Sixty percent of Virginians said that former Gov. Bob McDonnell should be sentenced to prison for his role in a corruption scandal, according to a new survey sponsored by the University of Mary Washington’s Center for Leadership and Media Studies.
Only 28 percent of the 1,000 state residents surveyed Oct. 1 through Oct. 6 said that the former governor, who was convicted over his financial dealings with Jonnie Williams and Star Scientific, should not be jailed. Another 12 percent said they did not know or declined to answer. If those who did not express an opinion are excluded, then two-thirds of survey respondents believed the former governor should be sent to prison.
When asked how long the former governor should be jailed, only two percent of those who believed he should be sent to prison said that he should serve less than one year. A total of 46 percent of those who believed McDonnell should go to jail said the term should be between one and five years, while another 16 percent said the sentence should be between six and 10 years. An additional eight percent favored 11 to 25 years, three percent said more than 25 years and two percent said that the former governor should be in prison for the rest of his life.
“The strong public support for prison time demonstrates the extent to which the public is furious with ethical misconduct in Richmond,” said Stephen J. Farnsworth, professor of political science at UMW and director of the university’s Center for Leadership and Media Studies. “These results demonstrate the depth of voter anger with politicians who are thought to take better care of the well-connected than of ordinary citizens. Lawmakers ignore this resentment at their peril.”
A federal judge is expected to sentence the former governor in January.
Of those who expressed an opinion, 71 percent of women and 64 percent of men in the survey said the former governor should be sent to prison.
Among Republicans, 57 percent of those who expressed an opinion said McDonnell should go to jail, as compared to 70 percent of independents and 75 percent of Democrats.
A majority of voters in all sections of the state thought the former governor should be sent to prison. The lowest percentage among the state’s five regions was found in south central Virginia, where 59 percent of those expressing an opinion said the governor should go to jail. The South Central Virginia region includes Richmond.
The highest share of residents favoring prison time for the former governor was found in Northern Virginia where just over 75 percent who expressed an opinion said the governor should be put behind bars.
Latino Americans who expressed an opinion were more inclined than either African-Americans or whites to say that governor should be jailed, by a margin of 78 percent to 68 percent and 65 percent respectively.
Fifty one percent of respondents who identified themselves as part of the Tea Party movement believed the former governor should not go to jail, as compared to nearly 70 percent of those who did not identify with the movement. Nine percent of those surveyed said they considered themselves part of the Tea Party movement.
The survey was conducted on the UMW center’s behalf by Princeton Survey Research Associates International.
For the full survey, see the Topline.
Contact: Stephen J. Farnsworth at (703) 380-3025 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Fall 2014 Virginia Survey, sponsored by University of Mary Washington (UMW), obtained telephone interviews with a representative sample of 1,000 adults living in Virginia. Telephone interviews were conducted by landline (500) and cell phone (500, including 247 without a landline phone). The survey was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International (PSRAI). Interviews were done in English by Princeton Data Source from October 1 to 6, 2014. Statistical results are weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies. The margin of sampling error for the complete set of weighted data is ± 3.5 percentage points.