The most recent edition of the MetroNews West Virginia Poll shows that Governor Jim Justice has his work cut out for him to win re-election.
So far, he is in good shape to clear the first hurdle. Our poll shows that if a Primary Election were held today, Justice would get 53 percent of the vote compared with 19 percent for Woody Thrasher and 12 percent for Mike Folk, while 17 percent are unsure.
We’re more than eight months from the nomination so the Republican challengers still have time to make up ground, but Justice is clearly in the lead.
However, it’s important to note that our sample size is small—just 216 registered Republican and Independent voters—so this is only a snapshot in time. And while Justice may be ahead of the field now, the numbers hint at some serious weak spots for him.
The Governor’s approval ratings are only slightly better than his disapproval—42 percent to 40 percent. Seventeen percent say they are not sure.
Our poll shows that Justice, despite being way ahead in the race for the GOP nomination, has problems within his own party. Only 58 percent of Republicans approve of Justice’s job performance, compared with 69 percent approval for Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito and a whopping 86 percent for President Trump.
West Virginia Democrats, who chose Justice as their party’s gubernatorial nominee in 2016 and then helped elect him, have now distanced themselves from him following his party switch. His approval rating among Democrats is 29 percent, the same as Trump’s.
Meanwhile, one in four Republicans disapprove of the job Justice is doing. As a comparison, Trump’s disapproval rating among Republicans in West Virginia is only eight percent and Capito’s is just 11 percent.
Support within the party is critical, especially for Republicans. The GOP may hold the advantage in elected offices, but Democrats still have the numbers. West Virginia has 490,382 registered Democrats compared with 401,352 Republicans (41 percent to 33 percent). (Independent voters now make up the fastest growing group at 22 percent, 271,057.)
If Justice gets past the Primary, it’s possible that Joe Manchin will be waiting for him. The U.S. Senator is leaning toward running for Governor, but has not yet made a final decision. Our poll shows that in a hypothetical match-up between the two today, Manchin has a ten-point lead—49 percent to 39 percent with 12 percent unsure.
Manchin’s approval numbers are trending upward. Forty-nine percent of voters approve of the job he is doing, while 37 percent disapprove. Manchin’s favorables have increased six points since our poll a year ago.
Of course, the election isn’t today, Manchin may not get in the race and much can change in the months ahead. Our MetroNews West Virginia Poll is simply a snapshot in time with a margin of error of nearly five percent.
However, the numbers do provide some perspective on how West Virginia voters are thinking about the election.