by Kenneth Warren, Ph.D., Associate Director SLU/YouGov Poll
Biden’s Approval Ratings Only So-So in Missouri
In the 2020 presidential election, Joe Biden received 41.3% of the vote in Missouri.
Our 2021 July/August SLU/YouGov poll of registered voters reveals that he is still
not very popular among Missouri voters. Only 44.8% of Missourians gave President Biden
a positive job approval rating, with 20.7% saying they “strongly approve” and another
24% saying they “approve.” A slight majority (53.5%) gave him a negative approval
rating, with 9.2% disapproving and another 44.3% strongly disapproving. Only 1.8%
answered “Not sure.” Nationally, Biden fares better with a 51.1% realclearpolitics.com
average approval rating or 6.3% above Biden’s approval ratings given by Missourians
in our poll.
As in the 2020 presidential election results, our poll shows that deeply rooted, political polarization helps to explain Biden’s lackluster approval ratings. While Biden received almost 60% job approval ratings in the predominantly Democratic metro areas of Kansas City and St. Louis, his approval ratings were quite poor in Missouri’s predominantly rural Republican areas with only 29.4% approval in Northeast Missouri; 38.4% in Northwest Missouri; 27.5% in Southwest Missouri; and 27.8% in Southeast Missouri. Our poll disclosed that there is no love lost between Republicans and Democrats in Missouri. While 96.9% of Democrats approved of Biden’s job performance, only 7.2% of Republicans approved of Biden’s job performance. Similar polarized findings were shown for ratings of all Missouri politicians in our poll.
Missouri Legislature Receives Higher Approval than Congress
Predictably, in our SLU/YouGov poll of registered Missouri voters, we found Missourians rating their own state legislature much better than the U.S. Congress. We found very similar findings in our 2020 September/October poll. In our 2021 poll, only 2.3% of Missourians “strongly approved” of the way the U.S. Congress was doing its job, while only another 17.5% said they approved for a dismal total approval percentage of just 19.9%. On the negative side, over two-thirds of our respondents expressed disapproval of the way Congress was handling its job, with 34.1% disapproving and 34.5% strongly disapproving, with 11.5% saying “Not sure.” This is quite consistent with Congress’s generally low approval ratings. For example, a July 24-26th Monmouth poll showed Congress with a 22% approval rating, while a July 24-27th Economist/YouGov poll showed Congress with a 16% approval percentage.
In sharp contrast, almost half of Missourians (49.7%) approved of the way its legislative body was performing, with 5.2% saying “strongly approve” and another 44.5% expressing “approval.” However, still a significant percentage expressed disapproval (36.1%), with 16% disapproving and 20.1% strongly disapproving with 14.2% “not sure.” But the job performance of the U.S. Congress and Missouri legislature was viewed through partisan lenses. While 70.1% of Republicans approved of the Missouri legislature’s job performance, only 20.9% of Democrats gave a thumbs up. In contrast, while 38.6% of Democrats gave the U.S. Congress a positive rating on job performance, only 8.1% of Republicans did. The obvious inference is that Republicans gave the Missouri legislature a thumbs up because it is controlled by Republicans, while Republicans gave the U.S. Congress a thumbs down because it is controlled by Democrats. Ratings by Democrats were also driven by their partisanship.
Missourians Gave Missouri’s Top Elected Officials Only Lukewarm Ratings
Our SLU/YouGov poll disclosed that most Missourians only hold lukewarm approval ratings of Missouri’s top elected officials. Barely half of Missourians (53.1%) gave Governor Mike Parson positive approval scores, with 13.1% answering “strongly approve” and 39.1% saying “approve,” while 16.1% said “disapprove” and another 24.6% strongly disapproved. Only 6.2% said ‘not sure”. Yet, Parson received the highest approval ratings of any politician surveyed.
U.S. Senator Josh Hawley received the next highest approval ratings, just a notch below Parson with a 52% total approval score with 28.1% strongly approving and 23.9% approving. However, Hawley attracted strong disapproval ratings, probably due to his actions in light of the January 6th U.S. Capitol insurrection and his challenge to Biden’s presidential win. Although Hawley received only a 6.5% disapproval rating in our poll, 32.1% of our respondents gave him a “strongly disapprove” rating. This was due to a high disapproval rating by Democrats (8.8% disapproved, but 67.6% strongly disapproved). Only 9.3% of Republicans disapproved or strongly disapproved of Hawley’s job performance.
Senator Roy Blunt’s ratings continue to lag, with only 40.2% of Missourians giving him a positive approval score with 10.4% responding “strongly approve” and 29.9% saying “approve.” Close to half of Missourians (46.9%) gave Blunt a negative approval rating, with 24.9% saying “disapprove” and another 22% saying “strongly disapprove.”
Favorability of Republican Senate Candidates
We also sought in our poll favorability ratings for politicians likely running to fill retiring Senator Blunt's U.S. Senate seat: former Republican Governor Eric Greitens; Missouri’s Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt; U.S. Representative Ann Wagner (R-2nd); U.S. Representative Vicky Hartzler (R-4th); and Republican attorney Mark McCloskey, who gained notoriety when he and his wife waved guns at protesters last year.
Somewhat ironically, Eric Greitens received the highest total favorability rating (37.2%) in the field with a “very favorable” percentage of 15.8% and a “somewhat favorable” score of 21.4%. I say somewhat ironic because Greitens was involved in a high-profile sex scandal that forced him to resign as Missouri’s governor on June 1, 2018. His chances of a political comeback at that time looked very bleak, but now his comeback seems possible because he is polling better than any of his likely challengers in the Republican primary with a 56.3% total favorability rating among Republicans (27.3% “very favorable” and 29% “somewhat favorable”). However, we also found that Greitens earned the highest negative favorability ratings as well, with 30.7% of Missourians giving him a “very unfavorable” rating, another 12% answered “somewhat unfavorable,” while 20% said “not sure.” Yet, this relatively high disapproval rating was due to Democrats largely disapproving of him (69.4%), not Republicans (23.5%), so Greitens’ chances of winning the Republican primary look reasonable at this time, long before the August 2022 primary.
Eric Schmitt has also been controversial because of what many consider his frivolous and seemingly very partisan lawsuits that have attracted national attention but have gone nowhere. Our poll findings suggest that maybe his favorability ratings have suffered as a result since his total favorability score is only 33.3%, with 10.6% responding “very favorable” and 22.6% saying “somewhat favorable.” Ironically, these lawsuits may not have attracted the attention he sought because a whopping 41.1% of respondents answered “not sure,” which pollsters normally say includes a very high percentage of people who have never heard of the person.
Our poll also confirmed a common finding by pollsters. That is, that U.S. Representatives are normally not that well known outside of their district, especially long distances from their district. Ann Wagner received a 7.2% “very favorable” rating and an 18% “somewhat favorable” percentage, with 12.7% saying “somewhat unfavorable” and another 12.7% saying “very unfavorable.” Yet, in our statewide poll an enormous percentage (49.3%) answered “not sure”, conveying that a very large percentage of Missourians never heard of her. Recently, Ann Wagner announced that she is not running for Blunt’s U.S. Senate seat.
Similar findings were found for U.S. Representative Vicky Hartzler with 48.7% answering “Not sure,” while 9.3% gave her “very favorable” rating and 18.3% said “somewhat favorable” with 10.6% answered “somewhat unfavorable” and 13.1% responded “very unfavorable.” But the favorability ratings for Wagner and Hartzler should be viewed with caution because evidently many of our respondents either never heard of them or knew too little about them to rate them.
Despite Mark McCloskey’s well-covered confrontation with BLM protesters on June 28, 2020, he is also not very well known to Missouri voters, with 39.6% of our respondents saying “not sure”. Of those giving him a rating, most gave him a higher unfavorability rating than favorability rating, with 8.8% saying “very favorable,” 19.3% “favorable,” 9.2% “unfavorable,” and 23.1% “very unfavorable.” His total favorability rating among Republicans was OK at 40.3% with a total unfavorability percentage of 7.7%. But since 39.6% answered “not sure,” it is difficult to judge McCloskey’s actual favorability as he campaigns to win his party’s nomination for U.S. Senate in 2022.