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Poll: Virginians Divided On Uranium Mining, State Budget

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Virginia is likely up for some contentious fights in the upcoming legislative session, if the results of a recent poll of Virginia voters are any indication. 

Poll finds divide on Virginia budget

The poll, in which Quinnipiac University surveyed about 1,100 registered voters in the state, questioned people on the budget, given that 2012 will likely be another lean budget year. The results show residents are largely divided over how to balance the budget. 

The debate seems to be split along party lines; 65 percent of Virginia Republicans polled said balancing the budget should be accomplished by cuts only, while 51 percent of Virginia Democrats polled said they want a mix of service cuts and tax hikes to tame the deficit. Independent voters polled said they are close to the Democrats' position, with 49 percent of them supporting a mix of service cuts and tax hikes. 

Overall, 53 percent of those polled give McDonnell a thumbs up for his handling of the state budget, however.

Uranium mining also not cut and dry

The poll also dealt with Virginians' views on whether to lift a statewide ban on uranium mining, which is expected to be a major fight in the legislative session beginning next month in Richmond. The ban has been in place for three decades, but a mining company has proposed tapping into large uranium reserves in the southern part of the state.

A report issued last week by the National Academy of Sciences raised a lot of questions about the impacts of mining on Virginia, and predicted that it could take anywhere from five to eight years to write legislation to regulate mining.

Those voters polled are nearly split down the middle on lifting the uranium mining ban, with 43 percent of those surveyed saying it should be lifted for economic reasons and 41 percent responding the ban should remain in place due to environmental concerns.

There appears to be a large gender gap on the issue -- 53 percent of men surveyed want to allow mining, as opposed to 33 percent who don't; while only 34 percent of the women polled said they wanted to lift the mining ban.

The political divide is also strong on the mining issue; 62 percent of Republicans polled supported lifting Virginia's uranium mining ban, while only 24 percent of Republicans said they opposed it. Independent voters polled are split down the middle, and 54 percent of Democrats polled oppose mining while 29 percent support it.

Majority of those polled support college campus gun ban

The polls also checked in with citizens on gun control issues and found that although gun ownership is common in the state, support for gun safety is widespread. About 49 percent of Virginia residents polled said someone in their household owns a gun, but a strong majority of those surveyed, 62 percent, also said they oppose lifting the one-month cooling-off period required for handgun purchases. 

An even larger number, 75 percent, said guns should be banned on college campuses. Women were more likely to support the campus ban: 85 percent of women polled said they want guns banned on college campuses, while 63 percent of men said they support that measure.

The support for the ban even applied to people with gun-carry permits: 65 percent of those gun owners polled said people should still be prohibited from bringing their licensed guns on campuses. 

Approval rating high for state officials

Despite the divisions on specific issues, the survey results showed that Virginia is bucking the national trend of disapproval for local politicians. The state legislature had a 46 percent approval rating and a 36 percent disapproval rating among those polled.

For Governor Bob McDonnell (R), those numbers are 57 percent approval to 21 percent disapproval. Sens. Mark Warner (D) and Jim Webb (D) have approval ratings of 62 and 48 percent, respectively. Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinnelli has an approval rating of 47 percent and a disapproval rating of 27 percent. 

Peter Brown, Quinnipiac's assistant director for polling, says the numbers are not typical in the current national climate. 

"Quinnipiac polls in seven different states and I can tell you that in no other state are all statewide political figures and the state legislature viewed positively," Brown says. 

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