Lincoln Chafee far from most unpopular governor in the U.S.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s first term may be off to a middling start, but compared with his counterparts in other states he could be doing quite a bit worse.

Chafee’s net approval rating ranks 28th among the 38 governors tracked by Public Policy Polling, according to figures provided to by the Democratic-affiliated firm. Chafee’s 38% approval and 44% disapproval ratings gave him an overall margin of -6 points.

That’s better than one of Chafee’s next-door governors, Connecticut Democrat Dan Malloy – whose 39%/47% ratings gave him an approval margin of -8 points, ranking him 29th – but worse than Massachusetts Democrat Deval Patrick, whose approval and disapproval ratings were both 45%. Patrick ranked 24th.

Chafee spokesman Mike Trainor said he believes the governor will win over voters as time goes on.

“Governor Chafee – he’s a workhorse, not a show-horse,” Trainor said. “His substantive, measured, methodical approach is going to produce results that I think are going to please an awful lot of Rhode Islanders. But it takes time.”

Trainor also noted Chafee faces big challenges. “No reasonable person would disagree with the fact that he inherited a colossally difficult agenda,” he said. “His style is to go at things very methodically, very deliberately and substantively. He’s not somebody to put a sugarcoating on anything, and I admire him for that.”

Among the 10 governors whose approval margins are worse than Chafee’s, six are Republicans (Texas’ Perry, Pennsylvania’s Corbett, Wisconsin’s Walker, Michigan’s Snyder, Ohio’s Kasich and Florida’s Scott) and four are Democrats (Connecticut’s Malloy, Washington’s Gregoire, North Carolina’s Perdue and Illinois’ Quinn).

The most unpopular governors are Florida’s Rick Scott and Ohio’s John Kasich, both with approval margins of -23 points. Illinois’ Pat Quinn is right behind at -22. Nebraska Republican Dave Heineman is the most popular governor; his 67% approval and 23% disapproval ratings gave him a margin of +44.

One caveat – these polls were done over a long period of time, so some of the governors could have been caught at particularly high or low points. Chafee’s numbers come from February, while the others range from this month back to January 2010 (though most are more recent than that).

Chafee’s no Jack Reed, anyway. Rhode Island’s senior senator was the most popular Democratic senator in the entire country in 82 Public Policy Polling job approval surveys from January 2010 to February 2011.

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