Senator and Governor Approval Ratings: West Virginia Voters Warm to Joe Manchin but Jim Justice Looms Large
For more state-level data, dive into our first U.S. Leader Approval Outlook Report, our definitive monthly guide to U.S. voters’ views of all 100 senators, all 50 governors and President Joe Biden's approval rating in all 50 states.
Republican Sen. John Barrasso remains America’s most popular senator, with a 70% approval rating at home in Wyoming, followed by Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz, who has a 65% approval rating in Hawaii.
Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin remains one of America’s most unpopular senators, but his approval rating in West Virginia has increased 4 percentage points since the first quarter of 2023, while his disapproval rating has declined 7 points during that period. This improvement was driven largely by Republican voters, who are still far more likely to approve of the state’s GOP governor, Jim Justice, who is running for Manchin’s Senate seat.
Gov. Kim Reynolds (R-Iowa) is America’s most unpopular governor, with a 47% disapproval rating, up from 39% in the first quarter of 2023. Her unpopularity increased partly because of a surge in negative sentiment among independent and Republican voters during a year in which she signed a strict anti-abortion law and took a lashing from former President Donald Trump over her apparent closeness with Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.).
Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear of deep-red Kentucky is still enormously popular, but Republican state Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s gubernatorial campaign appears to have dented the incumbent’s popularity among GOP voters ahead of the Nov. 7 election.
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West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, the chamber’s most vulnerable Democrat, remains among America’s most unpopular senators. But according to our state-by-state quarterly surveys gauging leader popularity, he has seen recent improvement in his home-state standing as he mulls whether to seek re-election next year in a contest that could pit him against one of America’s most popular governors, Republican Jim Justice.
Senatorial approval ratings
America’s Most Popular and Unpopular Senators
Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Barrasso remains America’s most popular senator, with a 70% approval rating at home in Wyoming. He’s followed by Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii, who has a 65% approval rating. Also popular is Vermont Sen. Peter Welch, a freshman Democrat who boasts a 61% approval rating — roughly matching veteran Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) standing in the state after just nine months in office.
Contrary to Welch’s standing, Pennsylvania voters are evenly split on freshman Democratic Sen. John Fetterman’s job performance, with 43% approving and 43% disapproving. This makes him among America’s most unpopular senators alongside the likes of retiring Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), who has seen a modest improvement in her home-state standing as she considers running for re-election next fall.
In West Virginia, voters are more likely to disapprove than approve of Manchin’s job performance, but the figures have improved a bit since a nadir in the first three months of this year.
Manchin Has Seen an Uptick in Approval Among West Virginia Republicans
Manchin’s approval rating has increased 4 percentage points (from 38% to 42%) since the first quarter of 2023, while the share who disapprove of his job performance has declined 7 points (from 55% to 48%) during that period. This improvement was driven largely by Republican voters in the state, among whom Manchin’s disapproval rating declined 12 points (from 60% to 48%) from last quarter.
The figures show that at least some West Virginia voters are willing to shake off the displeasure they expressed after Manchin ditched his opposition to President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda and cast a decisive vote for his Inflation Reduction Act in 2022.
Despite Manchin’s improving numbers, the West Virginia Democrat is still swimming against the current in a deep-red state. If Manchin decides to seek re-election, he would likely face Trump-endorsed Justice, who looks favored to win the Republican nomination for his Senate seat.
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.
Gubernatorial approval ratings
With a 63% approval rating, Justice is among America’s most popular governors, with positive marks from 44% of Democrats, 57% of independents and 77% of Republicans.
Justice’s overall standing at home is similar to that of Republican Govs. Kay Ivey of Alabama and Mike Dunleavy of Alaska, though they are not as well liked as America’s most popular governor, Republican Phil Scott of Vermont, who has an approval rating of 83%.
America’s Most Popular and Unpopular Governors
On the flip side of the coin, Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa — a constant on the campaign trail as the GOP’s 2024 presidential candidates canvass the Hawkeye State — has a 47% disapproval rating, up from 39% in the first quarter of 2023. This is due in part to a surge in negative sentiment among independent voters (from 42% to 61%) and Republicans (from 7% to 17%) during a year in which she signed a strict anti-abortion law and took a lashing from Trump over her apparent closeness with Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), who is America’s second most unpopular governor as he focuses on his presidential bid.
Read more on Reynolds' and Desantis' standing in our October U.S. Leader Approval Outlook.
Ahead of elections next month, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear of deep-red Kentucky is still enormously popular, but Republican state Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s gubernatorial campaign appears to have dented the incumbent’s popularity among GOP voters.
The 2023 Campaign Has Taken a Toll on Beshear’s Standing with Republicans
Three in 5 Kentucky voters approve of Beshear’s job performance, down 4 points since the second quarter. Over that period, Beshear’s net approval among GOP voters — the share who approve minus the share who disapprove — declined 11 points.
While approval ratings do not always translate to electoral outcomes, an overwhelming share of Democrats and a majority of independent voters in Kentucky continue to give Beshear positive marks, putting him in a strong position for re-election, as head-to-head surveys in the state show him with a lead over his Republican rival.
Meanwhile in Mississippi, Republican Gov. Tate Reeves has a 46% approval rating ahead of his election next month against Democrat Brandon Presley.
While he is on solid footing with his Republican base, nearly 7 in 10 Black voters disapprove of his job performance, including 56% who “strongly” disapprove. This level of negative energy among Mississippi’s large Black electorate may not be enough to unseat Reeves, but it could make for a more competitive election than one might expect in a deep-red state.
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].