U.S. Governor Rankings: Beshear Gets a Boost, Desantis' Approval Dips
Along with receiving solid marks from Kentucky Democrats and independents, Gov. Andy Beshear wins approval from roughly half of the state’s Republicans, making him the country’s most popular Democratic governor with the other party’s voters.
Despite President Joe Biden’s unpopularity in the Bluegrass State, half of Kentucky voters who disapprove of his job performance approve of Beshear’s. And despite Donald Trump’s double-digit 2020 victory there, those who voted for the former president are nearly as likely to approve of Beshear as they are to disapprove.
In Mississippi, over 3 in 5 Black voters disapprove of Gov. Tate Reeves’ job performance, including 50% who strongly disapprove. The latter figure is up 16 points over the past two years, suggesting heightened energy against the incumbent Republican among Black people, who make up more than a third of Mississippi’s population.
For the third quarter in a row, Phil Scott (R-Vt.) is America’s most popular governor, receiving positive marks from 76% of his state’s voters compared with 22% who disapprove.
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Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear — a Democrat running for re-election this year in a deep-red state — remains among America’s most popular governors ahead of the November contest. His approval rating among GOP voters is stronger than any other Democratic governor, resisting drag from President Joe Biden’s poor standing in the Bluegrass State and setting up a formidable challenge for Republicans hoping to unseat him.
The other incumbent governor up for re-election this fall, Republican Tate Reeves of Mississippi, is among the country’s least popular, according to our latest quarterly data. His state’s partisan bent and the power of incumbency are likely to be enough to push him across the finish line in November, though strengthened antipathy from the state’s large share of Black voters could make him sweat.
How voters see the governors up for re-election in 2023
A strong 64% majority of Kentucky voters approve of Beshear’s job performance, while 32% disapprove, according to our second quarter surveys conducted April 1-June 30. This marks Beshear’s highest approval rating since Biden took office in January 2021.
Beshear’s Popularity Reaches Biden-Era High Amid Re-election Fight
Along with receiving solid marks from Kentucky Democrats and independents, Beshear wins approval from roughly half of the state’s Republicans, making him the country’s most popular Democratic governor with GOP voters.
Even with his father’s esteemed name in state politics, Beshear’s current standing is remarkable given Kentucky’s partisan bent. While he defeated Republican Gov. Matt Bevin in 2019 by a razor-thin margin due largely to the incumbent’s deep unpopularity, Trump would go on to win the state by 26 percentage points in 2020.
What we do that’s different: We survey thousands of U.S. voters every day, producing exclusive daily tracking on how they feel their senators and governors are doing. These results are aggregated and published quarterly to ensure comparable sample sizes for all 50 states.
Why this matters: We’ve surveyed voters in all 50 states on their state's leader approval since January 2017. That rich trend data offers a rare look at the changes in voter approval for senators and governors over time.
Despite that wide presidential margin, Cook Political Report and Sabato’s Crystal Ball have rated the race as leaning Democratic, with Cook citing Beshear’s approval rating in Morning Consult surveys, buoyed by his handling of natural disasters and Kentucky’s economic performance. (Another race-rater, Inside Elections, currently sees the contest as a toss-up.)
Beshear is entering the heat of the campaign with strong popularity despite voters’ deep dislike of Biden in his state. Kentucky voters are 37 points more likely to disapprove than approve of Biden’s job performance (30% to 67%). But to Beshear’s credit, even those who dislike the president more often than not give the governor positive marks.
Half of Kentuckians Who Dislike Biden Like Beshear
Half of Kentucky voters who disapprove of Biden’s job performance approve of Beshear’s, and those who voted for Trump in 2020 are only slightly more likely to disapprove of the governor than approve.
The share of anti-Biden voters who strongly approve of Beshear is relatively small (13%), but so too is the share of these voters who strongly disapprove (20%). This gives Beshear an opportunity to reach out to anti-Biden voters to build a bipartisan coalition. It could also cause the Republican nominee — Trump-endorsed state Attorney General Daniel Cameron — to try to nationalize the contest in an attempt to force Kentucky voters to draw comparisons between their popular Democratic governor and the unpopular Democratic president.
While approval ratings do not always translate to electoral victories, Beshear’s unique standing among Republicans in his state will be handy if he can keep it in the hottest governor’s race on the map this fall. Beshear is competing in one of three off-year gubernatorial contests along with Mississippi and Louisiana, where Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards faces a term limit.
The other incumbent governor facing voters this year, Republican Tate Reeves of Mississippi, is much less popular than Beshear.
Reeves’ Approval in Mississippi Has Slumped During Biden’s Presidency
Just under half of Mississippi voters (48%) approve of Reeves’ job performance, while 42% disapprove.
The good news in the red state is that Reeves performs well with Republican voters: 3 in 4 approve of his job performance, putting his standing among them roughly in line with the median GOP governor. However, he underperforms with independents relative to most other GOP governors, according to our second quarter data.
Forecasters are united in viewing Mississippi’s gubernatorial contest as likely to go Republican this fall. And GOP strategists insist they aren’t sweating it even as Reeves faces Democratic nominee Brandon Presley, a second cousin of Mississippi legend Elvis Presley.
If Democrats have a chance at defeating Reeves, who won by 5 points in 2019, it will likely need to involve activating Black residents, who make up a larger percentage of Mississippi’s population than any other state.
Black Mississippians’ Disapproval of Reeves Has Intensified Since 2021
Over 3 in 5 Black voters in Mississippi disapprove of Reeves’ job performance, including 50% who strongly disapprove. The latter figure is up 16 points over the past two years — which contrasts with little change in sentiment among white voters — and suggests heightened energy against the Republican incumbent among Mississippi’s Black voters.
America’s most popular governors
While Mississippi’s Reeves faces re-election this year as one of America’s least popular governors, Kentucky’s Beshear is running with the distinction of being one of the country’s most popular incumbents.
America’s Most Popular Governors
For the third quarter in a row, Phil Scott (R-Vt.) is America’s most popular governor, earning positive marks from 76% of voters in his state compared with 22% who disapprove. He’s followed by Gov. Mark Gordon (R-Wyo.), who has a 69% approval rating, while Govs. Josh Green (D-Hawaii) and Chris Sununu (R-N.H.) share 64% approval ratings with Beshear.
While Green is the most popular newly elected governor, Republican Sarah Huckabee Sanders of Arkansas and Democrat Maura Healey of Massachusetts aren’t too far off, receiving positive marks from 3 in 5 voters in their respective states. One in 5 voters expressed uncertainty about their views of newly elected Govs. Wes Moore (D-Md.) and Jim Pillen (R-Neb.), showing that the two have some work to do to raise their profiles at home even as the Marylander gets glossy attention at the national level.
Following his 2022 re-election, Gov. Tony Evers (D-Wis.) is America’s most disliked governor, with a 44% disapproval rating. He is followed by Gov. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.), who has a 43% disapproval rating and has decided not to seek re-election next year.
And then there are the two governors seeking the Republican nomination for president: Ron DeSantis of Florida and Doug Burgum of North Dakota.
DeSantis’ Approval Dips Slightly in Florida as He Runs for President
DeSantis — who launched his presidential campaign in late May — saw his home-state approval rating fall slightly between the first and second quarters of 2023. While the majority of Florida voters (54%) still approve of his job performance, the share who disapprove increased from 38% to 42%, driven in part by a slight decline in sentiment among Republicans in his state.
On the other hand, little changed in how North Dakotans view Burgum, who announced his own candidacy in the third month of the quarterly survey. The majority of voters in his state, including 68% of Republicans, approve of his job performance, which is largely unchanged since the first quarter of 2023.
For Morning Consult’s state-level survey data, weights are applied to each state separately based on age, gender, education, race, homeownership, marital status, presidential voting history and — for a subset of states — race by education as well as an age-by-gender interaction.
Margins of error for responses from all voters in each state range from +/-1 to +/-6 percentage points.
For more detailed information, you can download the 50-state data set for gubernatorial approval ratings here.
Eli Yokley is Morning Consult’s U.S. politics analyst. Eli joined Morning Consult in 2016 from Roll Call, where he reported on House and Senate campaigns after five years of covering state-level politics in the Show Me State while studying at the University of Missouri in Columbia, including contributions to The New York Times, Politico and The Daily Beast. Follow him on Twitter @eyokley. Interested in connecting with Eli to discuss his analysis or for a media engagement or speaking opportunity? Email [email protected].