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Poll: More Virginia voters want Gov. Northam to stay than quit

The Quinnipiac University poll found that 54 percent of black voters said Northam should remain in office, while 31 percent said he should step down.
 Ralph Northam at a campaign rally in Richmond, Virginia, on Oct. 19, 2017.
Ralph Northam at a campaign rally in Richmond, Virginia, on Oct. 19, 2017.Jim Watson / AFP - Getty Images file

A plurality of Virginia voters — including a large majority of black voters — believe that Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam should not resign in the aftermath of a blackface scandal that has thrown the state government into disarray.

A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday showed that 48 percent of Virginia voters said Northam should not resign over the scandal involving a blackface photo on his medical school yearbook page, while 42 percent said he should.

Among black voters, 56 percent said Northam should remain in office while 31 percent said he should step down. White voters were evenly split on the issue, with 46 percent for each option. A substantially larger number of Virginians said Northam should not be impeached, with 65 percent opposing that option and 26 percent in favor.

Virginians gave Northam a negative approval rating, with 39 percent saying they approved of the way he's handling his job as governor to 44 percent who disapproved. Among black voters, 49 percent said they approved of the job Northam is doing while just 24 percent said they did not.

Earlier this month, it was revealed that Northam's 1984 medical school yearbook page shows a photo of a person in blackface and another wearing Ku Klux Klan robes. He initially apologized for the photo, but a day later said he wasn't in it. However, he admitted to once wearing blackface as part of a Michael Jackson costume for a dance competition the same year the yearbook was published.

He has since said he would not resign, instead looking to "heal" the state.

Soon after, two women alleged that Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax — a Democrat next in line to the governorship — sexually assaulted them more than a decade ago. Fairfax has emphatically denied the allegations and said he will not resign.

Additionally, state Attorney General Mark Herring — also a Democrat and who follows Fairfax in the line of succession — later admitted that he, too, once wore blackface as a 19-year-old. Herring initially called on Northam to resign before making that admission, which included a profuse apology.

The Quinnipiac poll showed an even split — 36 percent for and 36 percent against — on the question of whether Fairfax should resign. A majority, 54 percent to 24 percent, said he should not be impeached. The poll also found that a majority of Virginians said Herring should not resign (54 percent) or be impeached (63 percent).

Meanwhile, a poll released by the University of Virginia's Center for Politics on Wednesday had similar findings. On Northam, just 31 percent of respondents said he should step down, while 43 percent were against that. And just 21 percent of respondents said Northam should be impeached over the scandal.

Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,150 Virginia voters from Feb. 14 to 18 for poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.