Amid two major national controversies, Gov. Ralph Northam, D-Va., has retained most of his support among the state’s Democratic voters, according to a new poll. Fifty percent of Virginia Democrats approved of Northam in a Morning Consult survey conducted Saturday and Sunday, down only 20 percentage points from a poll the firm conducted in January that found him with 70 percent Democratic approval in the state.
The new survey was taken as Northam fought back against a racially-charged yearbook picture released Friday and days of backlash over his defense of late-term abortion. In a widely-circulated interview, Northam went so far as to support cases where babies born in certain circumstances would be left to die after birth. On Friday, Big League Politics published a picture from Northam’s 1984 medical school yearbook showing two men, one in blackface and the other in KKK robes. The governor admitted to being in the picture on Friday, then reversed course in a bizarre mid-day news conference on Saturday.
— Morning Consult (@MorningConsult) February 4, 2019
Even after the photo prompted calls for his resignation from nearly every high-profile national and state-level Democrat, Morning Consult’s weekend poll of registered voters found Northam maintaining support from half of his party in Virginia. Among all Virginia voters, Northam went from enjoying 48 percent support pre-controversy to 29 percent post-controversy, according to the report. Forty-eight percent of all registered voters now disapprove of Northam, with 23 percent replying “Don’t know/No opinion.”
His support among Independents was halved after the controversy, dropping from 42 percent to 20 percent, though 49 percent still say they approve. Among Republicans, Northam went from 31 percent approval to 15 percent.
As Northam mulls a potential resignation, refusing so far to cede his post, this poll could boost his optimism about weathering the scandals. Though Morning Consult’s headline read “Virginia Voters Quickly Sour on Northam Amid Blackface Scandal,” managing to keep half his party’s support in light of both controversies, and a chorus of calls for his resignation, might just put a spring back in the governor’s step.
It’s worth noting that Northam’s strange press conference, in which he admitted to dressing in blackface as Michael Jackson but changed his story on the yearbook photo, occurred halfway through Saturday and could have changed the minds of some voters polled earlier in the day or those who had not seen the news.
Morning Consult’s Feb. 2-3 poll surveyed 291 Virginia voters and has six point margin of error. The firm’s January poll was conducted throughout the month and surveyed 4,326 Virginia voters with a one point margin of error.