VCU Wilder School Commonwealth Poll: Virginians see inflation and rising cost of living as most important issue facing the state
RICHMOND, Va. (Aug. 8, 2023) — More than one-third of Virginians (36%) believe that inflation and the rising cost of living is the most important issue facing Virginia today, followed by education (18%), women’s reproductive rights (13%) and gun control (12%).
Some of the demographic groups most likely to cite inflation and the rising cost of living as the most important issue were Asian respondents (55%), those who completed some college but did not obtain a degree (53%), Independents (47%) and those ages 18 to 34 (47%). Black Virginians were the only demographic group that said an issue other than inflation is the most important issue facing Virginia, with a higher proportion of Black respondents citing education (28%), followed by women’s reproductive rights (21%) and inflation (20%).
“Our recent Wilder School poll showed Virginians are concerned about the costs of living,” said L. Douglas Wilder, who served as the 66th governor of Virginia. “I’ve always had a one-word definition for politics — money — and the people are likewise focused on inflation and the skyrocketing cost of living.”
The Commonwealth Poll obtained landline and mobile telephone interviews from July 14-25, 2023, with a representative sample of 804 adults living in Virginia. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.46 percentage points. Full results can be found at research.wilder.vcu.edu/commonwealth-polls/.
Allocation of Virginia’s budget surplus
A slight plurality (48%) of Virginians said they would prefer that Virginia’s $1 billion budget surplus be used for projects such as building or repairing schools, compared with 43% who would prefer that the surplus be used for tax relief for Virginians. Responses varied along party lines, with 64% of Republicans favoring tax relief while 68% of Democrats favored projects such as building or repairing schools. Independents, like Republicans, preferred tax relief (50%) to projects such as building or repairing schools (38%).
Impacts of climate change
Most Virginia households (59%) report they have not experienced any impacts from climate change, while 38% report they have experienced impacts such as coping with extreme heat and sea level rise. However, the majority also said they are strongly or somewhat concerned about future impacts of climate change (69%), compared with 29% who said they are not concerned. By political affiliation, 92% of Democrats and 68% of Independents said they are either strongly or somewhat concerned about future impacts of climate change, while a majority of Republicans (55%) said they are not concerned.
The future of artificial intelligence (AI)
When asked whether they think the development of AI will be a more positive or negative change for American society, most Virginians (53%) said they believe the effect will be negative, while 30% believe that the changes will be positive. Younger people are more likely than older people to believe that the changes will be positive, with 46% of respondents ages 18 to 34 citing a positive impact of AI, compared with 25% of those 55 and older and 23% of 35- to 54-year-olds. Responses also varied by ethnicity and race, with 46% of Hispanic or Latino Virginians believing that the effect of AI will be more positive, compared with 27% of white Virginians and 18% of Black Virginians.
Nearly two-thirds (63%) of Virginians said they believe it is likely or very likely that AI will perform most of the job tasks that people do now in the next 10 to 20 years. Black Virginians (85%) and Independents (82%) were the most likely to hold this belief.
New K-12 standards for history classes
The K-12 standards for student learning and achievement in the area of history are required to be reviewed by the State Board of Education every seven years. Recently, with most members now appointed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin, the board approved new standards. While 35% of Virginians didn’t know about this or had no opinion, 31% said they approve of the new history standards, while 35% said they disapprove. Perceptions of the new standards were split along party lines, with 52% of Republicans approving and only 14% of Democrats indicating approval. Men were more likely than women to approve (36% and 26%, respectively), and white Virginians were more likely to approve than Black Virginians (35% and 12%, respectively).
The value of a four-year college degree
Virginians were evenly split on whether the total cost of college at a four-year state institution in Virginia is worth it, with 47% agreeing and 47% disagreeing. Democrats (54%), those in households whose income is more than $70,000 per year (53%) and respondents 55 and older (64%) were most likely to agree that a four-year college degree is worth it. Most people (55%) also agreed that college is preparing students for the workforce, with 38% disagreeing.
The Aug. 3, 2023 Commonwealth Poll results showed Virginians’ perspectives on recent Supreme Court decisions related to higher education. Forty-one percent of Virginians said that they believed that affirmative action should be banned in college admissions’ selection process, and 49% felt that the Department of Education should be able to move forward with its student loan forgiveness program.
A similar even split was found in a separate question about higher education in the new Commonwealth Poll, as reported last week: Virginians were divided on the recent Supreme Court decision on affirmative action in college admissions, with 41% agreeing it should be banned and 41% disagreeing. Regarding a court decision prohibiting President Biden’s student loan forgiveness proposal, more Virginians (49%) believe the federal Department of Education should be able to move forward with it than do not (42%).”
About the VCU L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs
Ranked No. 39 among 275 graduate schools of public affairs by U.S. News and World Report and No. 16 in Social Policy, No. 17 in Urban Policy, No. 19 in Public Management & Leadership, and No. 36 in Public Policy Analysis, the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University advances excellence in governance and promotes evidence-based public policy in Virginia and beyond. The school offers an array of graduate, post-baccalaureate and doctoral programs in virtually every policy area, including criminal justice, homeland security and emergency preparedness, public administration, public policy and administration, and urban and regional studies and planning. Additionally, the Wilder School is home to a robust Centers and Institutes for Public Policy that provides applied research in the areas of state and local government, social equity and leadership, and a range of services to clients in state and local government, nonprofit organizations, businesses and the general public. Learn more at wilder.vcu.edu.
About the VCU Wilder School Commonwealth Poll
For nearly three decades, the VCU Wilder School Commonwealth Poll has been an important bellwether for policymakers in Virginia and beyond on a range of topics, including voting intentions, economic and workforce development, education, housing, public health, public safety and racial equity. The Commonwealth Poll was a featured 2020 Presidential Election Poll by CNN, approved based on a rigorous review of methodologies and assumptions that ensure that CNN-cited polling entities are employing the gold standard in public opinion research.