Is this a potential problem for Democrats, or just a quirk of polling? A new survey of Virginia voters reveals a stark partisan divide over the “defund police” movement, with massive majorities of Republicans and independents opposed to the idea, while Democrats are split nearly 50/50 in the state over taking money from police departments.
The poll of 1,028 likely voters from WRS Research found that 54% of those surveyed in the state “strongly oppose” the idea of defunding law enforcement, while just 13% “strongly support” the move. WRS Research intentionally didn’t try to define what it meant to defund police, stating that “definitions vary quite a bit within left-and-right leaning groups,” but even with respondents able to define the movement for themselves, there’s just not a lot backing for taking money away from law enforcement in the state.
Republicans almost universally (93%) reject the notion of defunding the police while, in contrast, a slight majority of Democrats (51%) support defunding the police and one in five (20%) Democrats are unsure. Only 25% of independents support defunding the police while more than six in ten (63%) oppose the effort.
The polling firm also broke down responses based on Virginia’s eleven congressional districts, and found majority support for defunding police in only one of them; the 8th congressional district in the D.C. suburbs of Arlington, Alexandria, and portions of Fairfax County, where 48% of respondents support defunding the police compared to 39% who object.
Even in Democrat strongholds like the 4th congressional district, where Rep. Don McEachin won election in 2018 with 63% of the vote, the defund police movement doesn’t poll well. According to WRS research, just 32% of likely voters surveyed back the idea, with 57% opposed.
More importantly, in a couple of battleground districts that Republicans view as some of their best chances to take back seats lost in the 2018 midterms, support for defunding the police is almost non-existent. In the 7th district, where Republican delegate Nick Freitas will face first-term incumbent Abigail Spanberger, support for defunding the police is at 27% with 52% opposed. In the 2nd district, represented by first-term Democrat Elaine Luria, the defund police movement is even less popular, with just 17% in favor and 77% opposed.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that, for now anyway, neither Spanberger nor Luria have signed on to a federal police reform bill backed by six other Virginia Democrats in Congress. Senator Mark Warner, on the other hand, has given his support for the bill, which could provide an opening for Republican challenger Daniel Gade to hammer Warner on the issue. Gade still faces an uphill fight to defeat the incumbent, but demonstrating that Warner is clearly out of sync with voters when it comes to law enforcement will undoubtably help.
Defunding the police is popular among the mainstream media and far-left Democrats, but the average voter is left cold by the idea, even in Democrat-majority districts. I don’t think Virginia is an outlier either; I suspect that similar polling in other states would yield nearly identical results. Virginia Democrats have gained power in recent years by claiming to be moderates, but with the party veering hard to the Left this year, that fiction is going to be hard to maintain in swing districts across the state.