Bob McDonnell's approval rating hits 61 percent

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A new statewide poll shows strong support in Virginia for tougher regulation of outpatient abortion clinics, and overwhelming approval of the job Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell is doing.

(Photo: Associated Press)

The Quinnipiac University Poll, released Wednesday, comes one day before the State Board of Health is expected to adopt new regulations that hold Virginia abortion clinics to the same standards as hospitals instead of doctors' offices, as policies now require.

Abortion rights advocates say the proposed clinic regulations, which arose from a law the General Assembly enacted and McDonnell enthusiastically signed last winter, amount to an end run around the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion.

But the 1,368 registered Virginia voters Quinnipiac interviewed from Sept. 6-12 didn't see it that way. Fifty-five percent of them said they support holding the clinics to tougher health standards and 22 percent opposed, 20 percent did not know and 3 percent refused to answer. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.

Support was strong even though 50 percent in the survey said abortion should be legal compared with 41 percent who said it should be outlawed. But the same 50 percent told Quinnipiac the proposed regulations are necessary to protect the health of women who have abortions.

Most of the state's 21 clinics say they will have to close because of costs for retrofitting facilities to meet new structural mandates such as operating room sizes.

"Opponents apparently have been unable to convince the electorate that this is an unwarranted backdoor way to stop abortions," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

The more stringent regulations found support across every political, demographic and geographic grouping. Even among respondents who identified themselves as Democrats, a plurality — 47 percent — approved while 34 percent disapproved.

However, only one-fourth of those surveyed had read or heard of the new regulations. Pollsters included a lengthy explanation as part of a 91-word question. Among respondents who already knew about the issue, 51 percent supported the change and 41 percent did not.

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