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Pawlenty Approval Rating Stable Through Good Times and Bad

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Even though Minnesota is experiencing unprecedented month-to-month increases in unemployment and a $5 billion budget deficit, Governor Tim Pawlenty's political stock has not (yet) been devalued in the Gopher State.

A Smart Politics analysis of more than 5-dozen public opinion polls conducted throughout his one and a half terms in office reveals Pawlenty's job approval ratings have been remarkably stable throughout his tenure. In short, the economic and budget crises have not yet taken a toll on the Republican Party's rising superstar.

A late January SurveyUSA poll found 53 percent of Minnesotans approved of the way he was handling his job as Governor - including more than one third of self-identified Democrats (35 percent), three out of five independents, and four out of five Republicans.

Pawlenty's approval rating average for the 12 public polls released during 2008 landed him a 54 percent yearly approval rating. The Governor's approval rating in 11 of those surveys was remarkably stable - ranging between 51 and 56 percent - with a high water mark of 58 percent in November after the election.

By contrast, Senator Norm Coleman's approval rating fluctuated much more during the past year - ranging 14 points from a low of 38 percent to a high of 52 percent during his reelection bid. Meanwhile, the Governor's Democratic counterparts in Wisconsin (Jim Doyle) and Iowa (Chet Culver) had approval ratings ranges of 13 points and 16 points respectively during 2008. In fact, Governor Culver experienced his trough in support at 43 percent in April 2008 just three months after peaking at a high of 59 percent in January (with both polls conducted by the same organization, SurveyUSA).

Pawlenty, however, remains a model of consistency - never rising too high (only reaching 60 percent one time, in February 2003, the month after he assumed office) and never dipping too low (only falling below the 50 percent mark in 8 of 66 surveys).

Back in 2007, an average of 13 polls gave the Governor a yearly approval rating of 56 percent. Pawlenty did not dip below the 51 percent mark in any of those surveys, nor in any of the 26 polls conducted from 2007 through 2009.

In 2006, when Pawlenty won his second term in a fierce battle with DFLer Mike Hatch, Pawlenty still averaged a 52 percent approval mark from more than two-dozen polls conducted that year. Unlike Coleman, Pawlenty remained above the fray in his reelection battle, and his approval ratings only dipped below 50 percent five times out of the 25 polls conducted during the '06 campaign (and, unlike Coleman, never below 40 percent).

In fact, Pawlenty's job performance ratings during his reelection year were virtually unchanged from 2005, when he also averaged a 52 percent approval mark from 11 surveys released that year.

And, with the exception of his honeymoon period of 2003-2004 when 16 percent of Minnesotans still had no opinion about the governor's performance, Pawlenty's yearly disapproval numbers have also been nearly identical: 42 percent in 2005, 44 percent in 2006, 40 percent in 2007, 42 percent in 2008, and 41 percent in the inaugural poll of 2009.

Taken together, these numbers spell big trouble for the DFL, should Pawlenty decide to seek a third term in 2010: through good times and bad Republicans continue to love him, independents still like him, and enough Democrats don't hate him to almost insure he will be a strong favorite to win again.

For those who think Pawlenty will lose favor with the public in any budget battles he wages against the DFL this session, think again: any Pawlenty vetoes against, for example, potential tax increases passed by the DFL will likely be seen as an act of strong leadership, and the actions of an executive holding to his core principals. Minnesotans respect that. In fact, Pawlenty has scored very high on past polling in this regard: in 2006, a Humphrey Institute poll found less than 25 percent of Minnesotans gave the Governor negative marks on the measure of "providing strong leadership."

The true test for Pawlenty will be whether he can hover around the 50 percent approval rating mark as statewide unemployment rates rise above 7 and flirt with 8 percent into 2009. If the Governor can survive that hit, he will likely survive whoever the DFL chooses to run against him in 2010 (should he wish to do so).

Tim Pawlenty Yearly Job Approval Averages, 2003-2009

Year
Approve
Disapprove
# Polls
2009
53%
41%
1
2008
54%
42%
12
2007
56%
40%
13
2006
52%
44%
25
2005
52%
42%
11
2003-2004
54%
30%
4



Previous post: No Excuses? Minnesota's Unemployment Rate Less Tied to National Economy Than That of Wisconsin and Iowa
Next post: Coleman Says 'God Wants Me to Serve'

2 Comments


  • As a candidate for Minnesoa governor I'm looking forward to facing off with Tim Pawlenty in the September 2010 primary.

  • Pawlenty keeps vetoing tax increases for the rich, keeps cutting social safety net programs for the poor and middle class yet one-third of all Democrats like this guy? Who are these idiots?! Unbelievable!!

  • Leave a comment


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