Three out of the five top Idaho officeholders get less-than-satisfactory favorability ratings from their constituents, Idaho Politics Weekly finds in a new public opinion survey.
Dan Jones & Associates asked Idahoans if they have a “very favorable,” “somewhat favorable,” “somewhat unfavorable,” or “very unfavorable” opinion of Gov. Butch Otter, Sens. Mike Crapo, and Jim Risch, and U.S. Reps. Mike Simpson and Raul Labrador – all Republicans.
Other categories respondents could choose were “heard of, but no opinion,” “never heard of,” or “don’t know.”
Jones, who has polled in the Mountain West for 40 years, says an incumbent wants to be over 50 percent in their favorability ratings to be in good political shape.
If a lot of your constituents don’t have an opinion of you, or worse, have never heard of you, and then the chances of you having a 50+ favorability rating would, of course, go down.
But it’s not good for your constituents not to have an opinion of the job you are doing, even worse if they have never heard of you at all.
Otter, Labrador, and Risch all have favorability ratings of less than 50 percent: Otter 49 percent; Labrador, 45 percent; Risch, 45 percent.
Crapo has a favorability rating of 54 percent -- good but not great.
Simpson has a favorability rating of 58 percent, the best of the lot.
Idaho is a very red state – all of its major officeholders are Republicans – and the state regularly votes for the GOP U.S. presidential nominee.
So it is important for the congressional delegation and governor to have higher approval ratings among their own Republicans than among Democrats and political independents.
And Jones finds that the five top GOP officeholders are well up in the favorability ratings with their Republican rank-and-file:
-- Otter, 67 percent of Republicans have a favorable opinion of him, 26 percent an unfavorable opinion.
The 26 percent unfavorable is the highest unfavorable among the GOP incumbents. If one out of four members of your party doesn't like the job you are doing, then it opens you up for an intra-party challenge in re-election.
-- Crapo, 71 percent of Idaho Republicans like the senior senator, only 12 percent don’t like the job he’s doing.
-- Risch, 62 percent of Republicans like him, 10 percent don’t.
-- Simpson, 63 percent of GOP rank-and-file in his district say he’s OK, 19 percent don’t.
-- Labrador, 67 percent of Republicans in his district have a favorable opinion, 17 percent don’t.
Labrador is a special case in Idaho politics. He’s a member of the U.S. House’s Freedom Caucus, the hard-right, Tea Party-like group of House members who forced an early resignation by former U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and caused current House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., to pause before agreeing to accept the top post.
Thus, while Labrador is well-supported by his own Republican Party in Idaho, he falls well short among Democrats and political independents.
Fifty-nine percent of Democrats don’t like Labrador.
Among District 1 independents, only 39 percent have a favorable opinion, 40 percent don’t like him.
Simpson finds his District 2 constituents just the opposite.
Sixty-three percent of Republicans like Simpson, 63 percent of independents like him. Hey, even 42 percent of District 2 Democrats like him.
Simpson is not a member of the Freedom Caucus.
And his relatively moderate (by some Idaho measurements) stands have gotten him an arch-conservative Republican challenger next year.
Janice McGeachin, a former state legislator, says Idaho should have two members in the Freedom Caucus.
Jones finds that Simpson is viewed favorably by two-out-of-three district Republicans, only 19 percent don’t like him.
Even 54 percent of those who said they are “very conservative” in their politics give Simpson a favorable rating, Jones finds.
But 34 percent of the archconservatives dislike Simpson, and that is the base McGeachin will be looking to build upon in her 2016 challenge.
Jones polled 595 adults statewide between Oct. 28-Nov. 4, margin of error plus or minus 4.02 percent.
In Simpson’s District 2 the margin of error is plus or minus 6.0 percent; Labrador’s District 1, plus or minus 5.5 percent.