The newest edition of the MetroNews West Virginia Poll shows Governor Jim Justice’s approval rating has plummeted.
The poll reveals just 34 percent of West Virginia voters questioned approve of the job he’s doing. Forty-four percent disapprove and 22 percent are not sure. Just nine months ago, Justice won the governor’s race with 49 percent of the vote, compared with 42 percent for Republican Bill Cole.
But a lot has happened between then and now.
First, Justice said repeatedly during the campaign that West Virginians were taxed enough, but as soon as he took office he proposed $450 million in new taxes. Justice said his reversal was because the state’s financial condition was worse than he knew and the state needed the additional revenue.
However, voters clearly got one message during the campaign and another when Justice took office.
Second, Justice suffered through a long and tangled legislative session where he and lawmakers squabbled over the budget. There was plenty of blame to go around, but Justice was the most prominent figure during the long fight.
Third, and perhaps most significant, the Governor switched parties. He ran and was elected as a Democrat, but then decided last month to become a Republican. Our poll indicated a drop in support of disappointed Democrats.
As our Brad McElhinny reported, “Of those who described themselves as Democrats, 27 percent said they approve of Justice with 51 percent disapproving. Of those who describe themselves as liberals, 23.8 percent approve and 56.4 percent disapprove.”
Meanwhile, the poll shows Justice has a higher approval rating from GOP voters than with Democrats, but not enough to make up for the support he lost. Fewer than half of self-described Republicans (45.4 percent) approve of the job he is doing, while more than one-third (35.5 percent) disapprove.
Conservative voters, who make up the largest bloc in West Virginia, are split on Justice: 40 percent approve and 38 percent disapprove. The rest are undecided.
West Virginia Wesleyan Political Science Professor Robert Rupp told McElhinny, “There are two stories going on, which is how upset the Democrats are and the reluctance of the Republicans. He’s jumped to the other side, but they haven’t totally accepted him.”
Justice consistently dismisses any discussion of politics, insisting that he’s always willing to work with either party. However, it’s harder for a Governor to get the public behind a proposal or push a bill through the legislature if his approval ratings are low.
Justice still has plenty of time to right the ship, but he needs some victories. The coal industry is improving along with the state’s economy, so that helps. Passage of the road bond would be a big win. We are releasing poll numbers next week on that issue.