Iowa Poll: Kim Reynolds' approval rating slips as she pursues ambitious, polarizing agenda
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Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ approval rating has slipped as she presides over an ambitious and polarizing legislative session, a new Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll shows.
The share of Iowans who approve of Reynolds’ job performance has fallen 3 percentage points from 53% in October 2022 to 50% today.
At the same time, the share of those who disapprove is up 4 percentage points from 42% last year to 46% today. Another 4% are not sure.
Reynolds, a Republican, cruised to an easy reelection last fall, defeating Democratic challenger Deidre DeJear by nearly 19 percentage points and earning 58% of the vote.
She leveraged her political power to campaign against incumbent members of her own party who opposed her “school choice” agenda, instead supporting their primary opponents.
She took office in January with control of a Republican-led Legislature that quickly approved her plan to give parents $7,600 annually in taxpayer money to pay for their child’s private school, despite opposition from some Republicans.
Iowans oppose that law by nearly 2 to 1, the Iowa Poll shows.
Gov. Kim Reynolds holds slightly higher job approval rating than Iowa Legislature
Reynolds has also led the push on polarizing issues, such as limiting how much money Iowans can receive in the most severe medical malpractice cases and pushing for greater “parents’ rights” in public schools on matters such as students’ access to library books and their pronoun usage.
She recently signed controversial legislation restricting gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth and restricting which bathrooms and locker rooms transgender students can use in schools.
More:Uniquely powerful, Kim Reynolds could be a caucus kingmaker. Why she won't play favorites.
The Register’s Iowa Poll shows a plurality of Iowans approve of the Legislature’s work, 48% to 36%. Another 16% are not sure.
That approval rating is 2 percentage points lower than Reynolds’.
Republicans currently enjoy their largest legislative majorities in decades and have moved quickly to pass many pieces of Reynolds’ agenda.
"She's not one of those politicians that waits 10 years to get something done. I do like that about her,” said Marry Creegan, a 59-year-old Maquoketa resident and poll respondent. “She does weigh out her decisions carefully. ... And she's pretty much straightforward and honest about stuff.”
But Creegan, a Republican, said she disagrees with Reynolds’ private school plan. She lives in a mostly rural area where there aren’t many private school options to begin with.
“It’s going to hurt public schools, I believe,” Creegan said. “I used to work for the school system, and I can see where it would probably really affect them and where they get their money from and the quality of the education. So that's probably my one big thing that I really disagreed with her on.”
Overall, though, Creegan said she approves of Reynolds’ performance in office.
A majority of Iowans, 51%, view the governor favorably, while 45% report unfavorable feelings toward her — a 6-point margin. In October, her margin was 12 points, with 55% feeling favorable compared with 43% who were unfavorable.
The poll of 805 Iowa adults was conducted March 5-8 by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Gov. Kim Reynolds loses ground with key demographic groups
Reynolds lost five points among Republicans, with her approval rating now at 86% compared with 91% in October. Now, 11% of Republicans disapprove.
Democrats are nearly the inverse, with 12% approving and 87% disapproving.
Reynolds was barely above water with independent Iowans last year, 46% to 45%. But now, more say they disapprove than approve of her, 50% to 45%.
Reynolds also lost ground with most of the demographic groups that were her strongest approvers in the October 2022 Iowa Poll.
Among men, she’s slipped from 64% to 60%. Support among Catholics has fallen from 71% to 52%.
For those who live in towns, it went from 62% to 53%. And in the predominantly conservative 4th Congressional District, in northwest Iowa, it’s fallen from 66% to 59%.
Q&A: Why Kim Reynolds won't pick a caucus favorite or consider a vice presidential bid
More Iowans say things in the state are going in the right direction than wrong track
Forty-eight percent say things in the state are headed in the right direction, while 44% say things are on the wrong track.
Republicans and Democrats are divided in how they view circumstances in the state, with 74% of Republicans saying things are going in the right direction, compared with just 15% of Democrats.
Eighty-two percent of Democrats and 18% of Republicans say things are going in the wrong direction in Iowa.
Independent Iowans are nearly evenly split, with 47% saying Iowa is on the wrong track and 46% saying it is heading in the right direction.
Kevin Hansen, a 67-year-old Indianola resident and poll respondent, is among those who believe the state is going in the wrong direction, and he faults Reynolds’ leadership on several issues.
“When the public opinion says not to overturn or do something, they're shoving it down our throat whether we like it or not,” he said. “So, she doesn't represent everybody. She seems to be more of a divider than a uniter.”
Hansen, who identifies as a progressive voter, said he used to be proud of Iowa’s past as the state did things like approving same-sex marriage before it was legal in the rest of the country.
“I grew up in Iowa. I've been here all my life,” he said. “This is not the Iowa I once knew.”
The poll also shows other divisions.
A majority of men, 57%, say things are going in the right direction, while a majority of women, 53%, say they’re on the wrong track.
FAQs: How is the Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll conducted? We answer your top questions.
And a majority of those who live in rural areas, 54%, say things are going in the right direction, while a majority of city dwellers, 52%, say they’re on the wrong track.
Iowans under age 35 say things are going in the right direction at 55%, and a plurality of those 65 and over say things are on the wrong track at 49%.
It’s a far rosier picture than Iowans have of the direction of the nation.
The poll found 74% of Iowans say the country is on the wrong track. Just 18% say things are headed in the right direction, and another 8 percent say they’re not sure.
Reynolds also gets much higher marks than President Biden.
Only 30% of Iowans say they approve of Biden’s job performance — down from 35% in October 2022 and just above his lowest Iowa Poll showing as president, 27% in July 2022.
Brianne Pfannenstiel is the chief politics reporter for the Register. Reach her email@example.com or 515-284-8244. Follow her on Twitter at@brianneDMR
About the Iowa Poll
The Iowa Poll, conducted March 5-8, 2023, for The Des Moines Register and Mediacom by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines, is based on telephone interviews with 805 Iowans ages 18 or older. Interviewers with Quantel Research contacted households with randomly selected landline and cell phone numbers supplied by Dynata. Interviews were administered in English. Responses were adjusted by age, sex and congressional district to reflect the general population based on recent American Community Survey estimates.
Questions based on the sample of 805 Iowa adults have a maximum margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. This means that if this survey were repeated using the same questions and the same methodology, 19 times out of 20, the findings would not vary from the true population value by more than plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. Results based on smaller samples of respondents — such as by gender or age — have a larger margin of error.
Republishing the copyright Iowa Poll without credit to The Des Moines Register and Mediacom is prohibited.
Iowa Poll methodology
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Gov. Kim Reynolds approval rating falls, new Iowa Poll shows