Blackface Northam Gets Black Eye In New Poll, But A Lot Of Democrats Still Back Him
Virginia Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam is fighting for his political life. His 1984 yearbook from his days at Eastern Virginia Medical School showed two people in racist attire. One was donning a Ku Klux Klan outfit while the other was in blackface. On Friday, the photo was revealed and verified. It prompted Northam’s office to release a statement, where the governor admitted to being in the photo. He did not specify which person he was in the picture.
On Saturday, Northam retracted his apology, said that wasn’t him in the photo on his yearbook page, but admitted that he did engage in blackface for a dance contest in San Antonio; he dressed as Michael Jackson. Since the photo’s revelation, he’s faced numerous calls from Democratic super PACS, liberal activists, and top Democrats to resign. Northam, for now, is adamant to serve his full term.
So, how has this impacted his standing with Virginia voters? Not good. Northam’s blackface antics have led to a 41-point drop in support, yet a staggering number of Democrats still approve of him, according to a new poll from the Morning Consult:
Voters in Virginia have soured on Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Va.) in the immediate aftermath of the blackface scandal that has many leaders, including top Democrats, calling for him to resign.
Morning Consult tracking found a 41-percentage-point drop in Northam’s net approval rating — the share of voters who approve of his job performance minus the share of those who don’t — in the two days after a page surfaced from the governor’s 1984 medical school yearbook showing a picture of one person in blackface and another dressed as a member of the Ku Klux Klan.
Among Virginia Democrats – who nominated the then-lieutenant governor in a competitive 2017 primary over former Rep. Tom Perriello by 12 points, 56 percent to 44 percent – Northam saw his net approval drop 38 points. Fifty percent approved in the latest survey, down 20 points from January, and his disapproval rose 18 points to 25 percent.
The governor suffered a steeper, 47-point drop in net approval among independents, with just 20 percent approving and 49 percent disapproving in the latest survey.
That’s quite the black eye, especially with independent voters, but the 50 percent approval among Democrats, even after this train wreck story dropped, is only further evidence of the deep partisan divide. I’m not necessarily against partisanship, but for a candidate and a party that prided itself as anti-racist warriors, this blackface, KKK yearbook photo is just ironic in the extreme. Hey, these are the Left’s rules.
Seems like some folks are overestimating how much Democrats care about Ralph Northam. He's not a particularly important or beloved figure in the party and there's no real electoral downside to him resigning. So there's likely to be a near-consensus that he should quit.— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) February 2, 2019
Now, one thing to keep in mind is that the sample size is a little small. Barely 300 voters were in the sample, and to get the best results statewide, you’ll need around 600 people. Still, there is no doubt a lot of voters, including Democrats, want Northam gone. At the same time, even though the bigwigs of the party, including former Vice President Joe Biden, want Northam gone, I’m thinking the 50 percent approval number is going to reinforce his decision to stay. The 2019 legislative elections are this November, and it could drag down the party down ticket for the Democrats, but Election Day is also very, very far away.