Public Policy Polling has raised liberal hopes of defeating Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., by showing him tied with a potential Democratic rival, but they might want to contain their glee: The survey paradoxically reveals a dramatic increase in his approval rating compared to the last two PPP polls.
McConnell’s approval rating has risen 8 points since early April. PPP’s latest survey found that 44 percent of Kentucky voters approve of him, while 47 percent disapprove. (This poll was commissioned by a liberal super PAC). Those aren’t great numbers, but they are far better for McConnell than PPP’s April 9 report, which showed that just 36 percent of voters approved while 54 percent disapproved. In December, the splits were about the same: 37/55. So, the latest poll bucks a trend. (The odd thing about this poll is that it simultaneously shows McConnell dropping from a 7-point lead over Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes to a 45-45 tie. Lundergan Grimes hasn’t said if she intends to challenge him.)
Republican voters have powered the recent surge in McConnell’s job approval. PPP’s latest poll shows McConnell with a 70 percent approval rating among his own party base; in April, only 53 percent of Republicans approved of his performance.
There could be a few different explanations for these latest numbers. Maybe this poll is just a blip (after all, it’s very strange that his approval rating would rise while his numbers in a head-to-head matchup fall — very strange).
Or, maybe this survey is one of the first signs that the recent D.C. scandals are helping Republicans. Of course, there’s also the backlash about the Justice Department spying on reporters and the Benghazi whistleblowers (whose testimony interests the Republican base, if not national Democrats).
Maybe the Tea Partiers in Kentucky are rallying to McConnell because of the IRS’s admission that it targeted Tea Party groups for inappropriate questioning? (McConnell was one of the lawmakers who first called for the investigation, as he reminded voters as soon as the IRS issued it’s apology ahead of the inspector general report.)
“Now more than ever we need to send a clear message to the Obama Administration that the First Amendment is non-negotiable, and that apologies after an election year are not an sufficient response to what we now know took place at the IRS,” McConnell said when the IRS admitted to the targeting. “This kind of political thuggery has absolutely no place in our politics.”
There are two major trends in this poll at odds with each other (rising approval against falling overall numbers). Maybe the next poll will provide some clarity.