Kentucky’s Beshear Ranks as America’s Most Popular Democratic Governor Ahead of Re-Election Bid

Six in 10 Kentucky voters approve of Beshear’s job performance, while 34% disapprove
January 12, 2023 at 5:00 am UTC

View updated U.S. governor ranking data here.

Public sentiment in Kentucky about Gov. Andy Beshear remains overwhelmingly positive as the Democrat prepares to defend his seat this year, placing him again among the nation’s 10 most popular governors, according to Morning Consult Political Intelligence tracking surveys. 

Beshear Is Popular With Kentuckians Ahead of Re-Election Fight

Shares of Kentucky voters who approve or disapprove of Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s job performance
Trend lines showing Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear's (D) approval trend, showing his popularity ahead of his re-election bid.
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Surveys conducted quarterly in 2021 and 2022 among representative samples of at least 5,023 Kentucky voters, with margins of error of +/-1 percentage point. “Don’t know/No opinion” responses are not shown.

Andy Beshear’s approval rating in Kentucky

  • Six in 10 Kentucky voters approve of Beshear’s job performance while 34% disapprove, according to data collected Oct. 1-Dec. 31. The figures — which make him the nation’s most popular Democratic governor — are generally in line with Beshear’s standing throughout Joe Biden’s presidency, two years which took a toll on other red-state Democrats such as Govs. Laura Kelly of Kansas and John Bel Edwards of Louisiana.
  • Though half of Kentucky Republicans give Beshear negative marks, 46% give a thumbs-up to his handling of the job, making him the most popular Democratic governor with voters of the opposite party as well.  
  • Roughly half of Kentucky independents (49%) approve of Beshear’s job performance, along with 87% of Democrats in the Bluegrass State.

The impact on 2023

Positive perceptions of job performance do not always ensure victory. While Kelly defeated her Republican challenger in November, Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak of Nevada narrowly lost his re-election bid despite maintaining an approval rating of at least 50% in the third and fourth quarters of 2022. 

In Kentucky, Beshear indeed faces an uphill battle in a state that, despite its history of Democratic governors, has voted overwhelmingly Republican in federal races over the past two decades. He flipped the seat in 2019 thanks in large part to former Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s unpopularity, an advantage he will not likely have this fall as he faces a slate of potential Republican challengers, including state Attorney General Daniel Cameron, former U.S. ambassador to Canada and the United Nations Kelly Craft and Agricultural Commissioner Ryan Quarles.  

Still, the incumbent’s appeal to non-Democrats is welcome news and a legitimate upside for a party seeking to maintain possession of two of the three governor’s mansions that are up for grabs this fall. 

Looking across the map, Beshear and Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont of Connecticut are clear outliers, as most of the country’s most popular governors in late 2022 were Republicans. 

America's Most Popular and Unpopular Governors

Share of voters in each state who approve or disapprove of the following governors' job performance
Bar chart of governor approval ratings showing most of the most popular governors in late 2022 were Republicans.
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*Denotes governor has retired. Most popular and unpopular governors are ranked by the largest approval and disapproval shares, respectively. Net approval rating -- the approval share minus the disapproval share -- is used to break ties.

Surveys conducted Oct. 1-Dec. 31, 2022, among representative samples of registered voters in each state, with margins of error of +/-1 to 5 percentage points. “Don’t know/No opinion” responses are not shown.

America’s most popular and unpopular governors

  • Gov. Phil Scott (R-Vt.) is America’s most popular governor, followed by Gov. Mark Gordon (R-Wyo.) and two blue-state Republicans who left office after the 2022 elections, Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and Larry Hogan of Maryland.
  • Republican Gov. Jim Justice, who’s reportedly eyeing a run for U.S. Senate in West Virginia, has a 64% approval rating — 24 percentage points higher than Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin’s approval rating there. 
  • Gov. Tate Reeves (R-Miss.) is up for re-election this fall, and begins the year with a 49% approval rating and a 41% disapproval rating.
  • Oregon Democrat Kate Brown and Arizona Republican Doug Ducey each left office with the worst approval ratings of the fourth quarter of 2022, while newly re-elected Govs. Tony Evers (D-Wis.) and Greg Abbott (R-Tex.) are the least popular state chief executives still in office.

For Morning Consult’s state-level survey data, weights are applied to each state separately based on age, gender, education, race, home ownership, 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 5 points. For more detailed information, you can download the 50-state data set for gubernatorial approval ratings among all voters here.

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Eli Yokley
U.S. Politics Analyst

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].

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