I've seen even more positive polls than this one, but thought it was still worth mentioning the SurveyUSA poll of approval ratings for Democratic Virginia Governor Mark Warner released today. The poll was taken from May 6 - May 8.
Short story: Virginians [Heart] Mark Warner.
Here are the results of 600 Virginians who were asked the question, "Do you approve or disapprove of the job Mark Warner is doing as governor?"
15% Not Sure
And here are a few demographic breakdowns:
Male (48%) Female (52%)
53% Approve 56% Approve
37% Disapprove 25% Disapprove
10% Not Sure 19% Not Sure
18-34 (32%) 35-54 (41%) 55+ (27%)
48% Approve 56% Approve 61% Approve
34% Disapprove 32% Disapprove 21% Disapprove
18% Not Sure 13% Not Sure 13% Not Sure
The great news is that Gov. Warner's approval numbers are higher than his disapproval numbers among not only both men and women, among both white and black respondents, among respondents in ALL age ranges, but also among Democrats, Indpendents, AND Republicans!
Breakouts by race and party affiliation available here, and discussion below the jump.
Before I give way to quite rational exuberance, I'll share some thoughts about the limits of this recent SurveyUSA poll. First of all, with 600 sampled voters, it's got a margin of error of +/- 4.1%, a reasonable MOE which does clearly show Warner solidly and healthily above a 50% approval rating. Still, it's a small sample set, particularly when looking at breakouts such as race. Secondly, it does seem to have slightly oversampled Democrats, at 36% of the overall sample versus 33% Republicans. (The figure of 27% Independents seems solid, if slightly low.) Of course, this is just from my general sense of Democratic self-identification statewide, but it could be there are more people who still self-identify as Democratic even though they sometimes vote Republican.
As far as I can see from the SurveyUSA site, the Virginians polled are just...Virginians...not necessarily likely voters. (Could be likely voters, but I can't see that cited anywhere.)
My other general caveat (and this is a positive one!) is that I've recently seen two other recent Virginia polls, which I cannot share online, which actually have significantly (above this MOE) higher approval ratings for Warner, so I'm taking this one with a grain of salt as (comparatively) a worst-case-scenario.
So what does this all mean? Well, I've learned to be very skeptical of polls as predictors of effects on elections this many months out from our important November voting or any speculation about 2006 or 2008. But the general picture of Virginians' approval of Governor Warner *is* significant for both the Kaine campaign and for Governor Warner's political future.
Simply put, the more Warner campaigns for Kaine, the better Kaine's chances are. In fact, I think it's safe to say that Warner MUST closely campaign with Kaine - both with joint appearances and with joint TV ads - for Kaine to win.
As for Warner's political future, stepping away from the poll for a second, it's important to remember what happened to Gov. Gilmore once he failed to elect Mark Earley as his successor. It was a huge embarrassment to him as RNC chair to lose his own state to a Democrat once his term ended. And from what I've found while googling, Gilmore's approval ratings were still pretty high around this time of 2001, and he certainly achieved extraordinary success at helping Republicans gain seats in the VA House during his tenure. But not too many people, Republican or Democratic (aside from rabid Club for Growth anti-tax types, who still see him plunging Virginia into a hugely irresponsible fiscal mess as a great anti-tax victory) see Gilmore as someone with a great political future. If Earley had won, Gilmore would have been an unquestioned hero for national Republicans, but Gilmore's failure to get Earley elected doomed him and signaled a Democratic revival in the Commonwealth.
Similarly, Warner's ability to see that a Democrat succeeds him will impact his political future, so it's in both Kaine's and Warner's best interest that they work closely together to get Kaine elected. The vast majority of Virginians think that Virginia is on the right track. Since most people still don't know which "those guys whose names both begin with a K" is the Republican and which is the Democrat, it will be important for Virginians to know that Kaine is their choice if they want Virginia to stay on the "right track" that Warner created. A Kaine victory will help Gov. Warner with whatever are his aspirations for 2006 and/or 2008.
There's not much depth to this poll's data to delve into, unlike past SurveyUSA Virginia polls, which I've discussed at length earlier. But there are certainly a few points to note.
Warner's approves are higher than his disapproves among men and women, among respondents in ALL age ranges, among white and black respondents, and among respondents of ALL political affiliations, including Republicans and, most significantly, independents.
Warner's strongest aggregate demographic is white female Democratic voters in the 55+ age range. His strongest age demographic, 55+, is a very good sign, since this is also the age bloc with the highest performance at the polls. His extraordinarily high ratings among self-identified independents (at 60%, only one point behind Democrats) is a very positive sign.
I was surprised to see Warner's comparatively (though not significantly) lower approval among black versus white respondents, with a 55% approval. This definitely contradicts other polls I've recently seen, with significantly higher approval among African-American respondents. His strong performance among white respondents is of course a very good sign.
The results for Hispanic voters are very, very troubling on the surface. A 29% approve/54% disapprove number among Hispanic Virginians is an abysmal result, significantly lower than the 44% approve/43% disapprove among Republicans! I take some comfort in the fact that the low number of Hispanic respondents (just 4%, or just 24 people) makes this an unreliable overall indicator, with roughly 7 people approving and 13 disapproving. Still, it would be wise to consider this a red flag.
Gov. Warner's results among Democrats (with a 61% approve/23% disapprove) is healthy, but certainly lower than I expected and lower than what I've seen elsewhere. Of course it makes me yearn for access to data on follow-up questions, so we could know whether the disapproves were coming from liberal Democrats who wish Warner was more progressive or more focused on party building (as I hear in many of my circles) or whether it is from people who might be tempted to vote for someone other than Kaine. (Certainly among progressives, neither Potts nor Kilgore is a palatable alternative). If the "disapproves" represented very conservative self-identified Democrats who often vote Republican, I'd be concerned. But we just don't know from this simple poll.
How Warner Compares With Other Governors
This Virginia survey is part of an overall SurveyUSA study of approval ratings for all 50 governors released today. Overall, Gov. Warner's approvals in Virginia are the 13th highest approval ratings in the country. Interestingly, all of the Democrats in the "top 15" are Democratic governors in what are considered "red" states ("red" for the 2004 Presidential election, that is) including Democratic governors in Wyoming, West Virginia, Arizona, Oklahoma, Montana, Louisiana, and Virginia.
This is great stuff. Plenty of other polls will support this positive result (and I'm confident they will have even more positive statistics). The challenge, of course, is whether this can translate to Kaine and to whatever Warner decides to do after he leaves office.
I wish I could hope that this would impact a huge number of seats in the House of Delegates...but, hey, this is subtitled "rational" exuberance, so I ain't goin' anywhere near that limb. To make significant gains in the House, we'd need far more Democrats running. But wise Democrats fighting for House seats know that associating themselves with Governor Warner's socially moderate, fiscally responsible record and associating many Republican incumbents with the regressive, irresponsible Gilmore agenda is a good thing, and we know that there are healthy chances for at least an overall gain of a handful of House seats this year.
Enough navel gazing, though! Back to the hard work of actually winning those elections...