No post-session bump for Culver in SUSA poll (corrected)

Survey USA released a new batch of approval ratings for governors based on polls taken June 16. Our own Chet Culver was at 42 percent approval and 51 percent disapproval. The previous SUSA poll in Iowa, taken in late April, found similar numbers for Culver: 42 percent approval and 50 percent disapproval. (CORRECTION: I did not realize that SUSA also conducted a poll in late May, which showed somewhat better numbers for Culver: 48 approve, 47 disapprove. Click here to see all of SUSA’s approval numbers for Culver since he became governor.)

Having noticed that Culver’s SUSA numbers bounced up last May and June after being in net negative territory from February through April 2008, I wondered whether a “legislative session effect” might have dragged him down from February through April of this year. Either that was not the case, or the weaker economy this year has prevented the governor from getting a post-session bounce.

Approval ratings in the low 40s are outside the comfort zone for an incumbent, but I wouldn’t hit the panic button yet. SUSA has tended to measure Culver’s support at lower levels than some other pollsters, and most governors have seen their approval ratings slip during the past year, presumably because of the economy and the fiscal problems affecting almost every state.

I couldn’t find any breakdown of Culver’s support among Democrats, Republicans and independents either at this site or on Survey USA’s site. If anyone has those numbers, please post a comment or send me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT I still think a large number of Democrats and independents who may not “approve” of Culver would choose him in a heartbeat over Chris Rants or Bob Vander Plaats, who are most committed to running for governor.

We’ll have a better idea of the governor’s re-election prospects when we see polling of head-to-head matchups with potential Republican challengers. Some of the Republicans considering this race would be stronger than others in terms of personal appeal or fundraising (though Culver will probably be able to outspend even the best GOP fundraisers).

Finally, keep in mind that despite ups and downs in the economy, Iowa hasn’t voted an incumbent governor out of office since 1962.

Share any thoughts about Culver’s chances or the GOP gubernatorial primary in this thread. Who has the potential to overcome Vander Plaats’ head start on campaigning? Can Rants reinvent himself as a likable politician? Who would benefit from a more crowded Republican field? Will the GOP primary be negative enough to do lasting damage to the eventual nominee?

UPDATE: Culver is bringing his campaign train to several stops in western Iowa tomorrow.

  • Culver's summer bump

    These June numbers are odd. Looking at the May numbers, he was about where he had been in 2007 and 2008 coming out of the Legislative session (which has always been a bad time for his numbers). Based on where he was in June ’07 and ’08, however, he should be at around a 50-53% approval rating right now instead of at 42%.

    Some other thoughts:

    51% is his highest “disapprove” rating to date.

    42% is his lowest “approval” rating recorded, tied with April 2009.

    I wouldn’t hit the panic button yet either, but I would be concerned if I were the Culver campaign. Traditionally, Culver has enjoyed a nice “summer bump”. This bump, as measured by comparing April approval ratings to August approval ratings was 7% in 2007 and 10% in 2008. (The “summer bump” most likely comes from Gov. Culver shifting focus from legislative battles to lighter fare like Independence Day celebrations, issuing special proclimations like Zach Johnson day, traveling the state, visiting the State Fair, etc.)

    If Culver loses his “summer bump” by having to deal with budget issues (especially if he has to call the Legislature into special session to do it) he could be in a much weaker position going into the next Legislative session and the election.

    • one possibility

      is that he got a bump from the floods in June 2008, but his numbers had already bounced back up in May of that year.

      Probably this is just a measure of economic stress. Across the board gubernatorial approval ratings are lower than they were a year ago. Even the governors who are still above 50 are lower than where they were a year ago.

      I don’t think the Culver campaign is taking anything for granted–they are ramping up their operation already.

      • 2007

        And he got a 7% bump in 2007, with no flood.

        Of course, it’d be nice to have a second opinion in the form of a Register poll, but no matter what the cause–these numbers are bad news.  

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