L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs

L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs



Election year: exploring Virginians’ key perspectives through Commonwealth Poll insights

Robyn McDougle, Ph.D. (M.S.’00, Ph.D.’03), associate dean of research and outreach, associate professor of criminal justice and dual VCU alumna.
Robyn McDougle, Ph.D. (M.S.’00, Ph.D.’03), associate dean of research and outreach, associate professor of criminal justice and dual VCU alumna.

What are key issues for Virginians as we head into a strongly contested election year? This question and many others were addressed by the Wilder School’s own, Robyn McDougle, Ph.D. (M.S.’00, Ph.D.’03), associate dean of research and outreach, associate professor of criminal justice and dual VCU alumna.

In this virtual presentation, entitled “Virginians’ Opinions: Insights from the Commonwealth Poll,” part of the monthly Wilder School Lunch and Learn series, McDougle discussed trends and findings from the 2023 and 2024 Commonwealth Polls. The session was moderated by Wilder School Dean Susan Gooden.

>>Watch the complete presentation on the Wilder School Youtube Channel

Conducted by the Wilder School for more than 15 years, the Commonwealth Poll represents a trusted bellwether of public opinion and provides snapshots of how Virginians view statewide and national policy issues. Moderated by Wilder School Dean Susan Gooden, Ph.D., this session illuminated key insights on a variety of timely issues, including reproductive rights, the value proposition of a higher education degree, transgender policy, presidential approval and more. She also explored the challenges to maintain and advance poll quality and improve delivery to survey respondents.

“There's always a balance between education and polling and too much information," McDougle said. “I will say that one of the things I'm so very proud of in the Commonwealth poll is we've continued … to hold the gold standard of methodology when we do our polling.”

“The Commonwealth Poll is a jewel in the crown of the Wilder School and it epitomizes Governor Wilder’s phrasing about how the Wilder School really tries to focus on putting people first,” added Susan Gooden. 

Data results from poll.

Key respondents' highlights from the January 2024 Commonwealth Poll two-part release:

Approval Ratings and 2024 Election 

  • 54% approve of how Gov. Glenn Youngkin is handling his job as governor of Virginia, with 31% reporting disapproval. 
  • 37% approve of how Joe Biden is handling his job as President, with 54% disapproving
  • 43% of respondents indicated they would vote for Joe Biden and 40% would vote for Donald Trump if the presidential election were today


  • 92% of those familiar with the failed VCU Clay Street redevelopment deal want the VCU Health System to provide more public  information and 65% feel that information has been concealed from the public 
  • 50% said the cost of a college degree was not worth it; 71% felt Virginia should be required to cut costs, and 63% said that community colleges should be free for all students.
  • 65 feel that books available in public school libraries should not be determined by parents.
  • 34% felt that transgender students should use bathrooms corresponding with a different gender than their sex.
  • Nearly 7 in 10 Virginians disagreed (66%) that parents should be allowed to object to the presence of any book in a public school’s library to have that book removed.

More Key Issues

  • Inflation (26%), education (20%), and women’s reproductive rights (17%) were indentified as the top three issues for the 2024 Virginia General Assembly.
  • Nearly 6 in 10 Virginians would vote yes in a referendum regarding women's reproductive rights.
  • Women’s reproductive rights (21%) and education (19%) were the top issues for voters during the November 2023 elections.
  • 83% want stronger penalties for opioid drug dealers and 55% support legalization of commercial marijuana sales.

View all recent Commonwealth Poll results

About the speaker: 

Robyn Diehl McDougle, Ph.D., is associate dean and associate professor at the Wilder School. Her primary area of research is program evaluation, project impact and the impact of violent crime on youths and community development. She has worked with local and state correctional agencies to develop effective prisoner reentry programs and helped create a nationally recognized Summer Jailer Academy internship program. McDougle has conducted training in leadership, stress management and death investigation for local, state, federal and international law enforcement agencies and public safety organizations.

About the moderator:

Susan T. Gooden, Ph.D., dean of the Wilder School, is an internationally recognized expert on social equity. Gooden is an elected fellow of the congressionally chartered National Academy of Public Administration and is past president of the American Society for Public Administration and past-president of the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration. She has written six books, most recently “Teaching Social Equity” (Routledge, forthcoming 2024) and “Racial Equity, COVID-19, and Public Policy: The Triple Pandemic” (Routledge, 2023).