Poll: Reed, Whitehouse approval ratings still solid

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci/Alex Brandon)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island’s two U.S. senators don’t appear to be suffering any blow-back so far for backing Hillary Clinton over eventual winner Bernie Sanders in the state’s Democratic presidential primary, according to a newly released poll.

The survey of 277 Rhode Island registered voters by the website Morning Consult found 59% approve of the job U.S. Sen. Jack Reed is doing, while 52% approve of the job U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse is doing. The numbers were basically unchanged from a previous Morning Consult poll released in November.

On the flip side, 25% of voters disapprove of Reed’s job performance, while a larger number – 33% – disapprove of Whitehouse’s, again little changed from November. The two Democrats are in their fourth and second terms, respectively.

The fact that Whitehouse’s approval rating remains above 50% will be seen as good news by his political team as he looks ahead to a 2018 re-election race, his third since defeating Lincoln Chafee to win his Senate seat in 2006. He won his first re-election with a landslide 65% of the vote back in 2012, though that was a presidential year, which usually means higher Democratic turnout than Rhode Island will see in 2018.

Reed, who won re-election with 71% in 2014 and won’t go before voters again until 2020, is perennially the most popular politician in Rhode Island and is seen as having one of the safest Senate seats in the nation.

The Rhode Island results were gleaned from weekly online national polling of 62,288 U.S. registered voters conducted by Morning Consult between Jan. 8 and April 17 – an unusually long period of time to test a job approval rating, which is typically a snapshot of a single moment. The margin of error for the Rhode Island results is plus or minus 6 percentage points.

Reed and Whitehouse are both Democratic “super-delegates” and backed Clinton over Sanders in this week’s primary, which she wound up losing by 12 points. The pair joined Clinton at a rally Saturday in Central Falls and campaigned for her with former President Bill Clinton on Monday.

Across the border in Massachusetts, Democratic U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is even more popular than Reed and Whitehouse – the Morning Consult survey put her job approval rating at 61%. Her junior colleague, Democrat Ed Markey, was at 51%.

The top scorer nationwide was Vermont independent and presidential hopeful Sanders at 80%, while the senator with the highest disapproval rating was Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, at 49%. A survey out earlier this week by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling found McConnell’s job approval rating among Rhode Island voters was just 8%.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He hosts Executive Suite and writes The Saturday Morning Post. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

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