Are lawmakers following the will of the people?

By Laura Geller - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) –  Are state lawmakers following the will of the people?  Are they passing legislation you want?  According to one newly released poll, the answer is "no."

The Christopher Newport University study questioned about 1,100 people.  It asked mostly about state politics covering democrats, republicans and independents.  The poll questioned people from Northern Virginia to the southwest portions of the Commonwealth and included almost every age group.  It seems like a telling sample.

By solely looking at the numbers, on issues like guns, political terms and certain taxes, it would seem lawmakers are out of touch with what the public wants.  But Virginia Commonwealth University political science professor Jen Thompson explained, that's not the whole picture.

"While you have a really good representation of Virginia in this poll, you don't necessarily have a good representation of who is going to turn out in the polls in November and what their views are on these same issues," she said.

And even if their views are the same, voters may be electing representatives based on their viewpoints on other issues they see as more important.

Take a topic like gun control: The survey claims 85 percent of people want the so-called "gun show loophole" closed.  Legislators have turned down that proposal in three straight sessions.

Then there's the prospect of allowing a governor to run for reelection, seven out of ten people said that's a good idea. Lawmakers have consistently resisted the change.

"If you ask Virginians whether guns or whether having two terms for a governor is their very top issue, it probably wouldn't be," said Thompson.  "I mean you're going to see things like the economy, healthcare reform."

Thompson believes party politics, lobbyists and the fact that it's an election year will also play a role in determining what issues make it to the house and senate floors for a vote and what actually gets passed.

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