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Survey finds majority of Virginians support repealing death penalty, legalizing marijuana

How do Virginians feel about key legislative discussions?

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — New research finds that Virginians may be leaning in favor of several progressive-minded changes for the state.

According to a new poll from The Wason Center at Christopher Newport University, a majority of Virginians surveyed support the legalization of recreational marijuana, and repealing the death penalty. 

Of more than 1,000 residents of different racial, educational, and demographic backgrounds, the data looks at 897 of those who are registered voters. 

The report found 68-percent of those surveyed supported legalized marijuana usage at a recreational level, and 56-percent of people supported the repeal of the death penalty. 

Legalizing marijuana

It's become one of the biggest issues state lawmakers are tackling in 2021. Gov. Ralph Northam has publicly supported the legalization of marijuana after the state legislature decriminalized it in 2020.

Democrats surveyed show higher than 80-percent support for the effort, while Republicans are virtually split at a 51-percent rate.

Younger Virginians and Black voters support the measure by a nearly identical rate to Democrats.

“Reflects some of Virginia, but really nationally. The conversation around it has really transformed over the last 10 years," said Dr. Rebecca Bromley-Trujillo, who is Research Director at The Wason Center.

Repealing the death penalty

The official question posed was: "Would you support or oppose a proposal to repeal the death penalty in the state of Virginia and replace it with a life sentence without parole?"

Of the 56-percent majority support, partisan lines are even more noticeable on this issue.

Sixty-four percent of Republicans oppose the repeal, while Democrats supported it at a 74-percent rate.

RELATED: Virginia Senate advances death penalty abolition bill for final vote

This disparity means that Republican voters who are in favor of marijuana legalization may also be against a capital punishment repeal.

Fifty-five percent of people surveyed are also in favor of eliminating mandatory minimum sentences.

“Certainly, the state is moving towards the liberal side of things," Dr. Bromley-Trujillo said. 

This week, The Wason Center is publishing more data on how Virginians feel about the vaccine rollout in the state.