Prairie Politics

Poll: Brownback most unpopular governor in the nation

A poll conducted by the Morning Consult showed Gov. Sam Brownback as having a 26-percent approval rating.
A poll conducted by the Morning Consult showed Gov. Sam Brownback as having a 26-percent approval rating. Associated Press

Gov. Sam Brownback is the least popular governor in the nation, according to a poll released Friday.

The Morning Consult, a Washington-based politics site, interviewed more than 76,000 voters across all 50 states to come up with popularity rank for each of the nation’s governors. The sample sizes varied based on the population of each state; the site interviewed 684 Kansas voters.

Brownback, who won re-election last year with 49.8 percent of the vote, is at the bottom of the nationwide list with an approval rating of 26 percent. Another 65 percent disapprove of Brownback’s performance as governor, while 9 percent don’t know if they approve.

The governor’s office dismissed the poll.

“Last year, Kansans reelected Sam Brownback to a second term as Governor based on his record of growing the economy, reforming welfare, stabilizing education funding and protecting the Constitution,” said Brownback’s spokeswoman Eileen Hawley in an e-mail.

Brownback made budget cuts and signed a sales tax increase in the past year as the state grappled with budget shortfalls. He enacted more than $120 million in cuts and funding sweeps this month to keep the state above zero for the current fiscal year and is expected to face a budget hole for next year as well.

Critics have blamed income tax cuts Brownback championed during his first term for the budget problems.

Bob Beatty, a professor of political science at Washburn University, said the state’s fiscal problems and the sales tax increase probably contributed to Brownback’s low poll numbers.

“Any governor who really runs and promotes a low-tax program and cuts taxes dramatically, and then raises taxes, they’re going to suffer. I mean that was a body blow,” Beatty said of the recent tax increase.

A map showing the approval ratings of state governors. Lower approval ratings are shown by lighter shades. Courtesy of

In the last year, the state’s budget problems have begun to have an impact at a local level, Beatty said, noting that some school districts have raised local property taxes or cut services to deal with reductions in state funding. “If that kind of stuff’s happening, that’s on the ground and people are noticing. If every single year is a budget crisis … the local areas are going to have to make up those budget cuts somehow.”

Patrick Miller, a political scientist at the University of Kansas, said in an e-mail that governors become more unpopular the longer they’re in office.

“But Brownback’s approval is exceptionally low for a Republican in a generally Republican state,” Miller said. He blamed that on a growing perception that the governor’s tax policies have failed.

Brownback’s poll result is 8 percentage points higher than his approval rating in a survey released by Fort Hays State University last month. The news also coincides with a Kansas Department of Labor report that the state’s unemployment rate has hit a 14-year low at 4.1 percent.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican who was elected last year, tops the Morning Consult’s list with an approval rating of 74 percent based on responses from 1,513 voters.

Hovering slightly above Brownback at the bottom of the list is his friend Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who ended his presidential campaign this week. Jindal had an approval rating of 35 percent based on responses from 931 voters.

Bryan Lowry: 785-296-3006, @BryanLowry3