In a new poll by Public Policy Polling, five Senators in Alaska, Arizona, Nevada, and Ohio are feeling the wrath of the public after failing to support a background checks measure, in what PPP called “serious backlash”. According to the poll, Senators Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mark Begich (D-AK), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Dean Heller (R-NV) face lowered approval ratings and a public less likely to support them in the next election.
Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling, concluded that the lowered approval ratings are a direct result of the failure to support the background check measure, “The background checks vote is a rare one that really is causing these Senators trouble back home. All five of these Senators, as well as Kelly Ayotte, have seen their approval numbers decline in the wake of this vote. And the numbers make it clear that their position on Manchin/Toomey is a major factor causing the downward spiral.”
In Arizona, Republican Senator Flake’s approval rating dropped to 32% with a 51% disapproval. He is now more unpopular than even Mitch McConnell. In Arizona, 70% of the public supports background checks. Fifty-two percent of voters say they’re less likely to support Flake in a future election because of this vote. To demonstrate just how extreme the rejection of background checks is, the poll determined that only 19% of the public say they will be more likely to support Flake in a future election due to his vote.
Contrast Flake’s lowered approval ratings with Pennsylvania Republican Senator Toomey’s, who saw an increase in approval after co-sponsoring the bipartisan background check measure (Manchin/Toomey).
In Ohio, Republican junior Senator Rob Portman plunged a net 18 points in approval, from 35% approval and 25% disapproval to just 26% approval with 34% disapproval (net -8). Portman lost support across the board. No one seems to approve of the Ohio Republican. Some of his loss in approval among Republicans is more likely tied to his support for gay marriage, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll.
In Alaska, Democratic junior Senator Mark Begich lost approval from Democrats and Independents after failing to support background checks, with 41% approval rating and a 37% disapproval, down from 49% approval and 39% disapproval. Begich got no bounce from Republicans after his vote, so he basically alienated his base for nothing.
Popular Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski has lost a net 16 points in approval due to her rejection of background checks. Forty-six percent of voters approve of her now, with 41% now disapproving of her. Prior to the vote, she enjoyed a 54% approval rating and only 33% disapproval. The bad news is that while Murkowski predictably lost Democratic support due to her vote, she also failed to gain Republican support by voting with the NRA.
Nevada Republican junior Senator Dean Heller fared better than the aforementioned, with 44% approval to 41% disapproval, but he lost critical support from Independents.
PPP summed it up, “Taken together these results make it pretty clear that this issue could be a serious liability for the Senators who opposed overwhelmingly popular background checks in the Senate vote earlier this month.”
It should trouble legislators that their failure to support background checks didn’t gain them the support they may have been anticipating, and in fact even cost these five Senators support in states that lean hard right like Alaska. In Febrary, a PPP poll showed that support from the NRA could actually toxic to a candidate, but the NRA also invests money in smear campaigns that target errant legislators in underhanded ways. But legislators seem more afraid of the NRA than they are of their approval ratings, which exemplifies the troubling trend of the will of lobbyists overriding the will of the people.
The Senators may feel the voters will forget, while the NRA won’t, since the lobbying group made a big fuss about scoring the vote. But the problem for the NRA is that now that they’ve scored the vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) could sneak the measure back in as an amendment, possibly giving NRA wary Senators political cover for a yes vote.
Image: Nation of Change
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.