Survey finds most Virginians opposed to president’s refugee plan
A new survey finds strong opposition in Virginia to President Obama’s plans to allow Syrian refugees to enter the U.S.
Many state residents believe that the influx of refugees could increase the likelihood of a terrorist attack, according to the survey by the University of Mary Washington’s Center for Leadership and Media Studies.
The survey interviews took place before last Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris.
Since the attack, 23 governors, all but one of them Republicans, have said they would attempt to prevent refugees from coming to their states. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, however, has indicated that he still back the president’s plan.
Four Republican members of the House of Delegates plan to introduce a bill in the next legislative session that would impose a moratorium on accepting Syrian refugees.
Opposition to the refugee plan has grown nationally since investigators learned that one of the terrorists involved in the Paris attacks had a Syrian passport.
“There was not much support for President Obama’s Syrian refugee policies before the terrorists struck in Paris last Friday night, and I suspect the limited support found in our survey has evaporated over the weekend,” Stephen Farnsworth, professor of political science at UMW and director of the university’s Center for Leadership and Media Studies, said in a statement.
“Despite months of horrific images in the media of refugees struggling to escape a region filled with violence, President Obama has made little headway, at least in Virginia, in building support for hosting Syrians refugees here,” he said.
Forty percent of survey respondents said they strongly opposed an administration plan to allow up to 70,000 refugees, including 10,000 from Syria, to enter the country during the next two years. An additional 16 percent said they were somewhat opposed.
On the other hand, only 18 percent of respondents said they strongly supported the plan, with another 20 percent somewhat supporting it. The remaining 6 percent were uncertain.
By a margin of 61 percent to 29 percent, respondents also said allowing Syrian refugees into the U.S. would increase the risk of a future terrorist attack. The rest said they were uncertain of the possible impact.
Princeton Survey Research Associates International conducted the telephone survey of 1,006 adult Virginians from Nov. 4 to 9. About 60 percent of the respondents were contacted via cellphone and about 40 percent via landline.
In the days since the terrorist attacks, a number of Republican presidential candidates have criticized plans to allow Syrian refugees into the country, raising concerns that they would not be sufficiently vetted.
On Monday, Obama reiterated his support for admitting 10,000 Syrian refugees to the U.S. “Slamming the door in their faces would be a betrayal of our values,” he said. “Our nations can welcome refugees who are desperately seeking safety and ensure our own security. We can and must do both.”
Virginia Republicans surveyed before the Paris attacks were highly critical of the resettlement idea, with 56 percent strongly opposed and another 16 percent somewhat opposed. Democrats were less critical, with 23 percent strongly opposed and another 19 percent somewhat opposed. Among independents, 41 percent were strongly opposed and another 14 percent were somewhat opposed.
Northern Virginia was the region of the state most willing to allow refugees to enter the U.S., with 49 percent supporting the president’s plan. The western counties of the state were most critical, with only 28 percent supporting the plan.
Latinos were more supportive of the refugee resettlement proposal, with 49 percent support, than were either African-Americans (30 percent) or whites (37 percent).
The survey had a sampling error margin of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.