Poll shows low approval rate for Brownback

Topeka — Gov. Sam Brownback has one of the lowest approval ratings among U.S. governors, according to a poll released Tuesday, and is potentially vulnerable going into his 2014 re-election effort.

However, the poll also showed there’s no indication that Democrats can field a candidate who can defeat Brownback in 2014, because of the state’s strong Republican orientation.

Fifty-two percent of Kansans disapprove of Brownback’s performance as governor, while 37 percent approve, according to Public Policy Polling, a national poling group.

“Sam Brownback’s really unpopular,” said Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling. “The question is whether he’s unpopular enough to allow a Democratic challenger to overcome the very heavy Republican lean of the state.”

The North Carolina polling firm conducted its first-ever Kansas poll from Feb. 21-24 with a survey of 1,229 registered Kansas voters. The poll has a plus or minus margin of error rate of 2.8 percent.

Seventy-two percent of moderates disapprove of Brownback’s job performance, as well as 30 percent of Republicans and 66 percent of independents.

Brownback’s plan to phase out the state income tax is opposed by 48 percent of voters, while only 37 percent are supportive.

Brownback’s former chief of staff David Kensinger, who now runs Brownback’s policy organization, called Road Map Solutions, disagreed with the poll results. “That doesn’t match up with the internal data we’re seeing, or with other media exit polls or with actual election results,” Kensinger said.

Kensinger said any governor in the country would love to run on Brownback’s record.

But Kansas Democratic Party Chairwoman Joan Wagnon said the poll shows Kansans “see through the fairy tale Brownback is spinning and understand his policies will hurt Kansas students, Kansas workers, and Kansas families.”

When matched against six Democratic names, however, Brownback comes out ahead.

PPP tested Brownback against Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, former governor and current U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, former Gov. Mark Parkinson, state Sen. Tom Holland, who ran against Brownback in 2010, former Kansas City, Kan. Mayor Joe Reardon, and Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor.

Brownback led Brewer, 44-40; Sebelius, 48-43; Parkinson, 45-39; Holland, 45-38; Reardon, 45-36; and Taylor, 44-32.

PPP said that despite Brownback’s unpopularity, Republican domination in voter registration and the low profile of Democrats still give Brownback a lead. “Nevertheless, Brownback is stuck at the 44-45 mark in all of these matchups except the one against Sebelius, so if Democrats nominate a strong candidate and they build up their name recognition, they should at least have a shot in this race next year, ” the polling firm said.