NEWPORT NEWS -- Virginians want strict limits on gifts to officeholders, with an independent commission to monitor their financial disclosures, according to a new Virginia survey from the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University.

'With the McDonnell gift scandal as a backdrop, voters of every description and in every region of the state strongly support tougher ethical rules for people in public office,' said Dr. Quentin Kidd, Director of the Wason Center. 'That's across the board -- Republicans, Democrats, Independents, men, women, African-Americans, whites. And they want an independent commission to monitor compliance.'

A solid majority, 60 percent, would also allow sitting Virginia governors to run for reelection, with Republicans favoring the proposal by 53 percent, Democrats by 63 percent and Independents by 65 percent.

The state constitution now prohibits consecutive terms in Virginia's highest office, the only such limit in the country.

A majority of voters, 56 percent, supports expanding Medicaid coverage for 400,000 additional Virginians, but 54 percent would not support the expansion if the federal government doesn't pay its share.

The Wason Center annual survey of issues before the General Assembly was based on interviews with 1,023 registered voters, conducted Jan. 15-22. The margin of error is +/- 3.1%.

Here are some other highlights:

  • Virginians are optimistic about their new governor, Terry McAuliffe, 53 percent, and more believe the state is on the right track, 50 percent, than think the country is on the right track, 30 percent.
  • Virginia voters strongly support early childhood education programs; 70 percent say they lead to better academic outcomes in K-12 and higher education.
  • Majorities believe the state's future workforce would be significantly improved by strengthening vocational training in high school, 64 percent, by increasing apprenticeship programs, 61 percent, and by improving the community college and higher education system, 61 percent.
  • 65 percent of Virginians favor putting political redistricting in the hands of a bipartisan commission, 29 percent, or non-partisan commission, 36 percent, while 26 percent would leave the system as it is.
  • Regardless of party, 9 out of 10 Virginians do not want to be required to declare a political party affiliation when they register to vote. No affiliation is required today.

'Some of these results couldn't be more clear, especially on ethics,' Kidd said. 'Voters will see in the next few weeks whether their delegates and senators are listening.'

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