Virginians feel OK about their finances, gloomier about the economy

Most Virginians — 62% — say they feel good about their personal financial situations but fewer than half feel that way about the national, state or local economy, a new Hampton University-Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found.

Some two-thirds of Virginia voters say they’ve been spending less since the pandemic hit — but they also don’t seem to be saving more or paying down debts any faster than usual, the poll found. The poll found 55% aren’t saving more and 67% aren’t paying down debt any faster.

Roughly three-quarters say small businesses have not had enough help from the government, and 70% say individuals are also not getting enough financial assistance. But 55% say large corporations got too much help. And a majority think the economy will remain slow or even worsen over the next year.

“Virginia voters are not optimistic about either the local or national economy,” said Kelly Harvey-Viney, director of Hampton University’s Center for Public Policy.

“However, most of the registered voters surveyed continue to support the current economic restrictions to prevent furthering the spread of COVID-19,” she added.

Two-thirds say restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 should remain a priority, even if the economy suffers. Most have questions about vaccination, though: 19% said they will not get a vaccine and 38% said they are not sure.

“Concerns about side effects and the vaccine development process are driving the skepticism,” said Trevor Tompson, director of The AP-NORC Center.

The survey also asked about voters’ views on race, and found that 61% consider racism in the United States an extremely or very serious problem. Most said that race relations are more strained now than in recent years, while younger voters are more likely than older ones to see racism as a problem locally or in the state.

“The contrast of the perception of racism among the young and older voters here in Virginia illustrates the divisiveness gripping the nation and the Commonwealth of Virginia regarding racism and race relations and how it continues to be problematic,” said Harvey-Viney.

The statewide survey of 887 registered voters was conducted from Oct. 6 to Oct 12. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.6 percentage points. The survey did not ask who voters would support.

Among other findings:

*While 66% think their city or county is headed in the right direction and 56% say the same about the state, only 28% say the same about the nation.

*More than four times as many Virginians plan on voting before Election day than had done so in the past: 59% now versus the usual 13%.

*52% of Virginia voters in Virginia view former Vice President Joe Biden favorably, while 39% feel the same about President Trump.

*42% think a Biden administration would do well coping with the pandemic compared to 27% who say that about the Trump administration.

*43% think Biden would do better handling race relations, while 24% say Trump would.

*38% say Trump

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