Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Senate Approval Roundup

-For the first time since March of 2009, immediately after she took office, PPP finds Kay Hagan's approval numbers in positive territory. 39% of voters like the job she's doing in the Senate to 38% who disapprove. Hagan's numbers had gone as low as a -15 spread in August of 2010 at 35/50.

Hagan's biggest improvement since that time has come with independents. The balance of them still disapprove of her with 31% approving to 46% disapproving. But that's a massive improvement from that August survey when she was at 20/62. She's also seen a softening in feelings toward her among Republicans. Her approval with them remains just 11%, but her disapproval is now only 61%, down from 79% in the summer. Her smallest level of improvement has come with Democrats, who were already supportive of her. She's up to 66/15 with them from 62/19.

Why have Hagan's numbers improved? It's probably a combination of things. Voters have started feeling more positive toward Democrats in Congress since they lost control of the House. Hagan has also shown a willingness to buck the party line in recent months, most prominently when she voted against the Dream Act. Votes like that alienate the Democratic base but they also show independents and moderate Republicans that you're willing to be an independent voice for the state. Stuff like that will help you in the long run as long as you don't antagonize your own party's voters too, too much.

-Hagan may be on the rise but Richard Burr is still the most popular Senator in North Carolina. 40% of voters approve of him to 33% who disapprove. Democrats actually like Hagan a tad bit more than Republicans like Burr. But Burr has twice as much crossover support as his junior colleague, with 23% of Democrats approving of him. And independents narrowly give him good marks by a 40/36 margin as well.

-Roy Blunt's approval numbers are already under water just a couple months into his first term in the Senate. 37% of voters like the job he's doing to 41% who disapprove. This really isn't particularly surprising because Blunt never had good favorability numbers at any point over the course of his campaign the last couple years.

Blunt should probably send Barack Obama a gift basket. Missourians never did and still don't care for Blunt but they sure as heck weren't going to send another vote for the President over to Washington so folks voted for Blunt anyway despite their lack of personal affection for him.

Blunt's under water because Democrats (73%) are more unified in their dislike of him than Republicans (66%) are in their approval. Independents split slightly against him as well by a 35/37 margin. Blunt seems like someone who would be in a lot of trouble in a neutral or Democratic leaning election cycle but his timing was certainly right last year.

-Another of the new Republican Senators is inspiring more ambivalence than anything else. Ron Johnson's on positive ground with 32% of voters approving of him to 28% disapproving but the largest group at 39% expresses no opinion in one direction or the other. The high level of 'not sures' about Johnson seems fitting for probably the most obscure of the new Senators, someone whose name recognition at this point a year ago would have been under 10%.

He's staying above ground because Republicans (64%) like him more than Democrats (53%) dislike him and he's on narrowly positive turf with independents at 28/24. Basically the opposite of Blunt on all of those measures.

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