Poll: Pawlenty scores higher approval rating than Legislatureby Tim Pugmire, Minnesota Public Radio
With a week to go before the start of the 2008 legislative session, a new statewide poll shows a majority of Minnesotans approve of Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty's job performance, but they have mixed feelings about the DFL-controlled Legislature.
St. Paul, Minn. — The poll of 917 Minnesotans found 55 percent approved of Governor Pawlenty's job performance, while 39 percent disapproved.
The results also show the second-term Republican governor has admirers across the political spectrum. Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the Humphrey Institute, said Pawlenty is a popular leader.
"He's doing very well of course among Republicans with 84 percent supporting him. And also among independents," he said. "Even among Democrats, who you might think have a particular axe to grind with the governor, he's getting a 37 percent approval rating with the Democrats. And I think that's generally very goods news for the governor."
The governor's office was also pleased with the poll numbers.
"Minnesotans have had five years to get to know Tim Pawlenty as their governor. And after five years the results are in and the marks are strong," said Pawlenty's spokesman Brian McClung.
He described the overall approval of 55 percent as a solid number in a time of deep partisan divisions. McClung said the support from independents and Democrats is also significant.
"So that shows that the governor, his message reaches across party lines, that his focus on holding the line on taxes, on keeping government accountable, on prioritizing the way government spends is reaching Minnesotans," he said. "And they view his work favorably."
While poll respondents clearly approved of the governor's job performance, they reached a split decision on the DFL-controlled Minnesota Legislature. Forty-six percent approved of its performance compared to 44 percent who disapproved.
Jacobs said chief executives are typically viewed more favorably than legislative bodies.
"With a president or a governor you've got a person," he said. "With a legislature you've got people, a large number of people. It's difficult to identify with the body. There's also a fairly cumbersome, arcane process in the legislature that's hard for many citizens to track. Which is also I think a kind of drag on their support."
Among Democrats, 44 percent said they approve of the Legislature's job performance. Approval dropped to 35 percent among independents, but jumped to 53 percent among of Republicans.
"Well, I think it's positive," said DFL House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher. "It's looking like folks are generally happy with the job we're doing here in the Legislature."
Kelliher, who's preparing for the start of the 2008 session next week, saidhe approval rating for the Legislature is probably higher than it was last summer.
"That tells me that people are responding to the hard work that we're doing and we're going to keep doing it" she said. "That's the thing. It's going to be a fast paced session. There's going to be a lot to do. And it's going to be very much focused on these core and basic issues to Minnesotans."
Democrat and Republican poll respondents agreed on the most important problem facing Minnesota. Thirty-three percent of the total sample ranked the economy and jobs as their top issue. Health care, taxes and education followed in order of importance.
Larry Jacobs said the results are instructive to lawmakers.
"The message coming out of this poll is that Minnesotans of both political parties want the governor and the Legislature to get together and to take effective action to restart this economy, to help create high paying jobs in Minnesota," he said.
The telephone survey was conducted January 20-27. The poll's margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.2 percentage points. But that percentage grows when party subgroups are broken out.
- Morning Edition, 02/05/2008, 7:25 a.m.