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Justice approval ratings plunge in latest Morning Consult poll

By PHIL KABLER

Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice’s approval rating among West Virginia voters has plummeted following his party flip from Democrat to Republican in August, according to the latest Governors’ Approval Rankings released Tuesday by Morning Consult, a Washington, D.C.-based digital media and survey research company.

Gov. Jim Justice

Justice’s disapproval numbers jumped from 24 percent in a Morning Consult poll released in April to 46 percent in the poll released Tuesday — dropping him in the rankings from the 15th-most popular governor in the U.S. to 12th-most disliked.

Morning Consult put Justice at the top of its “biggest losers” list, noting:

“First-term West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice tops the list of negative net swings in approval for the third quarter of 2017 following his ballyhooed announcement — complete with an appearance by President Donald Trump — that he was leaving the Democratic Party to become a Republican. The move from the left to the right side of the aisle has thus far brought all of the political risks without any of the benefits, polling shows. The billionaire businessman hemorrhaged support from Democrats and independents while suffering GOP defections at a lower rate, resulting in a net drop of 22 points. That puts him 5 points underwater: 41 percent of Mountaineers approve of him, while 46 percent disapprove.”

In the first Morning Consult poll on Justice, released in mid-April, the governor had a 58 percent approval rating, while 24 percent of voters polled disapproved of his performance.

By the next quarterly poll, released in mid-July after a lengthy budget impasse that forced Justice to allow a 2017-18 budget bill that he called a “travesty” to become law without his signature, his approval rating had dropped to 51 percent, and his disapproval rating had climbed to 34 percent.

Morning Consult noted at the time, “Jim Justice in West Virginia … saw a 17-point drop in his net rating after clashing over the budget with Republicans in the statehouse as he attempted to implement some new taxes.”

One caveat in the current rankings is that the polling was conducted online from July 1 to Sept. 30, prior to a key Justice victory Oct. 7 with passage of his Roads to Prosperity 2017 road bond amendment.

The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Belinda Biafore, state Democratic Party chairwoman, said she was not surprised that Justice’s approval rating plunged after his party flip.

“I think the one thing about it is, once people lose trust in you, this is what happens,” she said Tuesday. “We certainly lost trust in the governor. I don’t care if you’re Democrat or Republican, to have someone lie to you and put on such a false front is disheartening to a lot of West Virginians.”

She added, “A lot of people look at him as simply self-serving now.”

Meanwhile, following Justice’s drop in approval rating in the July poll, state Republican Party Chairman Conrad Lucas said of the then-Democrat governor: “The more people get to know Jim Justice and his irresponsible tax-and-spend policies, the less they approve. Justice’s antics continue to embarrass West Virginia, and people have noticed.”

However, on Tuesday, Lucas said he is confident that Justice’s approval ratings will rebound.

“I fully expect that once Gov. Justice has a chance to work with the Republican Legislature to advance a conservative agenda, his numbers will skyrocket,” Lucas said.

“I spoke with the governor yesterday,” Lucas added. “He’s anxious to work closely with the party and the Legislature to go forward with a conservative agenda.”

Govs. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and Larry Hogan of Maryland, described by Morning Consult as “two Republicans in deep blue states,” remained entrenched at the top of the rankings as the most-popular governors in the U.S.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie retained his spot as the least-popular governor in the U.S., with Morning Consult noting that 77 percent of Garden State voters disapprove of his job performance — a record low since it began tracking governors’ approval ratings in 2016.

Reach Phil Kabler at [email protected], 304-348-1220 or follow @PhilKabler on Twitter.

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