Poll: More Virginia voters want Gov. Northam to stay than quit

Poll: More Virginia voters want Gov. Northam to stay than quit
Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Ralph Northam waves as he arrives to speak during a campaign rally in Richmond, Virginia on Oct. 19, 2017. Copyright Jim Watson AFP - Getty Images file
By Allan Smith with NBC News Politics
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The Quinnipiac University poll found that 54 percent of black voters said Northam should remain in office, while 31 percent said he should step down.


A plurality of Virginia voters — including a large majority of black voters — believe that Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam should not resign in the aftermath of a blackface scandal that has thrown the state government into disarray.

A Quinnipiac University pollreleased Wednesday showed that 48 percent of Virginia voters said Northam should not resign over the scandal involving a blackface photo on his medical school yearbook page, while 42 percent said he should.

Among black voters, 56 percent said Northam should remain in office while 31 percent said he should step down. White voters were evenly split on the issue, with 46 percent for each option. A substantially larger number of Virginians said Northam should not be impeached, with 65 percent opposing that option and 26 percent in favor.

Virginians gave Northam a negative approval rating, with 39 percent saying they approved of the way he's handling his job as governor to 44 percent who disapproved. Among black voters, 49 percent said they approved of the job Northam is doing while just 24 percent said they did not.

Earlier this month, it was revealed that Northam's 1984 medical school yearbook page shows a photo of a person in blackface and another wearing Ku Klux Klan robes. He initially apologized for the photo, but a day later said he wasn't in it. However, he admitted to once wearing blackface as part of a Michael Jackson costume for a dance competition the same year the yearbook was published.

He has since said he would not resign, instead looking to "heal" the state.

Soon after, two women alleged that Virginia's Democratic Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax — next in line to the governorship — sexually assaulted them more than a decade ago. Fairfax has emphatically denied the allegations and said he will not resign.

Additionally, Democratic state Attorney General Mark Herring — who follows Fairfax in the line of succession — later admitted that he too once wore blackface as a 19-year-old. Herring initially called on Northam to resign before making that admission, which included a profuse apology.

The Quinnipiac poll showed an even split — 36 percent for and 36 percent against — on the question of whether Fairfax should resign. A majority, 54 percent to 24 percent, said he should not be impeached. The poll also found that a majority of Virginians said Herring should not resign (54 percent) or be impeached (63 percent).

Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,150 Virginia voters from Feb. 14 to 18 for poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.

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