Politics

The Governors' Big-State Blues

When Arnold Schwarzenegger's approval rating hit a new low of 28 percent in one poll this summer, it must have been only a small consolation that...
by | August 31, 2009
 

When Arnold Schwarzenegger's approval rating hit a new low of 28 percent in one poll this summer, it must have been only a small consolation that he was repeating the pattern of plummeting popularity set by his predecessor as California governor, Gray Davis, who was eventually removed from office by the voters. In New York, Governor David Paterson began heading downward in popularity almost from the day he took office. You begin to wonder: Is it a politically harder job to be governor of a big state than a small one?

California and New York aren't the only examples. Ed Rendell in Pennsylvania, Jennifer Granholm in Michigan and Bev Perdue in North Carolina all have low approval ratings. New Jersey's Jon Corzine stands a good chance of being booted from office in November.

What's striking is that many small-state governors aren't having this problem. Arkansas' Mike Beebe and New Hampshire's John Lynch have maintained high approval. The same is true for Mike Rounds in South Dakota and John Hoeven in North Dakota.

The reason for the disparity is hard to pin down. Perhaps big states are just inherently more partisan. Or perhaps it's just economics. The big states generally have suffered most in the recession, while some resource-rich small states haven't. Where small-state governors do face serious economic problems, such as Jim Gibbons in Nevada and Don Carcieri in Rhode Island, they don't win popularity contests, either.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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