BOSTON -- Charlie Baker's successful first 100 days have resulted in "astonishing" approval ratings, and he's considered the most popular governor in the country.
After 100 days, Baker’s popularity historically high
By Joshua Miller
Political pundits have a message for Governor Charlie Baker: You’ve accomplished something remarkable. Now, enjoy it while it lasts.
After just over 100 days in office, he may well be the most popular governor in the United States with stratospheric 74 percent favorable and 70 percent job approval ratings, according to a recent Suffolk University poll.
It is an extraordinary achievement for a Republican in a state that traditionally votes Democratic; for a man who more often speaks in bureaucratese than lofty, inspiring rhetoric; and for a tenure that has, so far, been overshadowed by a near-apocalyptic snowfall that seems to have soured residents on much else in Massachusetts.
Tom Jensen, director of Public Policy Polling, a firm that polls widely across the country and often works for Democratic or liberal groups, said he can’t think of any governors in the United States who have Baker’s kind of job approval numbers now and can only recall a handful that have ever reached those heights.
“Even for someone in their honeymoon period, that’s a pretty astonishing approval rating,” he said.
In polling he has conducted, Jensen said only governors of small, more politically homogenous states such as Nebraska, Wyoming, and Arkansas, have garnered 70 percent job approval ratings.
In a place such as Massachusetts, he said, the only way to get those numbers is to have a “substantial number of Democrats and independents like you. And that is so rare these days. I can’t think of any governor who has been able to get such high approval with the opposite party.”
At this point in his tenure, Governor Deval Patrick wasn’t flying nearly as high as his successor is currently. A 7NEWS/Suffolk University poll of registered voters released in April 2007 found just over half saw him favorably and only 42 percent approved of the job he was doing as governor.
So what’s behind Baker’s tip-top numbers?
Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, who has worked for Bill Clinton and other top Democrats, said, as far as she has seen, Baker’s numbers definitely make him one of the most popular governors “by far.”
Lake said Baker has benefitted from three things: being “very nonpartisan,” being “very likable and very positive,” and from not having any big controversies.
And she thinks these high numbers could last for a while: “He’s just so much less partisan than some of these other Republican governors have been.”
There is a precedent for a GOP governor staying in the good graces of the Commonwealth: William F. Weld won a landslide re-election victory in 1994.
David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center and the pollster who conducted the new survey, said Baker has been helped by having no major screw-ups, “voters seeing him in control” as he managed the storms, and being in the news media a lot.
He added Baker was also boosted by tackling a massive state budget shortfall and dealing with the beleaguered Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
The Suffolk survey of 500 registered Massachusetts voters found 74 percent had a generally favorable opinion of him while only 8 percent had a generally unfavorable opinion. And 70 percent approved of the job he is doing as governor, while only 6 percent disapproved.
The nonpartisan poll surveyed the voters via landline and cell phone from April 16-21 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.
Brad Todd, a national Republican consultant, said the poll numbers prove the state “was hungry for a significant shift after Deval Patrick.”
But he said a lingering question is whether Baker decides to maintain popularity as a goal or use that popularity for pressing policy objectives.
“Many times, reform is difficult and has some negative consequences in the short term,” Todd said. “And during that short-term, the governor often gets blamed.”
But, for now, Baker is well-liked and seen as a strong governor.
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