 1% local option.

Far more voters, 59 percent, want the state’s budget surplus to be invested to help underfunded government services, including education, public safety and social services, rather than to pay for tax cuts or rebates, 38 percent, according to the poll.

Sixty-three percent of voters support teaching how racism still impacts American society and 57% oppose a ban on teaching critical race theory in Virginia’s K-12 schools, according to the survey. A large portion of Virginia voters, 70 percent, support a Youngkin-backed proposal to have law enforcement or a resource officer in every public school.

The first executive order Youngkin signed after taking office aimed to end “the use of divisive concepts, including Critical Race Theory, and to raise academic standards” in public education.

Critical race theory, an academic framework based on the idea that racism is systemic and is perpetuated in society, was one of the main issues during the heated election cycle.

Legislation that mirrors Youngkin’s order passed the Republican-controlled House of Delegates but failed in the Virginia Senate. Before Youngkin was sworn in, the Virginia Department of Education said that critical race theory is not part of the commonwealth’s K-12 curriculum.

A majority of voters back COVID-19 vaccine mandates for first responders (58%), teachers (57%), and medical providers (61%), the poll shows, but not for elementary and middle school students.

Fifty-six percent of voters said health data should be used to determine whether local school districts require masks for students, whereas 41 percent said the decision should be left to parents.

Fifty-eight percent of Virginia voters oppose a six-week abortion ban, which Texas lawmakers passed last year, compared to 33 percent who said they support one. Most voters also oppose requiring an ultrasound before a procedure (57% to 36%).

Voters largely favor efforts to combat climate change. Sixty-seven percent say they support Virginia being in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative carbon cap-and-trade program and the passage of the Virginia Clean Economy Act, which requires all of the commonwealth’s electricity to be generated from renewable energy by 2050.

Republican bills to repeal the Virginia Clean Economy Act and withdraw the commonwealth from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative got through the House of Delegates but are expected to get rejected in the state Senate.