CHARLESTON A recent poll of likely West Virginia voters shows most blame the opioid and illegal drug epidemic as the single largest impact on the state’s economy, according to Charleston-based Orion Strategies.
“In regards to the state’s economy lagging behind the nation’s, West Virginia voters blame the opioid/drug epidemic as the single largest impact at 36 percent,” said Orion Strategies pollster Graham Godwin. “This is followed by 17 percent who cite the state’s reliance on fossil fuel industries, 14 percent blaming the state’s lack of highway infrastructure and 12 percent listing the state’s lack of a college-educated workforce.”
When asked about opioid issues in West Virginia, voters provided some key insights:
>> 53 percent of voters believe the opioid/drug epidemic has gotten worse, and 34 percent believe it has remained the same. Only 5 percent believe it has improved.
>> 49 percent of respondents believe that medically-assisted treatments should be given priority in dealing with opioid and heroin addiction, with 33 percent suggesting abstinence only programs.
>> 41 percent of respondents say that addiction is a moral weakness, and 33 percent believe it is a medical condition, while 19 percent suggested that is both.
>> 67 percent of West Virginia voters know someone who is suffering, or who has suffered from addiction to oxycodone, heroin or other opioids.
>> 73 percent of respondents support providing free long-term birth control to women addicted to opioids.
Likely voters in West Virginia favor medical marijuana, but most remain against recreational use.
“West Virginia voters support the legalization of marijuana, for medicinal use if prescribed by a doctor, at a rate of 67 percent for and 30 percent against,” Godwin said. “That is a six-point increase over a similar poll conducted one year ago.”
When asked if marijuana should be legal for recreational use by adults 21 and over, West Virginia voters remain against it although the support for it has increased from the previous year.
“Historic likely voters in West Virginia have increased their support for recreational marijuana to 34 percent for and 62 percent against,” Godwin said. “One year ago those numbers were 26 percent for and 70 percent against.”
The poll tested a number of issues facing the state’s legislature this session.
“We fielded a statewide live-telephone survey of historic, likely voters centering on the main issues listed by legislators in both parties and the Governor’s State of the State Address,” Godwin said.
Co-tenancy is an issue that has come up before the legislature this year, according to Godwin.
He says respondents were provided a scenario regarding 10 people jointly owning a tract of mineral rights with 7 of the owners wanting to sell for natural gas drilling and the other three who do not.
“When asked if the seven who wish to sell have the right to do so if the other three would be paid their proportionate share of the compensation, 64 percent said yes with only 22 percent saying no,” he said. “When broken down by party, the results were Democrats 66 percent yes and 23 percent no, Independents 54 percent yes and 20 percent no, and Republicans 68 percent yes and 20 percent no.”
In regards to education issues, West Virginia voters were asked if they support a proposal to elect the members of the state Board of Education which are currently appointed by the Governor.
“We found 73 percent of voters support this change currently being considered in the state legislature with 21 percent believe the positions should be appointed,” Godwin said.
Respondents were also asked about their beliefs toward teacher compensation in West Virginia. The poll showed 72 percent of respondents stated that it was too low, with 19 percent reporting it was about right and only 2 percent saying it was too high.
The poll also showed voters in West Virginia believe that the state is heading in the right direction by a 44 percent plurality with 38 percent saying it is not, according to Godwin.
The poll also reported that only 20 percent of respondents said that they had watched Gov. Justice deliver the State of the State Address last week. However, of those who viewed it, 54 percent rated it positively, the poll showed.