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Seeking Public Opinion Ahead of the 2024 Election

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By The VCU Wilder School Office of Research
February 5, 2024

With the next presidential election arriving in November, 2024 is sure to be a year in which key policy issues are fiercely debated by candidates and their supporters. As they seek votes, politicians will also be seeking information on where the public stands on key issues. To help inform policymakers and the public about the perspectives of voters, the January 2024 Wilder School Commonwealth Poll sought public opinion on voting intentions and top issues.

Perspectives on Presidential Candidates

When considering the candidates themselves, the poll found that if the election for president was being held today in Virginia and the candidates were Joe Biden and Donald Trump, 43 percent of respondents would vote for Joe Biden and 40 percent would vote for Donald Trump. These numbers are identical to those in the August 2023 Commonwealth Poll. When we look at the demographic breakdowns, Biden was more popular among the younger age groups (18 to 34) and older age groups (55 and up), while Trump was more popular among the middle age groups (35 to 54). Males were more likely to say that they would vote for Trump, while females were more likely to say that they would vote for Biden. In addition, the majority of white participants said that they would vote for Trump and the majority of Black, African American, Asian, mixed race and Hispanic participants favored Biden.

The poll also asked if voters would prefer Joe Biden or Nikki Haley. With this pairing, the split shifted with 43 percent of Virginians indicating they would vote for Nikki Haley while 38 percent would vote for Joe Biden. Considering demographic breakdowns, Haley was more popular than Biden across all age groups except for 18 to 24 year olds; males were also more likely to support Haley while females tended to prefer Biden. Racial and ethnic minorities (including Black, African American, Asian, mixed race and Hispanic individuals) all said that they would vote for Biden over Haley, while white and non-Hispanic individuals would vote for Haley over Biden.

Perspectives on Key Issues

When asked what the most important reason for their voting was in the November 2023 election, Virginians cited women’s reproductive rights (21 percent) and education (19 percent) as their primary reasons.

Considering demographic breakdowns, women’s reproductive rights were most important to Black Virginians (26 percent) while inflation and women’s reproductive rights were on equal footing for White Virginians (19 percent). Democrats favored women’s reproductive rights (39 percent) and education (25 percent), while Republicans placed the most importance on inflation (29 percent) and immigration (17 percent).

Respondents were also asked what the most important issue is for the Virginia General Assembly to focus on in 2024. The top three important issues according to Virginians were inflation (26 percent), education (20 percent) and women’s reproductive rights (17 percent). These were followed by immigration (14 percent) and crime (12 percent), with the remaining 11 percent saying that other issues took priority as they casted their vote. For Black Virginians, crime was the most important issue for the General Assembly to address whereas White and Asian Virginians prioritized inflation.

Poll Methodology

The January 2024 Commonwealth Poll, sponsored by Virginia Commonwealth University, obtained telephone interviews with a representative sample of 812 adults, ages 18 or older, living in Virginia. Telephone interviews were conducted by landline (200) and cell phone (612, including 422 without a landline telephone). Interviews were conducted in English from December 28, 2023, to January 13, 2024.

Statistical results were weighted to reflect known demographic proportions in the Commonwealth. A two-stage weighting procedure was used to weight this dual-frame sample by the demographic characteristics of gender, age, education, race, ethnicity, Hispanic origin, region of residence and personal phone use. The margin of sampling error for the complete set of weighted data is ±5.46 percentage points.

Looking Ahead to the Election

Through public policy polling, we aim to encourage members of our community to reflect on issues, make their voices heard, and take action. We also encourage policymakers and politicians to listen to the voices of the public, and make decisions that are in the best interests of those they serve. As we look ahead to the 2024 presidential election, being able to show how the public feels about issues and candidates will allow the Wilder School Commonwealth Poll—along with the polling efforts of other organizations—to play a key role in promoting civic engagement and uplifting voices in our community.

Author: The Wilder School’s Center for Public Policy advances research and training that informs public policy and decisionmaking to improve our communities. Drawing on the wide-ranging expertise of Wilder School faculty, we provide services including leadership development and training, economic and policy impact analysis, survey insights and program evaluation to clients in governments, nonprofits, businesses and the public, across Virginia and beyond. Twitter: @VCUWilderSchool

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