Senators who voted against expanding background checks for gun sales, in several states with bipartisan support for background checks, have seen their approval ratings drop, according to a new poll.
New polls from several states show a dip in approval ratings for several senators who helped kill the bill that would have expanded background checks for gun buyers. In its latest survey, Public Policy Polling shows a dramatic dip in approval numbers for five senators in Alaska, Arizona, Nevada, and Ohio, and participating voters have stated they are less likely to support them the next time the lawmakers are up for re-election.
The poll now shows that Arizona Senator Jeff Flake is the least liked senator in office with an approval rating of 32% and a disapproval rating of 51%. Of Arizona voters, 52% told PPP that they are less likely to support Flake for re-election due to his background check vote. In a state where 70% of Arizona votes support background checks, Sen. Flake turned against the efforts of his former congressional colleague, Gabby Giffords, who lobbied Flake to vote on behalf of their Arizona constituents. Flake also turned his back on the mother of an Aurora, Colo., shooting victim by telling her he supported strengthening background checks, then voted against it.
Flake responded to the recent poll by telling voters to take the polling results with a grain of salt. “If we believed PPP polls,” Flake told The Daily Caller’s Matt Lewis, ”I wouldn’t be here at all.”
Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski also lost support from her voters in a state where 60% of voters support background checks. The Republican senator’s rating went down from PPP’s last poll in February that showed a 54% approval rating and a 33% disapproval rating for Murkowski. Now, 46% of voters approve and 41% of voters disapprove of her.
Her Alaskan Democratic colleague, Mark Begich, held a 49% approval rating in February but is now down at 41% approval following the the background check vote. While his popularity has heavily declined with Democrats–a 76% approval rating now has gone down to a 59% approval rating — and with independents (from 54% dipping to 43%).
Of Alaskan voters, 39% say they will most likely not vote for either Begich and Murkowski in their next elections, based on their vote against the background check bill. Begich faces a challenging road to re-election in 2014, and Murkowski will seek re-election in 2016.
These five senators were among the 46 senators who voted against a background check bill that would have required background checks for all gun sales, including over Internet and at gun shows.
Sens. Dean Heller and Rob Portman experienced a more modest decline with their approval rating dropping by 3 points and 9 points respectively. While Sen. Portman’s s poll numbers were high in the second half of 2012 after his name was floated as one of the contenders for Mitt Romney’s presidential ticket, he now has a 26% approval rating, which has gone down from a 35% approval number from last October. Although 72% of Ohio voters support background checks, PPP’s April survey is the only one conducted after he came out in support of marriage equality, becoming the first Republican senator to show support for the issue.
Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada who held a 47% approval rating right before the 2012 election now has a 44% approval rating in his home state, where 70% support background checks for gun buyers.
Forty-six percent of Nevadans stated that they were less likely to support Sen. Heller due to his “no” vote, and 36% of Ohioans said they were less likely to support Portman for re-election.
Dean Debnam, president of the Democratic-leaning polling firm, concluded that the lowered approval ratings are a direct result of the failure to support the background check measure.
“The background checks vote is a rare one that really is causing these Senators trouble back home,” said Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling, in a statement. “All five of these senators, as well as Kelly Ayotte [(R-N.H.)], have seen their approval numbers decline in the wake of this vote. And the numbers make it clear that their position on Manchin/Toomey is a major factor causing the downward spiral.”
In the first poll since voting against background checks on the Senate floor, a PPP poll released last week showed that Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s disapproval rating went up significantly. PPP found in October that Ayotte had a 48% approval rating and a 35% disapproval rating but her most recent polling shows her at a 44% approval rating and a 46% disapproval rating in New Hampshire where 75% of voters support background checks. Additionally, 50% of voters in the state say Ayotte’s “no” vote will make them less likely to support her in the future.
Republican Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, appears to have received a polling bump of a net 7 points for his leadership on the issue, according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll released last Friday. Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s anti-gun violence group also pulled ads that targeted Sen. Toomey after the senator agreed to work with Democratic West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin on a compromise on background checks.
Sens. Flake, Portman and Ayotte were also the target of ads funded by Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns. A recent ad admonished Sen. Flake in particular for switching his position on background checks.
The NRA responded by releasing radio and print ads to increase support for the senators who have lost support from voters. The pro-gun group has ads praising the anti-background check votes from Montana’s Max Baucus, who announced his retirement plans after his vote, and Sen. Ayotte.
PPP surveyed more than 1,000 voters in Alaska, 600 in Arizona, 500 in Nevada and 600 in Ohio, and was conducted between April 25 and 26.