Gov. Sam Brownback has retained the ignoble distinction of being the least popular governor in the nation, according a new poll from a Washington-based politics site.
Only 26 percent of respondents approve of Brownback’s job performance. Far more – 65 percent – disapprove of his performance, according to the poll released Thursday by the Morning Consult.
For perspective, Michigan Gov. Rick Synder, a Republican who has faced widespread criticism for his handling of the Flint water crisis, had an approval rating of 32 percent and a disapproval rating of 63 percent.
The poll surveyed 66,000 voters nationwide between January and May, including 650 Kansans. The Kansas poll has a margin of error of 3.8 percent.
Brownback’s spokeswoman, Eileen Hawley, dismissed the poll in an e-mail Thursday afternoon.
“For nearly 20 years and five statewide elections, the media have been proven wrong on this issue,” Hawley said. “Despite the continuing media drumbeat, Kansans continue to support Governor Brownback’s conservative policies, including work requirements for people on welfare, the right to life of the unborn, the right of law-abiding citizens to bear arms, lower taxes and less government.”
Bob Beatty, a political scientist at Washburn University, said the governor’s handling of the state’s budget problems is to blame for his poll performance.
The state has faced multiple budget shortfalls since Brownback’s re-election in 2014, prompting multiple rounds of budget cuts and a sales tax increase last year. More cuts are on the horizon.
What is could be especially significant is the way Brownback has talked about the budget shortfalls, Beatty said. Many economists have pointed to income tax cuts, championed by the governor, as one of the main causes of the shortfalls. Brownback has rejected that.
“The non-stop response was, ‘Well, it’s not our fault. It’s not the tax cuts. It’s nothing we’ve done,’ ” Beatty said.
“Right now the mood of the people seems to be: Just be honest with us. … But what does not come out of the governor’s office – and to some extent the Legislature – is that there’s any responsibility whatsoever for the budget problems,” Beatty said.
Beatty noted that Brownback mentioned President Obama 17 times during his most recent State of the State address. He said the attempts to shift blame to the federal government were hurting the governor’s credibility with voters.
Brownback could be a drag on Republican candidates in November, when every seat in the Legislature is up for election, Beatty said.
Brownback disputed that governors have a coattail effect on elections when talking to reporters Wednesday.
“You can’t find it much anywhere in the data where they have coattails either way,” he said.
Brownback said Wednesday that anger with Obama is helping fuel Donald Trump’s success in the presidential race, adding that GOP voters were taking their anger out on anybody who had been in public office during Obama’s tenure.
The governor’s poll numbers haven’t moved since November when the Morning Consult released a similar poll.
Eight of the 10 most popular governors in the nation are Republicans, the poll said. The most popular is Massachusetts Republican Charlie Baker with an approval rating of 72 percent, followed by Maryland Republican Larry Hogan at 71 percent.