Three weeks from now, Virginians will go to the polls to decide the fate of all 140 seats in the General Assembly and whether Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin will have the power to pass a raft of right-wing bills, including a 15-week abortion ban.
In the lead-up to the critical election, a new poll from Christopher Newport University’s The Wason Center for Civic Leadership casts the economy and abortion as voters’ top two issues, similar to their positioning in last year’s midterms. Among Republicans, 41% name the economy as their raison d’être, while Democrats’ top concern is abortion at 25%. Independents prioritize the economy at 30% followed by abortion at 16%.
The numbers are similar to preelection polling last year, when a majority of voters named the economy/inflation as their top issue while a little less than one-third tagged abortion as No. 1. Likewise, Republicans overwhelmingly prioritized the economy in last year’s midterm election while Democrats coalesced around abortion.
Asked specifically about abortion, the Wason Center poll found Virginia voters opposed Youngkin’s proposed 15-week ban by a 15-point margin, 54% – 39%. Additionally, 72% support either maintaining the status quo on the Commonwealth’s current abortion law (49%) or making the law less restrictive (23%). Just 24% of likely Virginia voters support a more restrictive law such as the one Youngkin is proposing.Current Virginia law bans abortion starting at the third trimester, or about 27 weeks, unless three physicians agree that continuing the pregnancy is likely to “substantially and irremediably” harm the health of the pregnant individual.
Youngkin’s super PAC has been working overtime to reframe his 15-week ban in a 30-second ad released last week accusing Democrats of spreading “lies” and “disinformation.”
“There is no ban,” claims the narrator, in the $1.4 million ad buy.
The ad goes on to lie about Democrats, claiming they want “no limits” on abortion.
Republican attempts to enact further abortion restrictions earlier this year were turned back by Virginia Senate Democrats, who hold a three-seat majority in the upper chamber while Republicans control the House of Delegates. The fate of both chambers next month will likely come down to roughly a handful of races in each of them, give or take. But notably, Republicans have the first opportunity in a decade to achieve trifecta control by flipping the Senate.
The race for control of the Virginia state Legislature promises to be a nail-biter. The Wason Center survey found that 42% of Virginians said they would vote for Democrats while 41% said they would vote for Republicans—well within the poll’s 4% margin of error.
The critical election will likely come down to turnout—which party is most motivated as well as which issues prove most motivating.
Ultimately, last November, the issue of abortion entirely disrupted the Beltway’s “red wave” narrative. All eyes will turn to Virginia less than three weeks from now to see whether Youngkin’s 15-week abortion ban, chief among the extremist policies Republicans hope to enact, proves equally as unpopular.
A lot is at stake for Republicans, who have embraced a national 15-week ban as a supposedly moderated position over the 12- and 6-week bans enacted in many red states. Virginia will be the first major test in the 2024 cycle of whether voters are willing to accept a 15-week ban as a “common-sense” policy, as Youngkin likes to frame his agenda.