Deja Vu

[box type=”info”] We continue our series on the approval ratings of Midwest governors with Iowa’s Terry Branstad.[/box]

Terry Branstad doesn’t really fit the mold of being a “new” governor. Branstad previously served as governor of Iowa from 1982 through 1998, and got the itch to do it again last year. Unlike some of his Midwest counterparts, he prevailed with more than 50 percent of the vote in a crowded field of that included four third-party or write-in candidates. Branstad wasted little time using the perceived political capital he earned in the election to pitch a number of ideas somewhat aligned to other GOP governors’ views including an initiative to remove health-care and retirement benefits from state workers’ collective bargaining perview. Unlike Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, he’s stop short of stepping on labor unions’ highest voltage third-rail issues, but he’s nonetheless done enough to tick them off.

Still, Branstad seemingly owned the economic the high ground and used the same mantra he chanted his first time around as governor: Gotta Change. We’re Broke. But then Iowa–in all its corn-fed goodness–threw Branstad a curve ball. Officials reported that tax receipts would  run 6 percent higher than the previous year. Compared to other states, they’re hanging on by twine, not thread.  As written in an excellent Des Moines Register op-ed:

[box] “As any student of government can tell you, it is much easier to make big changes during tough economic times than when things are going well…All that [past] bad news gave Branstad a powerful hammer to wield in his efforts to cut spending and make state government more efficient. Now, nearly three decades later, he’d like to reprise his role as the governor who made change happen. But it won’t be near as easy this time. The sense of urgency and desperation is not the same.”[/box]

While Iowa isn’t rolling in clover, the arrows in reformers’ quivers have been somewhat dulled when compared to other states in deeper red ink. So how will the hero on the white horse be viewed when the damsel is not so distressed? We asked 1,926 Iowa residents the following straightforward question:

[box] In general, do you approve or disapprove of the job Iowa Governor Terry Branstad is doing?[/box]

And the results are:

Branstad Approve/DisapproveApproveDisapproveUncertain
ALL RESPONSES:43.98%49.43%6.59%

Branstad has kept his popularity high among his own Party members–perhaps a byproduct of his ability to stay away from  flame throwing–although right-wing bloggers aren’t real enthralled with the governor. And he has, for now, lost a chunk of support from Independents–the group that helped him succeed in his comeback. Similar to Wisconsin, a relative small number of people are without an opinion on Gov. Branstad–probably due to his long-time experience in the state’s spotlight.

Unlike governors in Illinois, Ohio and Wisconsin, Branstad’s popularity is relatively healthy.


[box type=”info”] We continue our series on the approval ratings of Midwest governors with Wisconsin’s Scott Walker.[/box]

As everyone who follows politics knows, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker has been making some bold moves. His budget reforms that–among other things–targeted public unions exploded into a combination of street warfare and soap opera as pro-union forces took to the streets and Democratic state senators fled to hide in Illinois. (At the same time, Democratic state senators from Indiana were “vacationing” in the Land of Lincoln to avoid some issues in Hoosier-land. What’s next…Gadhafi in Peoria?)

As we’ve mentioned in a previous post, Wisconsin’s public opinion pendulum is in constant motion, and the state has historically embraced free-thinkers over the long run. Earlier polls showed split decisions on many of the issues involved here, but how did all the hub-bub affect Gov. Walker’s general approval rating? In addition to some basic demographic questions, we asked 1,693 Wisconsin residents the following simple question:

[box] In general, do you approve or disapprove of the job Wisconsin Governor Walker is doing? [/box]

Here’s what they said:

Date of Poll: 3/27/2011
Participants: 1,693 Wisconsin residents
Margin of Error: ±2.38%
ALL RESPONSES:43.71%54.87%1.42%

The most startling numbers are the extraordinarily low percentage of people who are uncertain or have no opinion. But that probably shouldn’t be a huge surprise since Walker’s agenda has galvanized the state and put it into the national spotlight. Headlines on Walker’s actions have dominated the news from Superior to Beloit. Walker–like other Midwest governors we’re polling–should have the advantage of time being on his side, and his numbers aren’t quite as bad as Ohio’s John Kasich or Illinois’ Pat Quinn. But Democrats are eyeballing opportunities to challenge the new GOP domination through Wisconsin’s loosey-goosey recall election laws. (Click HERE for a great article on this from And the low percentage of those with no opinion on Walker indicate an electorate that is refreshingly engaged in the political doings in Wisconsin, although Walker may feel caught in the crossfire.

Clearly, things aren’t going to settle down in America’s Dairyland for a long, long time.


NOTE: This poll was paid for by We Ask America. The information has not been shared with any public official, candidate, cause or campaign.


[box type=”info”] We continue our series on the approval ratings of Midwestern governors with Ohio’s John Kasich.[/box]

No one has ever called Republican Ohio governor John Kasich a shrinking violet. Throughout his career as a state senator, congressman, presidential candidate, investment banker, commentator, guest host on The O’Reilly Factor, and now as governor, Kasich has been willing to suggest bold solutions to problems. Like nearly all governors, Kasich is faced with a mountain of deficits and debt, and solutions to such problems are never easy or popular. Although Kasich is quoted as saying that cuts alone won’t be enough, he has embraced what the Columbus Dispatch terms the “cuts, cuts, more cuts” approach as his starting point.

To start reducing Ohio’s red ink, Kasich’s agenda leave few stones unturned. His plan calls for cuts in 250 of 371 general fund spending line items for an estimated savings of $2.3 billion. He’s also proposed a wide range of other changes such as leasing the state-run liquor distribution system to fund economic development (the more alcohol Ohioans consume, the more jobs they create?), privatizing five state prisons while allowing lower-risk felons back on the street earlier, $800 million+ cuts to local units of government, and even forcing state college professors to teach one additional course every two years.

We saw earlier this week what raising taxes (among other initiatives) seems to have done to Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s approval rating. Like Quinn, Kasich won his election with under 50 percent of the vote from an electorate seemingly ready for change. And to be fair, both Quinn and Kasich articulated their divergent positions on how to fix budget problems throughout their campaigns… albeit without the level of details now known. So Illinois’ strong reaction against Quinn for raising taxes should translate to a positive response in Ohio for Kasich who is concentrating on reductions in spending, right? Wrong.

In addition to demographic information, we asked the good folks of Ohio this question:

[box] In general, do you approve or disapprove of the job Ohio governor Kasich is doing?[/box]

Here are the results:

Type of Poll: Automated
Sample: 1,136 Ohio voting households
Date of Poll: 3/22/201
Margin of Error: ±2.91%
ALL RESPONSES:35.48%57.57%6.95%

Although Kasich still enjoys a decent approve/disapprove ratio among fellow Republicans, his numbers among Independents — the voting block that helped put him over the top in the fall–have tanked. Union unrest stemming from Kasich’s stance on collective bargaining for public employees has added oomph to the growing volume of public discontent as protestors take to the streets in the Buckeye State.

Conducting approval polls at such volatile times in the Midwest indicate the extreme difficulty new governors face. Kasich, like Quinn in Illinois, is confronted with a damned if you do, damned if you don’t short list of options in dealing with Ohio’s huge debt load. But like Quinn, Kasich is a wily politician who understands that time can heal all political wounds. Right?


NOTE: This poll was paid for by We Ask America. The information has not been shared with any public official, candidate, cause or campaign.

Tenacious Gadfly

[box type=”info”] Today we kick off a new series of polls measuring the current approve/disapprove ratings for a slew of Midwest governors. All but two that we’ll poll were newly crowned in the recent mid-term elections. We’ll begin with Illinois’ Pat Quinn (D).[/box]

Illinois Democrat Pat Quinn has been labeled many things throughout his long career. Gadfly. Populist. Reformer. Even goofy. But his detractors need to add another label for Quinn: winner.

Not many political analysts thought Pat Quinn had a great chance last fall. As we wrote last September:

[box] Shortly after John F. Kennedy was elected President, a young student reporter asked him how he became a war hero. Kennedy’s response: “They sank my boat.” Therein lies the plight of Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, who holds the office of governor only because federal authorities sank Blago’s boat. Quinn has been a fixture on the Illinois political scene for decades and is a former State Treasurer. He has sky-high name recognition due to his numerous past positions and populist causes he has championed. And, in fairness, while he was Rod Blagojevich’s running mate twice, he did openly criticize Blago during some of His Hairness’ more scatter-brained moments.[/box]

Quinn’s Republican opponent, Bloomington State Senator Bill Brady, was viewed as the likely winner in the fall due to the Midwest’s shift in political winds, Quinn’s open support for a tax increase, the number of third party candidates (most of whom would allegedly pull from his liberal base) and Quinn’s seemingly weak support among fellow Democrats. Polls showed Brady with leads until a few days before the election. But the third-party candidates faded at the end, Brady failed to gain enough traction in the traditional Republican strongholds surrounding Cook County, and Quinn’s tenacious approach prevailed in the end with a close, but under-50-percent, victory.

Since that close victory, Quinn helped pass a $6 billion state income tax increase, signed into law a death-penalty moratorium and a civil-union law, and suffered through the normal slings and arrows that a presiding governor receives…especially in bad economic times. (For Associated Press’ comprehensive look at Quinn’s agenda published recently, click HERE.) So how will all that affect Gov. Quinn’s approval rating? On March 20, we asked 1,184 registered Illinois voters this question:

[box] In general, do you approve or disapprove of the job Illinois governor Pat Quinn is doing?[/box]

In addition, we added questions to ascertain gender and political party affiliation. Here are the results:

All Responses30.60%60.68%8.72%

As previously mentioned, the hard economic times have to factored into any approval ratings. Still, these results are a bit on the brutal side coming from a Blue State (the poll was geographically balanced and had a 38%/31%/31% ratio of Democrats/Republicans/Independents responding). His lukewarm approval by fellow Democrats is particularly intriguing, but not surprising given the lesser-of-two-evils election results last fall.

While we’re not close to re-election time for Quinn, Illinois Democratic candidates will surely be looking at Gov. Quinn’s popularity as they face new district maps, and these results aren’t going to make them feel real warm and fuzzy about his help next fall.


NOTE: This poll was paid for by We Ask America. The information has not been shared with any public official, candidate, cause or campaign.

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Early test in Iowa

Yeah, we know. It’s too early to be polling in Iowa for Republican presidential caucuses. There are a bevy of potential candidates–too many to conveniently poll using automated technology. Pockets of snow still dot Midwestern corn fields–not exactly the time of year when people are thinking about presidential politics. And we’re all still reeling from the remnants of upheaval from the fall elections.

But the first sign of spring in Iowa isn’t the sighting of Robin Redbreast; it’s the appearance of grizzled political operatives accompanied by young, freshly scrubbed ground troops hunkering down in the heartland to ply their trade. And today’s Washington Post reported that a number of GOP wannabes have sent their minions into Des Moines and other Iowa burgs. Good enough for us…let’s poll!

The nebulous nature of the candidate list forced us to make some tough decisions, especially which candidates to include. So, after much debate we settled on:

  • Haley Barbour
  • Mitch Daniels
  • Newt Gingrich
  • Mike Huckabee
  • Sarah Palin
  • Ron Paul
  • Tim Pawlenty
  • Mitt Romney
  • Donald Trump

We were compelled to include Mr. Trump  in our offering after seeing a news report of the Trump Jet in all its Trump-o-licious grandeur on the tarmac in Des Moines. We offered “other candidate not listed” and “unsure” as options as well after filtering responses through questions to determine the likelihood of participating in a Republican caucus. We then asked this question:

If your caucus were held today, which—if any—of the following possible Republican candidates would you support?

Here are the results: (You can download an easier to read version here: Iowa-March 10 Results)

Type of Poll: Automated
Sample: 885 Likely Iowa GOP Caucus participants
Date of Poll: 3/10/201
Margin of Error: ±3.29%
All Responses2.60%1.81%13.90%20.23%14.12%4.52%3.50%13.33%9.04%6.10%10.85%
By Gender:
By Age Bracket:

The rapidly shifting sands of political fortune will undoubtedly lead to some dramatic swings in the polls, but Mike Huckabee’s lead must be noted as a significant factor at this early date. Also intriguing to us is the relatively strong position Donald Trump has among this seasoned group (although count us in with the skeptics concerning whether or not he pulls the trigger on running). And Haley Barbour is surprisingly strong among the youngest demographic–a group largely responsible for creating a candidate’s mojo through social media, relentless press activity and chutzpah. Barbour’s efforts in Iowa may get very interesting…especially in this unique state where organizational prowess and energy has such a strong effect.

Naturally, the truncated list of candidates and early poll date forces us to not get too excited about the results. But our early polling the Chicago mayoral race showed an early trend that proved accurate. And the political fortunes of many candidates have been won or lost in the Great State of Iowa. We’ll keep you posted.


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Wisconsin Round Two

Last week’s poll on Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s budget reforms set off a firestorm of responses. Clearly, emotions and opinions are volatile surrounding the bold moves made by Walker, and public opinions on the issues run into the extremes. A number of our readers sent great suggestions for follow-up questions. We offer one of those today, and revisit another question from last week.

First of all, we wanted to once again measure public sentiment toward the Wisconsin Senate Democrats’ decision to leave the state rather than allow a quorum to be present for a vote on Gov. Walker’s initiatives. Last week we found that a majority of people were (at that time, at least) opposed to Walker’s reforms, but disagreed with the Senate Democrats disappearing act. That intrigued us, so we wanted to see if Wisconsin resident continued to disapprove of that maneuver after a week later. We revamped the question:

We’d like to know if you APPROVE or DISAPPROVE of Wisconsin Senate Democrats’ decision to leave the state to avoid a vote on Governor Walker’s budget reforms.

To help us understand the segmentation, we also asked everyone their gender, whether they (or member of their household) were union members, and their political party affiliation. Here are their responses:

Type of Poll: Automated
Sample: 3,538 Wisconsin residents
Date of Poll: 2/28/201
Margin of Error: ±1.66%
ALL RESPONSES43.84%52.77%3.39%100.00%
Union household61.02%36.21%2.78%100.00%
Non-union houshold36.65%59.70%3.65%100.00%

We were also curious on the public’s general opinion on whether state workers’ and teachers’ should be required to join a labor union. Here’s how we asked that question:

We’d like to know if you believe that Wisconsin state workers should be REQUIRED to belong to a labor union…or should it be optional?

Again, the same demographics apply…

ALL RESPONSES26.43%68.77%4.80%100%

At first glance, the crosstab showing that responses from union households to this question may appear as an anomaly. However, we’ve seen this type of result before in rank-and-file union households when polling on issues such as “card check” initiatives. And remember, we asked about union options for public employees.

What comes next in Wisconsin is anyone’s guess. There are a number of other questions that we may want to ask as this struggle continues to unfold. Stay tuned.


NOTE: This poll was paid for by We Ask America. The information has not been shared with any public official, candidate, cause or campaign.