Virginians overwhelmingly support expanding a federal health insurance program for the poor, according to a recent poll commissioned by the University of Mary Washington.

Several months after a divided Virginia General Assembly voted to expand Medicaid with work requirements, the survey found that 76 percent of Virginians favor expansion while 18 percent oppose it. In previous statewide UMW-sponsored surveys, support ranged from 59 percent in September 2013 to 70 percent four years later.

“While public support for Medicaid expansion has been strong for years, the latest Mary Washington survey demonstrates that Virginia Republicans were wise to remove this issue from the policy agenda,” said Stephen J. Farnsworth, professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington and director of its Center for Leadership and Media Studies. “When public opinion varies from party preferences, the smart political move is to compromise and change the subject.”

Del. Bob Thomas, R–Stafford County, voted to expand Medicaid, but Del. Mark Cole, R–Spotsylvania County, and Del. Bobby Orrock, R–Caroline County, voted against it. State Republicans had blocked attempts to expand Medicaid for years, but decided to compromise after Democrats picked up 15 General Assembly seats in last year’s election.

Del. Bob Thomas, R–Stafford County, voted to expand Medicaid, but Del. Mark Cole, R–Spotsylvania County, and Del. Bobby Orrock, R–Caroline County, voted against it. State Republicans had blocked attempts to expand Medicaid for years, but decided to compromise after Democrats picked up 15 General Assembly seats in last year’s election.

Among Republicans, 58 percent favored Medicaid expansion, compared to 94 percent of Democrats and 75 percent of independents, according to the UMW-sponsored poll by national research firm SSRS.

Voters 55 and older were less supportive of Medicaid expansion than were younger voters, the poll found. But even among senior citizens and those close to it, support for Medicaid expansion exceeded a two-to-one margin in the survey.

Seventy percent of the poll’s white respondents supported Medicaid expansion, compared to 94 percent of African–Americans and 78 percent of Latinos.

The survey of 801 adults, conducted Sept. 4-9, has a margin of error of 4.6 percentage points.

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402