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Absence Does Not Make the Heart Grow Fonder: Pawlenty Disapproval Rating Reaches All-Time High

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As Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty continues to make national headlines with his budding 2012 presidential ambitions (e.g. launching his Freedom First PAC last week in order to support 2010 GOP candidates), he also continues to draw criticism statewide for his political travel that has taken him out of state in recent months, such as trips to South Dakota, Arkansas, Ohio, and Florida.

While other states may be facing more difficult economic challenges than the Gopher State (Minnesota has the 19th lowest unemployment in the nation, nearly two points below the national average), Pawlenty's periodic absences from a state decidedly not out of the woods of its economic and budget crises may be causing the Governor's popularity to be taking a hit.

That 'hit' is highlighted in the latest SurveyUSA poll of 600 Minnesotans, conducted September 27-28, which finds just 45 percent approving of Pawlenty's job performance, and 52 percent disapproving.

The 52 percent disapproval mark is the highest endured by Pawlenty across more than four-dozen SurveyUSA polls conducted since May 2005, as well as more than 70 polls conducted by any pollster since the Governor took office in January 2003 (tied only with the 52 percent disapproval rating measured by SurveyUSA on the eve of his reelection in October 2006).

On the flip side, Pawlenty' 45 percent approval rating is tied for the second lowest grade the Governor has received in the nearly 4.5 years of monthly SurveyUSA polling. Pawlenty previously sunk to 45 percent in October 2006 and August 2005. His all-time lowest approval rating, across all polling organizations, was 43 percent in July 2005 (SurveyUSA).

Despite these sobering numbers, Pawlenty's standing among his constituents still rates favorably when compared to some of his Upper Midwestern colleagues.

Wisconsin's Democratic Governor Jim Doyle has seen his approval rating languish in the low- to mid-30 percent range for each of the last six SurveyUSA polls dating back to March of this year, resting at 36 percent in September's survey. Doyle is not seeking a third term in 2010.

Meanwhile, Iowa's Democratic Governor Chet Culver, who is running for a second term in 2010, received an approval rating of 41 percent - on the heels of bottoming out at 36 percent in August.

Overall, Pawlenty has the sixth highest approval rating of the 13 governors tracked by SurveyUSA.

SurveyUSA September 2009 Gubernatorial Approval Ratings

State
Governor
Percent
Alabama
Bob Riley
63
Kansas
Mark Parkinson
53
Missouri
Jay Nixon
51
Kentucky
Steve Beshear
49
New Mexico
Bill Richardson
48
Minnesota
Tim Pawlenty
45
Virginia
Tim Kaine
44
Oregon
Ted Kulongoski
41
Iowa
Chet Culver
41
Washington
Christine Gregoire
40
Wisconsin
Jim Doyle
36
New York
David Paterson
27
California
Arnold Schwarzenegger
24
Source: SurveyUSA polls of 600 adults in each state, conducted September 27-28, 2009.

Whether or not Pawlenty's travel is causing some Minnesotans to disapprove of the way he is handling his job as Governor is unclear. A recent Rasmussen poll conducted in mid-September found 50 percent of Minnesotans "very" or "somewhat" concerned about the amount of time Pawlenty is traveling out of state. However, 56 percent of Minnesotans approved of Pawlenty's job performance in that same Rasmussen survey.

And there is one more thing to keep in mind. Although Pawlenty is close to his all-time low approval mark, his job performance rating has been fairly consistent throughout his tenure - with most of his approval ratings coming in between 45 and 55 percent over the past few years (16 of his last 18 ratings by SurveyUSA since February 2008 fall in that range).

As such, whether Minnesotans appear to be supportive of his job performance (e.g. ratings in the 55 percent range) or not supportive (e.g. ratings in the 45 percent range) is really the result of a fluctuation back and forth between a fairly small number of residents (a segment of independents and small slices of Democrats and Republicans).

The truth is most Minnesotans made up their mind long ago as to whether or not they approved or disapproved of the way Pawlenty has governed the state.

However, although that small 5 to 10 percent of the population may not decide (presidential) party primaries, they do decide general election contests. And Pawlenty is now being increasingly put under the national spotlight as his GOP star begins to shine.

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Previous post: Are Klobuchar and Franken Exceeding Expectations? MN Senators Receive All-Time High Job Approval Marks
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3 Comments


  • Pawlenty began as governor with a projected $4.5 billion deficit — the same level it is today.

    Pawlenty has taken to chiding the federal government for deficit spending, saying it should learn from governors who have to enact balanced budgets. One can only hope his phone will be busy when the feds call for advice, for Pawlenty is famous for producing budgets that allow the books to balance in the short run by creating larger deficits in the future.

    In leaving Minnesota with perpetual deficits, maybe Pawlenty is just getting in some practice for what he hopes will be his next gig and doing for the country what he has done for Minnesota.

  • Hey, he's a whole lot better than Jim Doyle, who dug a hole so deep, that now WI has the highest per capita deficit in the whole USA! I'd take a stable deficit ANY day over Jimbo's scorched-earth tactics.

  • The above comment from emilym is one of the best illustrations of false logic that I have seen for some time. I would suggest that it is more partisan than logical.

  • Leave a comment


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