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A majority of Virginia voters support efforts to reduce flooding, a new statewide poll suggests, showing that concerns about flood risk cut across partisan lines.

With Virginia’s gubernatorial election about six months away, more than 77% of voters want the next governor to address flooding, according to the poll released by the advocacy group, the Environmental Defense Action Fund.

Just over 60% of people believe that climate change, heavy rainfall and sea level rise already seriously impact Virginia. A majority of residents inland and on the coast say future flooding threatens Virginia’s economy and coastal communities.

“That really drives home a lot of what this is about. It’s not just an environmental issue. It’s an economic issue and a community issue,” said Emily Steinhilber, director of Virginia coastal resilience for EDF Action.

Steinhilber is a member of WHRO's Board of Directors.

Virginia’s coast is experiencing some of the highest rates of sea level rise on the Atlantic Seaboard. By 2060, experts predict Hampton Roads could see more than 1.5 feet of higher sea levels and the cost of damages from coastal flooding events could increase by $100 million annually.

The EDF Action survey, conducted by the research firm Global Strategy Group, reached 900 Virginians across the political spectrum likely to vote in 2021. The results show that nearly half of coastal voters believe the rising seas will directly impact them in the next 10 years.

Natalie Snider, EDF’s senior director for coastal resilience, said the poll reflects people’s legitimate concerns about more intense flooding caused by climate change.

“Do they stay in their community? How do they recover if the flood?” she asked. “Are they going to move out of Virginia?”

The results suggest that residents want elected leaders to make Virginia more resilient. Nearly 70% of voters think reducing flooding should be a priority for state lawmakers, and 81% want the commonwealth to have a regularly updated, science-based plan that addresses flood risk.

Virginia created a low-interest loan program that will provide cities with tens of millions of dollars to pursue flood mitigation projects. The EDF Action survey shows that 66% of people support using state money to fund the initiative.

The poll also indicates that Virginia officials should do more to spread awareness about efforts to address flooding. For example, 80% of people say they have heard little or nothing about the state’s ongoing development of a master plan to respond to sea level rise and worsening flooding.

“We really need to get out in the community,” Steinhilber said, “to help citizens understand how we can create solutions to these issues.”