Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead remains one of the nation’s most popular governors, but has seen his approval rating dip nearly 10 points since the summer, according to a poll released Tuesday.
The poll, conducted by research firm Morning Consult, found that 59 percent of Wyoming voters approved of the job Mead is doing while 23 percent disapproved. That ranks Mead ninth in the nation.
Still, the October rating showed a sharp decline from July when a poll by the same firm found Mead with a 67 percent approval rating and only 15 percent of voters disapproving of his job performance — good enough to rate third-most popular in the United States. The drop in approval and rise in disapproval combines for a net decline of 16 points.
Morning Consult is the only firm conducting recurring approval ratings of Mead and its polls show an interesting pattern. In May of last year, Mead registered a 67 percent approval rating before falling to 52 percent last fall and then recovering to 67 percent once again in July.
“(T)hese things go up and down,” Mead spokesman David Bush said in an email. “Governor Mead works hard for Wyoming and the results of these polls show that the people of Wyoming recognize this.”
University of Wyoming political science professor Jim King said the fluctuations may have to do with the legislative cycle. The spring and summer polls represent surveys conducted shortly after the conclusion of Wyoming’s winter legislative sessions, while the fall polls capture the opinion of voters at a time when the governor is often out of the headlines.
“The governor is much more in the news during the legislative cycle than he is now,” King said. “Given that the legislative sessions in Wyoming of late have not been especially contentious, that’s probably going to be something in his favor.”
Wyoming governors tend to be popular and voters have sometimes appeared to select the state’s chief executive officer on the basis of personality rather than party or partisan policy positions, periodically sending Democrats to Cheyenne by wide margins despite otherwise voting for Republican candidates.
Mead and the Legislature have largely cooperated over the last two years, with the most notable points of contention coming on whether to expand Medicaid in the state — Mead supported doing so, lawmakers did not — and on guns, when Mead vetoed a bill that would have allowed people at government meetings to carry concealed firearms.
Mead has also expressed more willingness than many in the Legislature to consider raising taxes or spending more of the state’s reserve funds to avoid steep budget cuts.
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King said state leaders have managed to avoid blame for the recent poor economic conditions caused by the energy bust.
“Wyoming officials have done a pretty good job of deflecting the criticism,” he said. “It’s the problems with the coal industry and problems in the coal industry are caused from outside. So it’s not like the governor would be taking strong hits on his approval rating because of the decline in the energy industry.”
Barrasso, Enzi fall
The same poll also found Wyoming’s two U.S. senators, John Barrasso and Mike Enzi, with approval ratings of 53 percent. Barrasso had a disapproval rating of 26 percent, one point higher than Enzi.
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Those numbers are significantly lower than in April, when a Morning Consult poll found Barrasso to be the third-most popular Senator in the nation with a 69 percent approval rating and Enzi just behind in fourth place.
The Morning Consult measured approval ratings of governors and U.S. senators across the country. The firm surveyed 255,120 registered voters between July 1 and Sep. 30 and answers were weighted to match national demographics.
The Wyoming results had a margin of error of plus-or-minus 6 percent, the highest of any state and likely owing to its small population.