Aug. 13, 2015 — Public Policy Polling often presents surveys that find virtually everyone with a negative personal approval rating, but their new Missouri study may be the most bizarre they’ve ever released. While it is typical for most of their political figures to record upside-down personal favorability ratios – their automated results skew negative – it is strange when virtually the one public official holding a positive number was tainted with a highly publicized sex scandal.
Three years ago, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder (R) had to drop his bid for governor because of embarrassing news stories detailing his relationship with a stripper. Kinder quickly pivoted away from trying to seek a promotion, and was surprisingly successful in winning a 49-46 percent re-election victory despite his spate of negative publicity and the Democratic governor cruising to victory.
The new PPP survey released Tuesday (Aug. 7-9; 859 registered Missouri voters; 440 Missouri Republican primary voters) tested several Missouri 2016 campaigns, including the open governor’s race and Sen. Roy Blunt’s (R) re-election bid. They did not release any numbers for presidential candidates, neither favorability scores nor ballot tests.
Partisanship played little role in casting the major politicos in a negative light. President Obama notched a poor 36:59 percent job approval rating, but Sen. Blunt didn’t fare much better at 30:47 percent. Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon was also in the tank. The outgoing chief executive posted a 36:48 percent disapproval index.
The negative numbers continued. Even the lesser-known candidates did poorly. Blunt’s projected general election opponent, Secretary of State Jason Kander (D), managed only a 14:21 percent positive to negative ratio. Attorney General Chris Koster, who is the consensus Democratic candidate for governor and touted as having the inside track to replacing Nixon, can do no better than 24:23 percent. All but one of the seven potential Republican gubernatorial candidates recorded upside-down ratios.
But, Lt. Gov. Kinder, with stories again surfacing about his previous episode, comes away with the best rating of any tested individual, 30:24 percent. Turning to the gubernatorial ballot tests, Koster beats every Republican paired against him with the exception of Kinder. In the latter scenario, the lieutenant governor takes a 40-37 percent lead.
Yet, when we turn to the Republican primary voter sample, Kinder fares even better. Before a field of six GOP opponents, the lieutenant governor more than doubles the score of his closest opponent (27-11%), former state House Speaker Catherine Hanaway. Businessman John Brunner who ran for Senate in 2012 but lost to then-Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO-2), the latter going onto famously crater and burn against Sen. Claire McCaskill (D), places third in the GOP primary poll with nine percent.
The Missouri races will be interesting next year, and it is likely that polling will show them close for most of the election cycle. When the votes are counted, however, and the state falls solidly for the Republican presidential nominee, it is likely that Blunt (who already leads Kander in this poll, 40-35 percent) and the eventual party gubernatorial candidate will be aided by what should be a favorable 2016 GOP turnout model.
Peter Kinder’s performance so far in the Missouri gubernatorial campaign’s early stages signals quite a comeback for a man who was almost shamed out of the public eye. Though this campaign will still consume more than a year, Lt. Gov. Kinder surprisingly begins as the strongest Republican in the field.