CORONAVIRUS

Capitol Ideas column: Kim Reynolds' coronavirus response approval rating plummets

Survey by consortium of universities ranks it lowest in nation

Gov. Kim Reynolds discusses the state's COVID-19 response during a May 13 news conference at the State Emergency Operati
Gov. Kim Reynolds discusses the state’s COVID-19 response during a May 13 news conference at the State Emergency Operations Center in Johnston. (Kelsey Kremer/Des Moines Register via AP)

Gov. Kim Reynolds’ public approval rating for how she has handled the new coronavirus pandemic is the lowest of any U.S. governor, according to a new survey.

Just 28 percent of Iowans said in July that they approved of the way Reynolds is handling the coronavirus outbreak, according to the survey.

That’s lower than any other governor’s pandemic response approval rating in the latest report, and a sharp plummet from the 54 percent of Iowans who in the same survey in April said they approved of her pandemic stewardship.

The national average of governors’ pandemic response approval ratings is 51 percent.

The survey is part of the COVID-19 Consortium for Understanding the Public’s Policy Preferences Across States, a joint project of Northwestern, Harvard, Rutgers and Northeastern universities. The project has been surveying Americans on the pandemic since April.

For the most recent report, the project surveyed more than 19,000 Americans across all states from July 10-26. The margin of error for Iowa’s results is plus or minus 6 points.

Reynolds’ pandemic response approval rating fell from 54 percent in April to 36 percent in May. It held steady there at 36 percent and 37 percent over the next two surveys, then dropped again to 28 percent in the July survey.

That number puts the Republican governor on par with President Donald Trump: 29 percent of Iowans approve of the Republican president’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, according to the survey.

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Trump’s approval rating in Iowa, while similarly low, is on par with the national average: 32 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s handling of the outbreak.

The other governors near the bottom of the pandemic response approval pile include Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (30 percent), Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (34 percent), Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (36 percent), Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (38 percent), Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (38 percent), and Hawaii Gov. David Ige (39 percent). All are Republicans except Ige, who is a Democrat.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, had the highest pandemic response approval rating, at 76 percent, in the July survey. He was followed by Republican Gov. Phil Scott of Vermont (75 percent), Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York (71 percent), Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island (71 percent), and Republican Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts (70 percent).

One of the study’s co-authors surmised the approval ratings favor governors who have been more cautious in their response efforts.

“In general, governors that have sought to reopen have been out in front of their citizens. They’ve moved faster than the public was comfortable moving,” Matthew Baum, the Marvin Kalb professor of global communications at Harvard’s Kennedy School and a co-author of the study, told The Hill. “The governors who are doing really well are the ones that have acted most proactively.”

Reynolds’ first order of widespread business closures was on March 17. She began loosening those restrictions in some parts of the state just more than a month later on April 27.

Erin Murphy covers Iowa politics and government. His column appears Mondays in The Gazette, His email address is erin.murphy@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at @ErinDMurphy.

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Our most important Coronavirus coverage is free to the public.

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