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Poll: Justice gets high marks for COVID response

CHARLESTON – Republican voters in West Virginia overwhelmingly approve of Gov. Jim Justice’s handling of the nearly yearlong pandemic, but are split on the governor’s tax reform proposals.

Jackson County radio station WMOV 1360 AM and Oregon-based Triton Polling and Research released the results of a poll on Wednesday of 508 registered Republicans taken between Justice’s State of the State address Feb. 10 and Feb. 12.

When asked to rate their impression of Justice’s efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic on a scale of 1 for very unfavorable and 5 for very favorable, 46.1 percent of respondents gave Justice a very favorable rating, followed by 22.5 percent and 16 percent in the middle. A combined 12.5 percent of respondents had an unfavorable opinion, while 2.9 percent were unsure.

West Virginia has received national praise over the last several weeks for the state’s COVID-19 vaccination effort. According to the Department of Health and Human Resources, 154,798 residents, more than 8 percent of the state’s population, have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with either both doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines since Dec. 14.

Since then, active COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths have decreased.

When asked whether Justice’s ability to lead during the pandemic should be rolled back, 44.4 percent of respondents opposed any rollbacks, 16 percent somewhat opposed, while 18.2 percent supported rollbacks, 10.5 percent somewhat supported rollbacks and 11 percent were unsure.

The House of Delegates passed two bills Friday requiring a governor to seek approval to extend a future state of emergency after 60 days and the other requiring legislative approval of a governor when spending more than $150 million of federal relief dollars during a state of emergency. An amendment offered Thursday to require legislative approval of the pandemic state of emergency 60 days from the bill’s passage failed.

When asked whether respondents would support eliminating the personal income tax if it means raising the consumer sales and use tax, 52.9 percent of respondents said they would support that, while 37.6 percent said they opposed that and 9.5 percent were unsure.

But when asked if they would support raising the sales tax on food, 62.8 percent of respondents opposed that, while 33.6 percent supported that and 3.6 percent were unsure.

Justice proposed a phase out of the personal income tax during his State of the State address last week.

Under the plan, low-income earners would see their tax rates cut in half, while high-income earners would see their tax rates cut by one-third.

As part of that plan, Justice proposed raising the consumer sales tax by 1.5 percent, increasing taxes on tobacco products and soda, creating a tiered severance tax for coal and natural gas and removing tax exemptions for professional services. Justice’s tax plans have yet to be introduced in the Legislature.

The automated telephone poll, also known as interactive voice response, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percent and a 95-percent confidence level.

The poll results were weighted based on age and gender.

Republicans are now the majority of registered voters in West Virginia as of Feb. 11.

According to the West Virginia Secretary of State, there are 448,924 registered Republicans, making up 37.81 percent of all registered voters in West Virginia as of Feb. 11.

There are now 444,609 registered Democrats, making up 36.46 percent of voters.

Justice, who won election as governor in 2016 as the Democratic nominee, won re-election last year as a Republican, winning both the Republican Party nomination in June and the general election in November by landslides.

(Adams can be contacted at sadams@newsandsentinel.com)

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