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Recent news reports have suggested that West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice -- who faces both Republican and Democratic challengers in his bid for a second term in 2020 -- has one of the lowest approval ratings of any governor in the country.
For instance, WHSV-TV reported, "Gov. Jim Justice's approval rating 2nd lowest among GOP governors."
Are Justice’s ratings really that weak? Yes, according to the only 50-state comparison data that’s available.
The WHSV article references polling by Morning Consult, a company that surveys residents of every state about their governor on a quarterly basis. The most recent Morning Consult survey covers July through September 2019 and was based on responses from 4,521 registered voters in West Virginia. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points.
However you slice it, the Morning Consult poll has bad news for Justice.
One method is to see which of the 50 governors has the lowest approval rating, without looking at their disapproval rating.
By this measurement, Justice has a lower approval rating (42%) than any Republican governor other than Matt Bevin of Kentucky (34%). Bevin, as it happens, appears to have lost his bid for reelection on Nov. 5.
Justice does match or outpace five Democratic governors in approval -- Ned Lamont of Connecticut (35%), Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island (36%), David Ige of Hawaii (36%), Kate Brown of Oregon (38%), and Ralph Northam of Virginia (42%).
Another method is to look at the governor’s net approval -- how far "above water" or "below water" a governor is. A governor is above water if their approval rating exceeds their disapproval rating. If they are under water, it means that their disapproval rating is higher than their approval rating.
The most recent Morning Consult survey shows that only six governors are currently under water in approval. Four are Democrats -- Ige, Brown, Raimondo, and Lamont. Two are Republicans -- Bevin at 19 points under water, and Justice at 5 points under water.
So Justice fares poorly on that metric as well.
Finally, it’s possible to compare a governor’s approval rating with that of President Donald Trump in their state. It’s possible to make a direct comparison because Morning Consult also surveys Trump’s approval rating in all 50 states.
The University of Virginia’s Center for Politics recently made these calculations. They found that only three governors out of 50 trailed Trump in approval in their home state -- Raimondo, by a point; Bevin, by 34 points; and Justice, by 25 points.
Morning Consult is the only company that polls gubernatorial approval in the 50 states, so it’s impossible to use an alternative source to compare Justice to the rest of his gubernatorial peers.
However, there’s one other measurement of Justice’s approval rating on its own.
A survey released Aug. 30 by MetroNews West Virginia found Justice with the same approval rating as Morning Consult -- 42%. The poll showed that 40% saying they disapproved. (The margin of error was 4.4 percentage points, meaning that Justice could have been slightly above water or slightly below water.)
WHSV-TV, "Report: Gov. Jim Justice's approval rating 2nd lowest among GOP governors," Oct 21, 2019
Morning Consult, Governor Approval Rankings, Third Quarter 2019
Charleston Gazette-Mail, "Poll: Gov. Justice's approval rating within margin of error," Aug. 30, 2019
Sabato's Crystal Ball, "Outside of D.C., Governors Remain Popular in the States," Nov. 7, 2019