Reynolds’ Approval Among Lowest In Country For Pandemic Response

Iowans do not agree with their state’s overall plans to reopen large sections of the economy starting tomorrow, a sweeping new national poll of the public’s thoughts on the coronavirus shows. And Gov. Kim Reynolds’ handling of the pandemic rates among the lowest for U.S. governors, above only five others who also resisted calls to implement stricter measures earlier.

The good news for Reynolds is that a 54% majority of Iowans still approve of her overall handling of the COVID-19 outbreak. But it’s notable how poorly that fares in comparison to other governors, many of whom are seeing their approval soaring at the moment, as captured in this 50-state poll from Northeastern University, Harvard University and Rutgers University.

In Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine, who took decisive early action during the pandemic, has an approval of 83% for handling the coronavirus situation. Kentucky’s Andy Beshear, a Democrat leading a conservative state, is at 81% approval. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz earns a 72% approval rating.

The only governors that saw approval ratings below Reynolds’ are Alaska’s Mike Dunleavy, Florida’s Ron DeSantis, Hawaii’s David Ige, Oklahoma’s Kevin Sitt and South Dakota’s Kristi Noem.

In times of crisis, people often rally around their elected leaders, even moreso for those who represent them at a more local level. President Trump lags every single governor’s approval in this poll (he’s at 46% approval in the poll for Iowa), and his national approval ratings are weak compared to leaders around the globe. As Vox wrote today, international leaders like Angela Merkel, Justin Trudeau, Scott Morrison (Australia) and Boris Johnson have all seen double-digit bumps in their approvals. They show Trump’s numbers improving by only three points.

Though this is obviously a different poll with different methodologies, it’s noteworthy that Reynolds’ 54% here is the same as her 54% approval rating in a Des Moines Register poll in early March, right as the state recorded its first confirmed COVID-19 cases. In one of the worst crisis the state has ever faced, Reynolds has clearly failed to bring Iowans together in a way that so many other states that took swifter action have.

The poll was conducted from April 17 to 26, so it was mostly before Reynolds announced the plan to loosen restrictions on large swaths of the state starting tomorrow. It surveyed 22,912 individuals across the country, including 471 in Iowa.

The poll questions were extensive — it takes quite some time to sift through it all. But the answers are a fascinating look into how residents of different states are judging their leaders and what they’d prefer to see their state government do.

In Iowa, 32% say the state government is not taking the situation seriously enough, tied with Florida for the second-worst in the entire country, with only South Dakota rating higher at 35%. Just 8% say that Iowa is overreacting to the outbreak (a sentiment that some 4th District Republican candidates were sympathetic to), one of the lowest in the nation. For comparison, just 7% of both Minnesota and Wisconsin residents thought their state wasn’t taking it seriously enough. Still, 60% of Iowans felt the state was “reacting about right.”

How Iowans feel about specific coronavirus restrictions may have a significant connection to why Reynolds fares so poorly compared to most governors:

  • 66% strongly approve and 26% somewhat approve of the government asking people to stay at home
  • 46% strongly approve and 35% somewhat approve of requiring most businesses to close
  • 62% strongly approve and 28% somewhat approve of restaurants being limited to carry-out only, despite Reynolds’ constant insistence that Iowans are eager to go back to “their favorite restaurants”

But the most interesting response came from when Iowans were given potential timelines of when the state should reopen. Here’s the amount that supported each timeframe (keep in mind this poll ran from April 17 to 26) for when Iowa should “reopen the economy and resume business activity”:

  • 6% Immediately
  • 12% In the next two weeks
  • 17% After two to four weeks
  • 23% After four to six weeks
  • 17% After six to eight weeks
  • 24% After more than eight weeks

That’s a full 64% who believe the state shouldn’t reopen until mid- to late-May (depending on when they took the poll) or mid-summer.

And while Reynolds has told Iowans in recent weeks that COVID-19 was now a fact of life that the state will have to learn to live with for some time, many Iowans are still fearful they could contract the virus. 37% of Iowans said they were somewhat concerned and 23% were very concerned that they might contract the coronavirus themselves. Another 40% of Iowans were very concerned and 36% were somewhat concerned that one of their family members might get infected.

The poll also asked a series of quesitons on what precautions they personally were taking, like washing hands or staying away from people or crowds.

On the topic of wearing masks/face coverings in public, just 37% said they were “very closely” following the recommendations to do so. Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were the only states that ranked lower on that scale.

As mentioned, there are many, many, many other interesting findings in the lengthy poll that could be useful for Iowa leaders.

Here’s one last number to leave you with. Throughout Iowa’s handling of the pandemic, several mayors and city/county officials have clashed with Reynolds, requesting a local shelter-in-place order or assistance in shutting down a meatpacking plant experiencing an uncontrolled outbreak, all of which has been turned down by the Governor. This poll has 78% of Iowans approving of how their city government is handling the coronavirus.

 

by Pat Rynard
Posted 4/30/20

Iowa Starting Line is an independently-owned progressive news outlet devoted to providing unique, insightful coverage on Iowa news and politics. We need reader support to continue operating — please donate here. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more coverage.

10 Comments on "Reynolds’ Approval Among Lowest In Country For Pandemic Response"

  • I can’t believe Reynolds’ approval ratings are still as high as that. What is wrong with us here in Iowa?

  • Reynolds is correct that ” COVID-19 was now a fact of life that the state will have to learn to live with for some time”.

  • I wasn’t polled either and I am very impressed with the governor’s knowledge and truthfulness. If she doesn’t know and answer, she goes to someone who does. She’s not afraid to share the podium and anyone can see she is in this emotionally. She is doing what she thinks is best for the state based on FACTS.

  • This is going to get worse and worse, particularly in the meat packing plants. While I appreciate there is a difficult path forward for any leader, I think we will see the early opening strategy backfire, in a big way, for all the governors who take that path. I cannot wait to vote against Reynolds, I feel she is a very weak governor and just a holdover from Terry B.

  • Can’t see that I’m a big fan of Gov Reynolds but she is light years better than that nutjob over in Michigan.

  • Not polled. Moved back to Iowa in 2018. I think she has done a great job. Why take a national poll of a governor? I think she has handled the virus in a way that Iowans understand, while there was no stay at home order, people stayed at home… and the others who worked in essential jobs worked. It is what we do. Thank goodness she hasn’t done the crazy stuff that some of her neighbors have done.

  • I think she has NOT done a good job. Yes we are a farming state so that’s the only reason I can’t say horrible because I can see it both ways to a degree. It has impacted many lives of both meat packing employees as we as farmers. Especially I feel she is to blame a good bit (more Trump) on why farmers livestock prices plummeted. She was asked several times in her daily briefings about how to handle safety concerns at the workplaces (they were hinting at meat packing). She had terrible responses. Basically saying the employee needs to confront the employer & gp up the chain. Once she said to probably call OSHA. The questioner implied the 211 # & IDPH was no help. She should have tried to get a grasp on how serious the continual questions were. Thinking this wasn’t a mom & pop restaurant with a few employees hoping to take off work, this could be a meat packing plant or industry with hundreds of employees
    Hence spreading Cocid in the communities they shop or reside. We lost a family member who didn’t even work outside the home, she got it from community spread! To not have been able to give a loved one a burial, have family at her side when she needed them or the family needing that closure to say goodbye is devastating to a family. Not even a funeral for family & friends where you can feel like you said the final goodbyes. It doesn’t seem fair when someone who took such precautions not to get it was unsafe in her own small communities. Had testing been available sooner, Reynokds mentioned that day after day after day until Test Iowa rolled out (even then it took 5 to 7 days to get the results back. SHE should’ve spoken up louder to Trump or reached out for more tests rather than to be afraid of him. Very few spoke io to Trump & every day he would speak he acted like he had no clue states were short tests. Instead she winds up at the White House getting praised for reopening early! The 2 keep kissing ea others butts & that does not solve problems. It was more a political stunt on both Reynold & Trump rather then take this virus seriously within a proper time frame to cause far less devastation on Iowan’s lives, families, jobs and the farming economy. When Iowa showed up in the top of the polls (#1 a couple times and in the top 10 to 20 many others) for having the largest outbreaks per capita – how can people say she did well? We live in rural America & social distancing is pretty much a way of life not just a pandemic circumstance. Had we lived in areas with greater populations then why are we between #15 to #20 for having the most Covid Cases? We are near the of the bottom of the list when it comes to state population AND when you add density (people per sq mile) into the equation. That’s the only reason it hasn’t spread like wildfire, but that’s not because Reynolds went out of her way to keep Iowan’s safe. For her it just happened to be shear luck! Yes I hate seeing our hard working farmers lose the money they have lately. But if that’s your states main revenue then she should’ve had a better game plan or given more thought to the would be/could be scenarios. If you plan for the worst and the worst happens, it likely will never become the worst. Rather than look at this with your politcal party glasses on, compare Iowa & research the numbers, go back & watch her daily briefings & see how she averts so many imperative questions rather than proactively responding to them. It’s called a pandemic , it’s NOT a wait & see what happens approach before we take potential issues seriously. Even junior high football teams have a better game plan available then what Reynolds had uo until she finally got the Test Iowa FULLY up & running. Even at that we haven’t reached our peak, so the worst is yet to come. All I can sadly say is that many will turn their heads and refuse to ever condone their Republican President nor our Iowa Govenor until you lose a loved one, close friend, or someone close to you. Then you will start to look at the entire scope of things and realize someone or several people should take more accountability for their lack of response or seriousness to the worst Pandemic many if us will see in our lifetime. We have rural areascoutsidebof Des Moines in our small little towns that have no food pantries close. Those that are close are available once to every 2 months. Has she given any concern to this fact either? Imagine how many Iowans don’t even have access to transportation other than an ambulance if they would need to be taken to ER. Or the many of those who have no life insurance. Iowa’s population is vastly older & what steps has she taken to ensure their safety. You wait until rural hospitals all start to close all over the country because of the economic loses they too suffered during the past

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