Sunday, December 12, 2010

Why a 58% Pre-Campaign Approval Rating for Mayor Ballard is Poor

For weeks, television reporter Jim Shella and others have been crowing about a WISH-TV poll showing Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard with a 58% approval rating. The 58% supposedly demonstrates the popularity of the Mayor, someone who is "swimming against the Democratic tide" in Marion County.

I don't get it. 58% is actually a poor number for an incumbent mayor at the start of a campaign.

For three years, Ballard's has had the bully pulpit to himself. He has been able to control the message and the issues, with no opponent and only token criticism from the other side. With any sort of political skill, Ballard should have been able to use that vaccuum to crank his approval rating up to 70% or more.

An election involving an incumbent is almost always a referendum on that incumbent. The Democrats are going to bombard voters with information about what Ballard has done wrong these past three years, how he's broken promises, supported tax and fee increases, and pushed through through highly unpopular measures like the parking deal and the $33.5 million Pacers gift.

58% represents Ballard's top number. Typically in these types of elections, the negative advertising from the opposition drags down the incumbent's numbers by 15%, at least. That would put Ballard at 43% on Election Day 2011, which is probably a good guess as to where he will end up.

Ballard needed to start the campaign at about 70% to be able to weather the inevitable storm that is coming. The fact Mayor Ballard is only at 58% at the start of the campaign is not a good is a bad omen.


Jon said...

The demographics are against him and then there is his record. When he ran against Peterson he was an unknown and Peterson has just increased the CAGIT by 65%. Now he is the guy who raised taxes and we certainly know the kind of politician he is; Au revoir Mr. Mayor.

Advance Indiana said...

I seem to recall Democrats touting approval numbers for Bart Peterson well north of 60% during most of the 2007 election. Repeatedly, you would hear the traditional pundits say you couldn't beat an incumbent with approval numbers that high. If you go back and listen to what those Indiana Week In Review folks were saying before the 2007 race, they were all pretty much in agreement there was slim to no chance of Peterson losing to Ballard.

Jon E. Easter said...

Approval ratings don't mean squat. It's votes that win elections. The landscape in November of 2011 will definitely determine the votes in November of 2011.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Actually, Jon Easter, what is more important is disapproval ratings. Most political analysts focus on that.

I think BAllard couldhave scaled the mountain that is the Democratic 55% base if he had properly laid the groundwork. Instead he governed like an 1990s Republican, catering to elites rather than reaching out and addressing the concerns of Joe and Jill Six-Pack.

Ellen said...

Never thought I'd miss Peterson!