New poll says Beshear’s approval rating is on the rise. Paul has big lead over Booker.

Alex Slitz/aslitz@herald-leader.com
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A poll released this week showed that Gov. Andy Beshear’s approval rating is on the rise in Kentucky.

The Democratic governor went from 55% approval in February 2021 to 60% approval this January, according to a statewide poll performed by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy.

The pollster also asked voters about Republican Sen. Rand Paul’s likely challenge from Democrat Charles Booker this election year. Paul had a 16-point advantage over Booker, 55% to 39% per the poll. Only about 6% of voters said they were undecided on the matter.

Mason-Dixon, which has received high marks on its polls from data analysis website Fivethirtyeight.com, interviewed 625 registered voters in the state for their poll on Beshear and Paul vs. Booker. The poll was conducted from Jan. 19-22 via cell phone or landline.

Voter demographics were roughly representative of the state, though voters who were neither white nor Black were underrepresented and respondents skewed older. The margin for error, Mason-Dixon said, is no more than plus-or-minus four percentage points.

While 60% of Kentuckians approve of Beshear’s job, only 32% disapprove. His disapproval rating dropped from 36% last February. Only 8% of voters responded that they were not sure.

Beshear saw his highest approval rating in the Metro Louisville area, where 69% approved of his job performance and only 22% disapproved. His lowest approval rating came in Western Kentucky, where those who approved still outnumbered those who didn’t – 51% to 42%.

Women more often approved of Beshear’s job performance than men, 64% to 55%. Those above the age of 50 also expressed stronger approval than those below 50, 63% to 57%.

81% of registered Democrats approved of Beshear’s performance while only 39% of Republicans did.

Beshear does not face reelection until 2023.

The 44-year-old governor’s tenure thus far has been dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic. He’s also overseen state response to storms that wracked Western Kentucky and has touted and “on fire” economy with the announcement of several large employers moving to the state.

Paul safe so far

While challenger Charles Booker fared well among Democrats, his numbers when the pollster asked voters who they would vote for between him and incumbent Sen. Rand Paul tanked among registered Republicans.

Only 5% of Republicans said they would vote for Booker and 73% of Democrats said they would do so. Though statewide elections in Kentucky have seen significant victory margins for most Republicans, with the exception of Beshear’s 2019 win, there are slightly more registered Democrats in the state than Republicans.

Of the five regions polled only Booker’s home region, the Louisville Metro area, swung the Democrat challenger’s way. He won the poll there 51% to 45% against Paul.

Paul won the rest of the state, with a narrow three-point margin in the Bluegrass region and big wins in Northern, Eastern and Western Kentucky. In Eastern Kentucky, where Booker visited several times in 2020 and forged his well-known “Hood to the Holler” brand, he’s polling with just 31% of the vote; 62% of voters there say they’ll vote for Paul while 5% are undecided.

Booker launched into the state’s political scene with a run against Amy McGrath in the 2020 Democratic primary. Despite a significant fundraising disadvantage, the charismatic Booker nearly upset McGrath with his “Hood to the Holler” campaign promise of uniting urban and rural Kentucky.

Booker has launched a nonprofit and released both a documentary and a book of the same name.

Paul, meanwhile, has been a mainstay on conservative media with his frequent questioning of Chief Medical Advisor to the President, Dr. Anthony Fauci. Unlike fellow Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, Paul voted against the latest $3.5 billion federal infrastructure bill.

Booker and Paul both face primary challengers in the May election, but both are largely expected to move onto the general election challenge this November.

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