Young girl explores a creek. Photo by Jennifer MacNeill Traylor

Photo by Jennifer MacNeill-Traylor

Huge Majority of Virginians Back Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Plan

Poll shows 9 of 10 voters support Virginia's Bay restoration efforts,want next governor to continue implementing Bay Blueprint

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More than 90 percent of Virginia voters support the Commonwealth's plan to restore the Chesapeake Bay and want the next governor to move forward on implementing the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, the federal-state plan to restore the Bay, according to new bipartisan polling. View the press release.

The bipartisan research team of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (D) and Public Opinion Strategies (R) recently completed a survey of Virginia voters to evaluate public perceptions about the quality of water in the State, the Virginia economy, and Virginia’s plan to clean up the waters of the Chesapeake Bay.
Following are excerpts of their memo summarizing their results

Download the memo in PDF format

TO:     Interested Parties 
FROM:   David Metz and Rachel Weiler
        Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates
        Lori Weigel
        Public Opinion Strategies
RE:     Virginia Voter Support for the Clean-Up of the Chesapeake Bay 
DATE:   August 9, 2013

From July 21-24, 2013, FM3 and POS completed 601 telephone interviews – on landlines and on cell phones – with voters in Virginia likely to cast ballots in November 2013.  The margin of sampling error at the 95% confidence interval is +/- 4.0%; margins of error for subgroups within the sample will be higher. 

The poll results show that an overwhelming majority of Virginia voters across demographic and regional divides support Virginia's plan to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, and want Virginia's next Governor to continue its implementation. Voters see a healthy Chesapeake Bay and protecting water quality as a top priority for the state. Solid majorities consider Bay-related tourism as an important economic resource for Virginia, and see an important role for state government in protecting water quality. Majorities of voters support a number of specific proposals for cleaning up Chesapeake Bay, and would be more likely to support candidates for state office who will work to continue improving water quality in Virginia.

Among the key specific findings of the survey were the following:

  • Virginia voters describe the Chesapeake Bay and local rivers and streams as a priority for the state, and indicate that while they are improving, they still need help. Fully 86 percent of Virginia voters indicate that the Chesapeake Bay and the rivers and streams that flow into it “should be a priority in Virginia." An essentially equal number (83 percent) agree that they are "improving, but still need help."
  • Virginia voters firmly believe that healthy water quality and a strong economy go hand-in-hand. When offered a choice of positions on the issue (as shown in Figure 1 below), 72 percent of Virginia voters say that the state can protect water quality and have a strong economy without having to choose. Only 23 percent say that protections for water quality and having a strong economy are in conflict.


  • Attitudes Toward Protecting Water Quality and the EconomyThree quarters of Virginians rate tourism, including Bay-related tourism, as "very important" to the state's economy—on a par with many other major industries. When respondents were asked which sectors of the economy they saw as most important to Virginia's economic health, five industriescomputers and high technology, farming and forestry, energy, health care and health sciences, and tourism and recreation, including people visiting the Chesapeake Bayranked at the top of the list, with roughly three in four voters labeling each industry "one of the most important" or "very important" to the state's economy. Other industries, including manufacturing and mining, were ranked as less important.
  • Voters are near-unanimous in their belief that the State government should play a role in ensuring clean water in Virginia. Respondents were asked whether they agreed or disagreed that "ensuring Virginia has clean water is an important role of state government, and the Governor and state leaders need to work together to help meet this basic need of all Virginians." Nearly all Virginia voters (96%) agree with this statementincluding 79 percent who indicate that they "strongly" agree. This finding has not changed substantially since 2010, when a prior statewide survey found that 98 percent of Virginia voters agreed with the statement.
  • Nine out of ten Virginia voters support Virginia's plan to clean up the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. Respondents were given a brief description of the Bay clean-up plan as reproduced in Figure 2 below. 92 percent of voters say they support the plan to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, and nearly two-thirds (64%) do so "strongly" (Figure 2). Only one Virginia voter in 25 says they oppose the clean-up plan. 

Support for Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Plan

Many elements of Virginia's plan to clean up the Chesapeake Bay have been implemented by the state government and General Assembly. When fully implemented, the clean-up plan will restore clean water by 2025, provide healthy habitat for fish and wildlife, and ensure the health of the Bay for future generations.


Support for the Bay clean-up plan is consistent across a remarkable array of subgroups of the state's population, including:

  • 94 percent of Democrats, 89 percent of Republicans, and 93 percent of independents;
  • 88 percent of conservatives, 95 percent of moderates, and 97 percent of liberals;
  • 85 percent of those who support the Tea Party movement and 95 percent of those who do not;
  • 92 percent of voters ages 18-49 and 93 percent of voters over 50; and
  • Over 85 percent of voters in all regions of the state.


  • Virginia voters believe that the clean-up plan will have significant economic benefits for the state. Respondents were asked whether they thought the Bay clean-up plan would create jobs in the state, cost jobs, or not affect jobs. Nearly half of voters (48%) say they think the plan will create jobs, more than three times as many as say it will cost jobs (15%). Twenty six percent say they do not think the plan will affect jobs in Virginia.
  • Water quality issues constitute an important factor in determining how Virginia voters cast their ballots. Seventy seven percent of Virginians say issues involving clean water and the health of Virginia's local bodies of water are "very" or “somewhat" important to them in making a voting decision. 20 percent of Virginia voters say that these issues are a primary factor in deciding how to vote. Only 22 percent of Virginia voters say these issues are "not very" or "not at all" important to them
  • Virginians clearly want the next Governor to continue to move forward on the plan to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. In general, 95 percent of Virginia voters say that they want the next Governor to continue implementing the Bay clean-up plan. Included in that number are three-quarters of Virginia voters who say that the next Governor should "definitely" do so. That sentiment is as bipartisan as it is broad: over 90 percent of Democrats, Republicans, and independents say they think the next Governor should continue moving forward with the current plan.

Even when arguments are presented on each side of the issue, 65 percent of Virginians favor a candidate for statewide office or the State Legislature who supports continuing the Bay clean-up plan, while just one in five (22 percent) back a candidate who would not (Figure 3). This preference for elected officials who prioritize the Bay clean-up plan extends to 79 percent of Democrats, 63 percent of independents, and a 53-percent majority of Republicans.

Types of Candidates for Office Voters are Most Likely to Support
Taken together, these survey results clearly demonstrate that Virginia voters see a clean Chesapeake Bay as a top priority for the state, and want the state's next Governor to continue working to achieve this goal.

~Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates and Public Opinion Strategies

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