The day that the Government Oversight Committee voted to subpoena LePage staffers, a new poll from Critical Insights showed that in late September only 32% of Mainers approved of the job the governor is doing. 55% disapproved.
Does LePage’s very low approval matter?
Gov. LePage may not think so.
The governor has stopped working with the Legislature.
He muted his tone during his 2014 reelection campaign, but now openly goes after people in stark terms.
The governor’s unconcern with and ineffectiveness in normal governing has translated into him stepping beyond what others governors did and giving up on the ways they got things accomplished.
Few political figures stood with LePage the other day when he called the Clean Elections referendum “a scam.” The Republican Party Chair wasn’t with LePage, a stark contrast to 2011, when the party leadership was strongly involved in trying to defeat same day voter registration. This referendum has a bipartisan coalition on one side and a far right GOP faction on the other.
Given all that, it’s unlikely that LePage cares about his poll numbers. After all, he will never be on the ballot for governor again.
But LePage’s low approval does matter
If LePage wants to get more of his ideas enacted before he leaves office, he’d be helped by having more legislators who support him.
When your job approval is 32%, the number of candidates who want to tout your support is pretty darn low. Those candidates are very unlikely to be in the swing districts that determine which party controls the Maine Senate and House.
Now, you may be thinking, so what if his low approval isn’t an electoral plus in legislative elections? LePage has given up on the Maine Legislature policy-wise. He’s doing town meetings and wants to get his tax and welfare policies passed by voters.
But the governor would have a greater chance of persuading people if they think well of him.
Right now it doesn’t look that people think LePage’s core concerns matter that much to the state, although that applies more to taxes than welfare.
Gov. LePage very much wants to end or drop the state income tax. His January 2015 budget proposal cut that tax, while raising the sales tax and zeroing out municipal revenue sharing and so would have led to property tax increases.The governor goes around the state talking about the income tax and he wants a referendum on it.
In the Critical Insights poll, people were asked what issue facing Maine was most important. The top issue was the economy, at 22%. Another 15% said unemployment.
Only 5% said taxes were most important. Given the reality that cutting the income tax would translate into a regressive tax shift, any referendum was likely to be a hard slog, even without its low importance to Mainers and LePage’s low approval rating.
Welfare programs was most important to 10% and this has risen over time. Here the governor very well may have had an impact in putting this issue on the political agenda. My sense is that a referendum on this issue would have a greater chance of passing than the one on income taxes.
LePage’s opposition to raising the minimum wage isn’t shared by Mainers, 68% of whom favor an increase.
It would be surprising to see the governor change much of what he’s doing at this point.
And while Gov. LePage may not care about his low poll numbers, it’s likely that people who will be running for office and running campaigns will.