Virginia is for (Democratic Policy) Lovers

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I hate to say it, but I think we can safely declare Virginia is no longer a swing state.

Christopher Newport University’s (CNU) Wason Center for Civic Leadership recently released its “2021 Virginia Ideology Report,” and I found several pieces of data to be extraordinarily fascinating. Now, if you’ve known me for some time — especially if you worked with me at my last news job — you know I love political polls. Polls used to be the standard but after 2016 are now pretty much frowned at. The 2016 polls were right, but this entry is not about that.

I’ve mentioned before that I come from a looong line of Virginians. I’m talking 1600s. And in my [cough30somecough] years on this planet I feel like I have seen it all. Virginia has run the gamut when it comes to political ideologies. Jamestown is the site of the first permanent English settlement in America, leading to the genocide of thousands of Native Americans. Yorktown is home to the last major battle of the American Revolution. Richmond is where Patrick Henry uttered “Give me liberty or give me death!” and later served as the capital of the Confederacy. John Wilkes Booth is said to have shouted the Virginia motto “sic semper tyrannis” after shooting President Lincoln. Virginia currently holds the record for most presidents born there. Loving v. Virginia. Ella Fitzgerald. Missy Elliot. Rachel West.

For decades, Virginia was a solid red state until 2008 when Barack Obama was elected president and voters have picked the Democratic candidate ever since. You used to be able to predict Virginia’s next governor based on who won the presidential election the previous year. It was always the opposite party. Virginia has always been fickle like that. That changed in 2013 when Terry McAuliffe was elected, representing the same party as Obama, who won re-election in 2012. [Don’t forget I predicted McAuliffe would run again this election cycle]

National news media always focused on Virginia during presidential cycles and candidates made sure to campaign in the Commonwealth. But after analyzing so much election data over the past decade or so, I’m convinced Virginia is blue now.

So when the Wason Center’s new survey showed that Virginia voters tend to be more moderate, leaning conservative, but overwhelmingly supporting Democratic policy proposals, I was surprised yet not.

That’s the Virginia I know and love.

When asked to put themselves on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being liberal and 10 being conservative, the average score was 5.83. You cannot get more moderate than that.

“On health care policy, a strong majority of Virginia voters overall support changes to U.S. policy, with the strongest support for a Medicare for all-that-want-it program (76%).”

2021 Virginia Ideology Report, Wason Center

Yes, 76 percent. But look at this one.

“On immigration policy, a strong majority of Virginia voters overall (73%) support providing a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S.”

2021 Virginia Ideology Report, Wason Center

That’s the one that surprised me. Immigration is supposed to be the policy that really divides us. This is always a topic which comes up during any and every debate, with Republicans touting a zero tolerance policy. Yet in Virginia, where these same voters “lean conservative,” the majority very much support a pathway to citizenship…a Democratic policy.

George Washington (another famous Virginian) warned against a two-party system. I’m pretty sure if we removed party affiliation entirely, we would find we agree on a lot more than we think.

I love Virginia.

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