Virginia Poll Numbers Tell You Only One Thing


With stagflation around the corner, just like Washington, so is the Commonwealth.

Between the next Dobbs decision, threats of violence against Catholic parishes – and a massive shout out to AG Jason Miyares for being one of the few voices to stand up and defend them – and a few other tidbits here and there, it’s been a busy month and a entirely unproductive writing season.

Of course, I put my finger on the cancel culture and the problem of illiteracy:

As the Irish poet William Butler Yeats reminds us, education is the kindling of a fire, not the filling of a bucket. Giving children a taste for learning and fostering their intellectual curiosity is the best vaccine against imbecility in the public square. Flood the area with excellent and even controversial literature and watch the students surprise you with the results. Inspiring confidence in the good, the beautiful and the true is the surest guarantee that bad ideas gather dust rather than a cult.

The op-ed originally appeared in Fredericksburg’s Free Lance-Star and was picked up by the Roanoke Times without the paywall.

I hope you will enjoy it!

Of course, the Virginia General Assembly eventually voted on a budget where the Republicans overwhelmingly won the day on small items and the Democrats put together a rather hyperbolic defense against even the tiniest of Northam-era offenses. – and finally gave in. With the state budget now finding a new place on the governor’s desk, it now falls to Glenn Youngkin to edit and revise it before returning it to Mistah Speakah.

Which means that now the news cycle is slow, we can move on to the best distraction for the chattering class – the polls.

A case in point is a Public Policy Polling (PPP) poll shared by former Democratic Minority Leader Eileen Filler-Corn – who is not exactly friendliest to Republicans.

Then again, neither did Roanoke College — whose polls showed a much different, rosier picture for Republicans in Virginia.

A word of caution on all polls. Like Rasmussen or any other polling company, it’s not enough to survey the electorate as is, but rather to predict where you think the public is heading given a number of variables – campaign spending, events, enthusiasm voters and so on. Mix in the paid hacks whose job it is to tell you what such and such a number actually means and it’s no wonder most Virginians don’t trust polls – mainly because most of us can’t reading the polls and those of us who can work like scientists trying to unravel tiny nuances in order to make ourselves sound like Nostradamus.

(Yes – I have my own methods and when employed I’m pretty confident that my spreadsheet and underlying calculations can come awfully close to reality…having called the trajectory of Trump in 2016 and Youngkin in 2021 damn well. All of us are snobs at the end of the day – caution reader!)

So what is the hubbub?

Roanoke College has Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s favor rate at 53%, up three points from 50% in February. Meanwhile, PPP shows Youngkin at just 43%. What neither side wants to tell you is that most Virginia governors are in their 60s or 40s no matter what they do.

Biden’s favors? 37% in the Roanoke poll; 50% in the PPP poll.

So what gives?

One way to elucidate this one is to compare questions that are quite similar. When asked if the country is heading in the right direction or the wrong direction, PPP and Roanoke answered 76% and 77% saying America is heading in the wrong direction.

Trump unfavorable? 55% and 59% respectively.

Still, two numbers in the PPP poll — again, the Democratic-leaning pollster — should stick out like a sore thumb. On repealing the gas tax? 65% support the state of emergency (which everyone agrees will be a very long emergency). On CRT in public schools? 50% strongly oppose and another 15% oppose it — two star issues for the Democratic Party that their progressive base simply won’t allow the liberal leadership to implement.

Interestingly enough, we don’t get a generic voting question from Roanoke, although the PPP poll shows an R+1 (RCP has R+2.2 while Rasmussen – the Republican firm – has the generic vote at R+8).

In a one-on-one between Joe Biden and Donald Trump in Virginia? Biden earns +10 according to PPP, which is roughly where Biden was in 2020 when he enjoyed a 15-point higher approval rating and didn’t give up on Afghanistan, skyrocketed gasoline prices north, stumbled in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, sent inflation north of 8%, and helped nudge the J6 Commission into a sort of improvised constitutional convention.

This is where the rubber meets the road.

If you’re inclined to believe that 2022 will look a lot like 2020, then the PPP survey will work for you.

If you’re inclined to think that Biden’s approval ratings down 15 points since August 2020 will impact the election, then the Roanoke College poll will be faster.

Then there’s this little tidbit buried in the PPP survey methodology:

This, ladies and gentlemen, is how you skew a poll. Guess how smartphone and SMS users usually vote?

Now, to be fair, Roanoke College has also gone live:

A total of 648 Virginia residents, age 18 or older, were included in this study. The telephone interviews, conducted in English, included 403 of the respondents and 245 responses were drawn from an exclusive online panel of Virginians.

But not SMS.

The real number — and it’s something no one on either side really wants to hear — is that the approval rating of any governor in Virginia is going to mirror the approval rating of anyone in the White House.

Currently? Joe Biden is at 43% – down from about 8.6% in the RCP average.

Where was he in November 2021? Just about 43%.

How did the Republicans do in November 2021? About R+1.9 in Virginia – only 50,000 votes.

Which means if you divide the difference between Roanoke’s 37% favorable ratings for Biden and the 50% PPP, you get it. . . well, what do I know: Biden at 43.5%.

Which means the real benefits of Youngkin are probably close to 50% – if Roanoke and PPP have decent methodologies (they do) trying to explain the world according to the assumptions incorporated in the respective surveys. Which is safe to assume due to correlations elsewhere and can be filled in with more data points.

Of course, it’s fun to shout about it.

Boring as it is.

But people are paid to be like that. The rest of us have to smile and tolerate it.

In the meantime, if you’re wondering what it has to do with things, the right answer is what you feel inside your belly.

Nothing really moved the needle except for two things far beyond Richmond’s control: inflationary pressures caused by Washington and scarcity of goods caused by the conflict in Ukraine – the classic definition of the Jimmy Carter era stagflation.

That’s where we’re headed, folks. Or already are.

With approval ratings hostage to political and economic realities, the era of plenty fueled by the peace dividend, market bubble and massive debt spending is coming home. Good luck catching the grenades!


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