CHARLESTON -– A majority of West Virginians support the idea of creating an intermediate appellate court in the state.
In a survey released this week by Mark Blankenship Enterprises, 55 percent of those surveyed said they support the creation of such a court. And 28 percent of those say they "strongly support" the idea. Thirty-six percent said they oppose the creation of an intermediate court system.
A year ago, MBE asked the same question in a survey, and the results were nearly identical – 57 percent supporting the creation of the court, and 36 percent opposing it.
"Tracking this question during the last 12 months shows very little change as a majority of West Virginians still support the creation of an intermediate appellate court system in the state" MBE CEO Mark Blankenship said.
Also in the survey, 44 percent of those asked believe energy companies should not be taxed in the United States on income that already has been taxed in another country.
"West Virginia voters are typically very interested in energy issues given the state's close ties to the energy industry," Blankenship said. "We wanted to explore this issue, which is different from the often discussed Cap and Trade or Clean Coal Technology issues, and see where voters stand.
"Voters obviously disagree with this kind of taxation concept but said disagreement isn't extremely strong indicating voters could still change their mind or strengthen their disagreement."
Looking at state politics, West Virginia voters apparently are divided as to whether there should be a special election for governor.
Almost half – 49 percent – of those surveyed believe West Virginia should have a special election to fill the final two years of Sen. Joe Manchin's gubernatorial term, and 45 percent believe Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin should fill the role until the regularly scheduled election of 2012.
Support for a special election is higher in West Virginia's Second Congressional District (57 percent) compared to the 3rd Congressional District (47 percent) or the 1st Congressional District (43 percent).
Republican support for a special election is higher (60 percent) than among Democrats (44 percent) or Independents (46 percent). Half (50 percent) of Democrat voters surveyed believe Tomblin should hold the post until 2012.
"Across the state there is nearly as much opposition to a special election as there is support," Blankenship said. "But there are very stark divisions along partisan and gender lines with men and GOP voters favoring a special election much stronger than Democrats, Independents and women."
Manchin had a favorable rating with 80 percent of those surveyed, Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito had a 77 percent favorable rating, U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller had a 72 percent favorable rating, and 40 percent had a favorable rating of President Obama.
"Even after a fairly bruising campaign, Sen. Manchin enjoys strong statewide favorability ratings," Blankenship said. "It appears his favorability among Democrats has strengthened, held steady among Independents and softened somewhat among Republicans.
"Congresswoman Capito remains a dominant political figure in West Virginia. Voters across the entire state hold Capito in fairly high regard despite her having never run for a statewide office before. The results of this survey confirm that any conversation about West Virginia politics and government must include two of the state's most dominant figures in Manchin and Capito."
Only one in three (33 percent) of those surveyed said they have read, seen or heard anything about Tomblin. Of those, half have a favorable opinion of the state's new governor and 30 percent say they don't know when asked for their opinion of Tomblin.
"Clearly, in these early stages, Tomblin will have to introduce himself to his first statewide audience of whom nearly seven in 10 say they know very little or nothing about him," Blankenship said. "Those voters will be paying close attention during the next several weeks to form an opinion of their governor and those opinions could go a long way in shaping Tomblin's political future."
Obama has an unfavorable rating from 58 percent of those surveyed, including 88 percent of Republicans, 41 percent of Democrats and 49 percent of Independents.
"The president continues to struggle to improve his image among those in his own party while GOP support is nearly non-existent," Blankenship said. Referencing a January 2009 survey, Blankenship said, "Support for the president has fallen 27 percent in less than two years."
If there were a special election today for governor, Capito is the leading Republican candidate according to the survey. Tomblin and Secretary of State Natalie Tennant lead the field of potential Democratic candidates, according to the survey results.
Behind Capito on the GOP side, newly elected Congressman David McKinney garnered 12 percent of support and former Secretary of State Betty Ireland received 8 percent. State Sen. Clark Barnes received 6 percent, and 25 percent said they were undecided.
On the Democratic side, Tomblin received 24 percent support and Tennant 19 percent. House Speaker Rick Thompson, state Treasurer John Perdue and State Sen. Jeff Kessler had 7 percent each. State Sen. Brooks McCabe had 3 percent, and 32 percent are undecided.
"A plurality of West Virginia Democrats are undecided when asked who the party's next gubernatorial nominee should be which shows just how competitive this primary could be," Blankenship said. "Right now, Acting Governor Tomblin and Secretary of State Tennant lead the field but the race is far from decided."
Blankenship said the 401 interviews were conducted Nov. 10-11 among registered West Virginia voters. There is a margin of error of 4.9 percent.