Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Poll: Fletcher's approval rating has dropped 10 percent since May



The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE - Gov. Ernie Fletcher's job-approval rating has dropped 10 percent since May, according to a new Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll.

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The poll was conducted Oct. 18-20 after school employees and state workers protested Fletcher's health-insurance plan and toward the end of a special legislative session that resolved the crisis. Fletcher's 43 percent rating is the lowest of any first-year governor since The Courier-Journal began tracking performance ratings in 1987.

Fletcher had a 53 percent rating in a Bluegrass poll taken five months ago. Fletcher's disapproval rating rose to 45 percent, up from 28 percent in May's poll.

In the latest survey, only 11 percent of Kentuckians said they strongly approved of Fletcher, compared with 25 percent who said they strongly disapproved. Eleven percent had no opinion.

Some people polled said in follow-up interviews they disliked Fletcher's handling of the health plan for 229,000 state and school employees, retirees, and their dependents.

In an interview with the newspaper on Friday, Fletcher acknowledged that his job rating has suffered because of "dissatisfaction" over his health-care plan, as well as from battles with lawmakers amid a "very partisan atmosphere" in Frankfort.

"Obviously, a very tough year has resulted in those numbers, but this is just the beginning," he said. "There's always ups and downs, but one thing I hope people see, and I think they will see, is that we're here working very hard to do the right thing."

Fletcher predicted his approval rating would rebound once people learn how last week's resolution to the health-insurance crisis averted a teacher strike.

"This session will be seen as a decisive action that got us some resolution," he said.

Fletcher said his administration crafted the best health-insurance plan it could with the money it had, in the absence of a state budget. Faced with protest, Fletcher called the legislature into a special session that lasted 15 days before lawmakers agreed last week to add $172 million to the plan and appease workers.

The poll of 806 Kentucky adults had an error margin of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. The poll results come as Fletcher and the legislature prepare for the regular session in January, with an agenda expected to include the creation of a budget and decisions about how to pay for the health plan.

House Democrats, who claimed credit for writing the bulk of the health-insurance bill, accused Fletcher of not participating in the solution after giving lawmakers a difficult task. Senate Republicans gave Fletcher credit for trying to figure out how to solve the problem by calling a special session, and they said House lawmakers must accept some blame for the budget impasse in the last regular session.

"Them complaining about Ernie Fletcher having trouble being effective as a governor is like an arsonist complaining about the fire," said Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville.

Fletcher won high job approval from 60 percent of Republicans and 57 percent of registered voters who identified themselves as conservatives. Among men, 49 percent said they approved of his job performance.

Fletcher's job-approval rating was worst among Democrats, African-Americans, and liberal and moderate voters. For the four groups, at least 60 percent disapproved of his job performance.

Outside Jefferson County, 44 percent of respondents approved of Fletcher's performance and the same percentage disapproved. Fletcher's highest rating was posted in the Bluegrass region around Lexington, where 48 percent of respondents said they liked how he has handled his job.




ELECTION 2004
NATIONAL RACES
Cheney: No artificial date for ending terror war
Candidates can't control surprises
Election 2004 section
OHIO RACES
Battle for District 3 seat focuses on job creation
Issue 4 would phase out city's property tax over 10-year span
Media blitz begins for Ohio's Issue 1
Growth funding sought
Foreign observers banned by Blackwell
Union boss, legislator seek Senate seat
Ballot finally reaches soldier
Life experiences separate Supreme Court candidates
Terrace Park seeks rare tax increases
Sheriff's race has 'names'
Golf Manor asks renewal of 7-mill operating levy
KENTUCKY RACES
Davis/Clooney in the stretch
Poll: Fletcher's approval rating has dropped 10 percent since May
Bunning launches bus tour
Newport's key issue: taking land
EDITORIAL PAGE ELECTION VIEWS
Endorsement: Return Voinovich to Senate
Your Voice: Catholic stance against Kerry valid

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