CHARLESTON, W.Va. — More than a month after Gov. Jim Justice announced he would rejoin the Republican Party, 46 percent of West Virginians said they are not in favor of his move.
The latest MetroNews West Virginia poll shows only 34 percent of respondents approve of the decision, which was announced during a President Donald Trump rally in Huntington.
Justice’s political standing has been one of many issues polling firm Research America asked 400 likely West Virginia voters about between Aug. 11-20. The poll’s margin of error is 4.9 percent.
This version of poll results also looked at the West Virginia Legislature, drug addiction and confidence in West Virginia’s media outlets.
Justice’s GOP switch
Forty-six percent of respondents disagree with Justice’s choice to rejoin the Republican Party, compared to 35 percent who approved of the decision.
Justice announced the switch at an Aug. 3 rally in Huntington with President Donald Trump, who Justice said he considers a friend. The governor said he felt Democratic lawmakers walked away from his during this year’s legislative session.
Justice joined the Democratic Party in 2015 prior to announcing his campaign for governor.
The poll also reported Justice at a 34 percent approval rating compared to a 44 percent of respondents who disapproved.
While the poll was being conducted, Justice made changes to his administration, including firing his chief of staff Nick Casey, who was previously the chairman of the West Virginia Democratic Party and candidate for the state’s 2nd Congressional District.
Republican respondents were favorable to Justice’s move, with 62 percent approving of Justice joining the GOP and 22 percent against the move. Respondents who identified as Democrats, unsurprisingly, did not think very highly of Justice’s departure, with 68 percent disapproving and 17 percent in approval.
Participants who described themselves as independents or as members of another party did not form a majority opinion on the matter; 48 percent said they disapproved Justice’s decision, while 27 percent approved and 26 percent were not sure.
West Virginia Legislature
Less than one in four respondents are in favor of the Republican-controlled state Legislature, with 23 percent approving of the bicameral body’s performance.
In comparison, 52 percent of respondents said they disapproved of the Legislature’s job. Twenty-six percent are unsure.
When analyzed by party identification, no category had a majority of respondents in favor of the Legislature; 15 percent of Democrats, 33 percent of Republicans and 22 of other respondents approved, while 64 percent of Democrats, 41 percent of Republicans and 46 percent of other voters expressed distaste to the state assembly.
Republicans gained control of the Legislature following the November 2014 election. Twenty-two senatorial and 64 delegate seats are held by Republicans.
With an election next year, do a majority of West Virginians want a party change in the Legislature? Not at this moment.
Forty-six percent of respondents said they would prefer a Republican-controlled Legislature, compared to 37 percent who want to see Democrats control the body.
As expected, this issue is split among respondents who identified with the two major parties; 90 percent of Republican participants would like to see the GOP control the Legislature compared to 74 percent of Democratic respondents who want to see their party with the majority in both chambers.
As for independent voters, 37 percent said they would like Republicans to remain in the majority, but 36 percent said they were not sure. More than 27 percent said they would like a Democrat-controlled Legislature.
The MetroNews West Virginia Poll reported 48 percent of West Virginians as knowing someone who has been addicted to prescription pain medications, compared to 52 percent who said they do not know someone. This is within the poll’s margin of error of 4.9 points.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, West Virginia had a drug prescription rate of 96 opioid prescriptions per 100 people in 2016, a 24 percent decrease from 126.4 prescriptions in 2014.
Alabama had the highest rate in the United States at 121 prescriptions per 100 people, and Washington, D.C., has the lowest rate at 32.5 per 100.
The Kaiser Health Tracking Poll from April 2016 reported 44 percent of respondents nationally as knowing someone who has been addiction to prescription pain medications.
Confidence in state media
When it comes to media in West Virginia, there is not a consensus on how respondents felt about news outlets.
Thirty-nine percent of participants said they had “some confidence” in what was described to them as the news media. Almost equal number of respondents said they had either “quite a lot” of trust (22 percent) or “very little” trust (20 percent) in news agencies. A similar situation occurred in comparing the “a great deal” (11 percent) and “none” (8 percent) categories.
According to a July NPR/PBS News Hour/Marist poll, 22 percent of the poll’s 1,205 respondents said they had “a good amount” of trust in the media. Thirty-one percent said “not very much,” and 37 percent responded with “not at all.” Only eight percent said they had “a great deal” of trust in the media.
Participants in that poll were also allowed in answer “unsure,” in which two percent did such.
Democratic respondents had higher trust in the news media compared to Republicans and others, with 44 percent having “a great deal” or “quite a lot of trust” compared to 29 percent and 22 percent respectively.
The NPR/PBS News Hour/Marist Poll found 56 percent of Democrats, 9 percent of Republicans and 28 percent of independents had “a great deal” or “a good amount” of trust in the media.
More poll respondents identified as conservatives than as moderates or liberals, but not enough for a majority.
Forty-one percent of West Virginians said they were conservative, with 16 percent identifying as very conservative. On the other end of the political spectrum, 26 percent said they were liberal with 10 percent claiming to be very liberal. The remaining 34 percent identified as moderates.
As for education, a majority of respondents had more than a high school education. More than 38 percent said they had some college education, a category which included attending a technical school or earning an associates degree. Twenty-two percent said they earned a Bachelor’s degree, and 14 percent of respondents said they had a graduate or professional degree.
A quarter of participants said they have a high school education or less.
Income was another category how respondents were identified: 24 percent of households earn less than $25,000 a year; quarter of West Virginians earn between $25,000 and $49,999 yearly; 23 percent earn from $50,000 to $74,999; 11 percent have an income between $75,000 and $99,999; 11 percent earn from $100,000 to $149,000; and four percent have a household income of over $150,000. Three percent refused to provide an answer.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median West Virginian household income in 2015 was $41,751.
Results of this edition of MetroNews West Virginia Poll are based on interviews conducted between Aug. 11-20, 2017 with a sample of 400 likely voters in West Virginia including registered Democrats, Republicans, Libertarian, Mountain Party, and unaffiliated or independent voters. Data collection methods used included landline phone, cell phone, and opt-in Internet panel. Each data collection method has inherent strengths and weakness.
Likely voters in all 55 West Virginia counties were represented in the survey modeled to the number of registered voters based on data from the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office.
When using multiple data collection methods, it is not appropriate to apply a probability-based margin of error to interviews completed. However, applying statistical tests of significance to each question asked at the 95 percent confidence interval yields an overall statistical error of +/- 4.9 percentage points based on the 400 interviews. The 95 percent confidence interval varies by question.
The purpose of the MetroNews West Virginia Poll is to provide a snapshot of opinion and timely voter views in the Mountain State. The media sponsor of the West Virginia Poll is MetroNews, the statewide radio network owned by West Virginia Radio Corporation.
Rex Repass is director of the West Virginia Poll and president of Research America Inc. Repass is responsible for questionnaire design, the respondent screening and selection process, data tabulation, statistical analysis, and reporting of results.
The MetroNews West Virginia Poll is a non-partisan survey of public opinion conducted by the Repass and Research America Inc. The West Virginia Poll has been directed by Mr. Repass and conducted periodically since January 21, 1980. The name The West Virginia Poll is a registered trademark Research America Inc., all rights reserved. For more information, see www.wvpoll.com.