Parsing the Polls: Rating Every Governor and Senator
While The Fix has long been on record as leery of automated dialing polls, we admit to being intrigued by a project undertaken by Survey USA to test job-approval ratings on a monthly basis for every senator and governor in the country.
The chance to compare apples to apples for 150 statewide elected officials is too hard to pass up, as it makes for any number of avenues of debate. For this week's "Parsing the Polls," The Fix has picked a few categories of comparison and added several other points of interest. But please make sure to check out Survey USA's governors and senators polling on your own and offer your thoughts in the comments section below.
Governors are losing the popularity contest to senators, according to Survey USA's findings -- despite a series of national polls showing that voters are disgruntled with Congress. Just five senators carried net negative approval ratings, compared to a whopping 15 governors who had a net negative score.
The weighted average (meaning each state's population is factored into the equation) of senators was 52 approve/36 disapprove. For governors, it was 47 approve/47 disapprove. When each state is counted equally, senators have a 56 percent approve/34 percent disapprove, compared to a 53 percent approve/40 disapprove for governors.
What does this mean?
First, it shows that a handful of governors in some of the largest states in the country are struggling mightily in the eyes of voters. The leader of that undistinguished pack is Ohio Gov. Bob Taft (R), whose political career has been damaged by the so-called "Coingate" scandal. Taft had an abysmal 14 percent approval rating and a whopping 82 percent disapproval rating -- a net 68 percent negative score that was far and away the highest of any of the 150 elected officials tested by Survey USA. Taft is not seeking reelection, but his problems are a major -- and unwanted -- factor in the campaign underway to replace him.
Not to be outdone, Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski (R), who has not decided yet whether he will seek a second term in November, had a 26 percent approval score and a 69 percent disapproval (-43 net). If Murkowski's internal poll numbers look anything like these public numbers, expect a retirement rather than a reelection announcement. (Of note: Murkowski's daughter, Lisa, who replaced him in the U.S. Senate, had a 49 percent approve/45 percent disapprove rating.)
Democratic Govs. Rod Blagojevich (Ill.) and Jennifer Granholm (Mich.), whose states rank 5th and 8th, respectively, in total population, are also struggling, according to the Survey USA approval ratings. Blagojevich, who has had to deal with allegations of corruption within his administration, had a 13-point net negative score; Granholm -- thanks in large part to the dismal state of the Michigan economy -- had the same negative rating.
On the Senate side of the ledger, Democrats should be heartened by the Survey USA results; three of the six Republican incumbents they must defeat to win back the majority currently carry net negative ratings. Montana Sen. Conrad Burns is the lowest rated of the bunch -- 42 approve, 52 disapprove -- a showing likely due to the battering he has taken from state and national Democrats as well as the media over his connections to former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Burns cemented his reputation as a loose cannon when he said President Bush's head was "solid granite" in an off-the-cuff remark earlier this week.
Aside from Burns, both Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (R) and Ohio Sen. Mike DeWine (R) had disapproval ratings that were higher than their approval scores. Santorum is seen as Democrats' no. 1 target this year (he currently trails Democrat Bob Casey Jr. (D) by double digits in most public polling). DeWine's numbers appear to be the result of the tough political environment in Ohio for Republicans.
Of the other three GOP incumbents being targeted for defeat by Democrats this fall, Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl was rated the best at 47 percent approve/ 37 percent disapprove; Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee was at 49/40, and Missouri Sen. Jim Talent was at 48/41.
The most popular governor in the country is Connecticut's Jodi Rell (R). Rell came into the post when Gov. John Rowland (R) resigned in 2004 amid revelations that he had accepted illegal gifts from campaign contributors. Rell's meteoric poll numbers seem largely attributable to the fact that she isn't Rowland.
The most popular senator of each party comes as little surprise. Arizona Sen. John McCain (R) and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama (D) each have a 48 percent net positive score -- sky-high ratings that made their recent clash over lobbying reform all the more titillating for political observers.
The most popular Senate tandem from a single state? Republican Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, who carry a combined 93 percent net positive rating. Collins's approval/disapproval is 71/24, a near mirror image of Snowe's 71/25. New Jersey had the least popular twosome in Sens. Frank Lautenberg (37/37) and Bob Menendez (36/36).
The Survey USA data also offers a look at how the potential 2008 presidential candidates are viewed in their home states:
* New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson -- 64/32 (+32)
* Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh -- 61/31 (+30)
* Delaware Sen. Joe Biden -- 60/34 (+26)
* New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton -- 61/38 (+23)
* Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold -- 54/38 (+16)
* Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry -- 55/41 (+13)
* Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack -- 52/40 (+12)
* Arizona Sen. John McCain -- 72/24 (+48)
* Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel -- 59/33 (+26)
* Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee -- 60/36 (+24)
* Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback -- 54/35 (+19)
* Virginia Sen. George Allen -- 51/33 (+18)
* Tennessee Sen. Bill Frist -- 53/38 (+15)
* New York Gov. George Pataki -- 45/49 (-4)
* Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney -- 45/49 (-4)
To read more about the controversy surrounding auto-dialed, or interactive voice response (IVR) polls -- the approach used by Survey USA -- check out Fix friend Mark Blumenthal's Mystery Pollster blog, or read an article I wrote for Roll Call on Survey USA, which is linked for free at FreeRepublic.com.)
March 1, 2006; 8:58 AM ET
Categories: Governors , Parsing the Polls , Senate
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