According to Morning Consult, most governors have seen improving approval numbers since last year. Approval ratings of incumbent governors have improved slightly in a non-election year, with most governors experiencing a 2-point increase in approval compared to the previous year.
Vermont's Phil Scott (R) is the most popular governor in America with a 76% approval rating, while Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves (R) is the only governor with an approval rating below 50%.
Gubernatorial approval ratings are not necessarily decisive for reelection, as even less popular incumbents have been able to secure reelection in the past.
After voters reelected 27 of the 28 incumbent governors last year, voters’ approval of today’s incumbents is up slightly in a non-election year while some — but certainly not all — of the nine newcomers also receive a relatively warm welcome from voters. These numbers come from the pollsters at Morning Consult, who recently released their latest approval numbers for all 50 governors.
Most Incumbent Governors' Approval Ratings Are On the Upswing
Most governors have seen improving approval numbers since last year. This makes sense since this time last year, voters were in a politically charged atmosphere with gubernatorial elections taking place in 36 states. On average, incumbents have seen about a 2-point bump in their approval numbers when compared to last year. In the chart below, the lighter blue (Democrats) and pink (Republicans) portion of the bars represent the improvement in job approval from 2022 to 2023.
Vermont’s Phil Scott (R) remains the most popular governor in America at 76% approval. Republican Spencer Cox (UT) saw the largest increase in approval since last year with a 10-point rise, while Kristi Noem (SD) and Brian Kemp (GA) both received approval numbers 6 points higher after securing reelection last fall. But not all incumbents received improved marks from voters this year. Republicans Doug Burgum (ND), Brad Little (ID), and Jim Justice (WV) saw significant drops in support, while Democrats John Carney (D), Tim Walz (MN), and Kathy Hochul (NY) saw a slight drop in approval versus last year. Overall, however, these incumbents remain above water with a majority of voters approving of the job they’re doing in office.
Notably, the only non-newcomer below a 50% approval rating is Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves (R), who is seeking reelection this November. The other incumbent up for reelection this fall is Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear (D), who has seen a 5-point increase in his approval rating since last year and sits at a healthy 64% approval. Nonetheless, even an unpopular Governor Reeves will have an easier path to reelection in Republican-dominated Mississippi than Beshear will likely see as a Democrat running in a Kentucky that’s voted more Republican with each recent election. New Governors' Approval: It's A Mix
As for the nine newbies, voters in six states give their new governors high marks — all over 55% approval. However, Nebraskans give Governor Jim Pillen (R) a lukewarm approval of 51% and Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs (D) and Oregon Governor Tina Kotek (D) are already underwater with approval ratings of 47% and 45%, respectively. Oregon voters remain skeptical as Governor Kotek enters the approval rating rankings where her predecessor Governor Kate Brown (D) left off, as the least popular governor in the country.
What Does This Mean for Governors’ Reelection Bids?
As the 2023 gubernatorial matchups in Kentucky and Mississippi illustrate, gubernatorial approval ratings are not decisive when it comes to reelection, but they can certainly reveal important trends in voter movement and the excellent work by Morning Consult to track these approval numbers in every state are worth examining. Last year, Nevada’s Steve Sisolak (D) cracked the top ten least popular governors with an approval rating of 50% and went on to lose his reelection bid. However, even less popular incumbents Tony Evers (D) in Wisconsin and Daniel McKee (D) in Rhode Island, with approvals of 49% and 47% respectively, were able to secure reelection.
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