VIRGINIA — After a majority of Virginians gave a thumbs-up to Gov. Ralph Northam for his handling of the coronavirus in late April, the governor's approval rating slid into the mid-40s by late August. That's according to a recent poll conducted jointly by Northeastern University, Harvard University, Rutgers University, and Northwestern University.
The average approval rating for a Democratic governor among Democrats dropped 8 points since April; and 16 points among Republicans, the poll showed. Approval for Republican governors dropped 12 points among Republicans; and 19 points among Democrats.
Governors who have suffered particularly precipitous drops in the last month include the governors of California (Gavin Newsom), and Florida (Ron DeSantis), along with Northam. Newsom dropped from 58 percent approval to 47 percent, Northam from 59 percent to 46 percent, and DeSantis from an already low 40 percent to 29 percent.
President Donald Trump’s approval in Virginia of his management of the coronavirus pandemic also dropped sharply, from 42 percent in late April and was stuck at 3 percent in late June, July, and August.
The four universities have been tracking approval ratings for governors in all 50 states since late April, about a month after the outbreak began. Northam's numbers initially were high, gradually dropped until rebounding in late July, then dropping sharply by late August.
Here are the percentage of people who have approved or strongly approved of Northam's performance:
Late April: 59 percent.
Early May: 54 percent.
Late May: 54 percent.
Late June: 49 percent.
Late July: 59 percent.
Late August: 46 percent.
That puts Northam just below the average 48 percent percent approval rating a majority of governors received.
As of Wednesday morning, there have been 136,359, total cases statewide, according to data reported by the Virginia Department of Health. In Virginia, there have been 2,884 coronavirus-related deaths to date. There have been a total of 10,389 hospitalized COVID-19 patients.
Neighboring Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan scored the strongest marks in the nation in late July when 76 percent of Marylanders said they approve of the way he is handling the virus, The Hill reported. In Vermont, 75 percent like the way Gov. Phil Scott (R) is handling his state’s outbreak. Seventy-one percent of New Yorkers and Rhode Islanders approve of Govs. (D) and Gina Raimondo (D), respectively. And Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) is seen in a positive light by 70 percent of those in the state.
Governors who raced to reopen their economies, or never truly shut them down in the first place, had hot spots flourish in their states this summer, places where the virus is spreading virtually unchecked. And their pollo numbers reflect the unhappiness voters have over those decisions.
A common factor among the most popular governors is they issued mandates ordering residents to wear masks in public, The Hill said. Twelve of the 15 most popular governors have issued mask mandates and just two of the 16 least popular governors — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) — issued mandates.
President Trump has lost ground in Virginia from his high point of approval of 42 percent in late April, the poll said. Trump's approval rating in the Commonwealth since the start of the outbreak:
Late April: 42 percent.
Early May: 39 percent.
Late May: 35 percent.
Late June: 33 percent.
Late July: 33 percent
Late August: 33 percent.