America’s Most and Least Popular Senators

Sanders again on top while McConnell has worst numbers

Morning Consult illustration
  • Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) saw his numbers decline while facing federal corruption charges.

  • Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) went down in popularity, too, before his announcement that he would not seek re-election next year.

Along with President Donald Trump’s declining support across the country, approval ratings for nearly all senators went down in their home states during the third quarter. The period overlapped with several unsuccessful Republican-led attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

According to Morning Consult’s latest Senator Approval Rankings – compiled from a poll of 255,120 registered voters in 50 states from July 1 to Sept. 30 – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is yet again America’s least popular senator. Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) remains America’s most popular senator. Full methodology available here.

  • Approve
  • Don't Know/Undecided
  • Disapprove

In Kentucky, one-third of voters approve of McConnell’s job performance, while 55 percent of voters said they disapprove — more than any other senator. In Vermont, 71 percent of voters approve of Sanders, while 22 percent disapprove of Sanders, who ran a stronger-than-expected race in 2016 for the Democratic presidential nomination.

McConnell’s net approval, the difference in his approval and disapproval percentages, dropped 15 percentage points, the third-largest drop in the Senate, from the second quarter, according to the survey. The slide came as he failed to advance Obamacare repeal — a key pillar of the GOP’s political agenda since the law’s enactment in 2010.

Biggest swings

The most dramatic swings in approval came for Republican Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.) and Sen. Cory Gardner (Colo.). Their net rankings both went down 18 percentage points.

Since Morning Consult’s last release in July, West Virginians’ approval of Capito has fallen 8 points, from 56 percent to 48 percent, according to the survey. At the same time, her disapproval rose 10 points, from 26 percent to 36 percent.

Colorado voters are split nearly evenly (40 percent to 39 percent) on Gardner, who chairs the Senate GOP’s campaign arm. Like Capito, his approval dropped 8 percentage points while his disapproval rose 10 percentage points.

Both senators would face voters again in 2020 if they choose to seek second, six-year terms.

The controversies

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) – who spent several weeks consumed by a federal corruption trial – joined the ranks of senators whose approval went underwater in the third quarter. In New Jersey, 32 percent of voters approve of his job performance, the lowest of any senator. Forty-one percent disapprove of him and 28 percent said they did not know or had no opinion of the senator, who has been in that office since January 2006.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who published a book in August criticizing Trump’s brand of politics, saw a 7-point drop in his net approval before he announced he would not run for re-election next year. He ended September as the second least-popular senator in the country, with 33 percent of voters approving of him compared with 48 percent disapproving. Two in 10 voters in Arizona said they did not know or had no opinion of Flake.

Rare improvements

Few senators saw improvement in their net approval rating outside the margins of error since the last survey was published in July. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) broke that rule with a 6-percentage point increase in his net approval after being underwater in the second quarter of the year. The survey found 46 percent of Arizona voters approve of him and 44 percent of voters disapprove of him. McCain was the deciding vote against a Senate plan to repeal Obamacare and has been fighting cancer.

Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) both saw their net approval increase by 9 percentage points. For Tester, who is up for re-election next year, that came from a 6-point drop in those who said they disapproved of him, to 33 percent, and a 3-percentage point spike in those who said they approved of him, to 53 percent — a change that is within Montana’s 4-point margin of error.

Another Democrat up for re-election in a state won by Trump last year, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), saw her approval fall 4 points, to 42 percent — but her disapproval hardly moved, ending the quarter at 39 percent after she participated in several August town hall-style events.

StateSenatorApproveDissaproveDon't Know/No OpinionMargin of Error
AlabamaRichard Shelby53%27%20%1%
AlabamaLuther Strange44%34%23%1%
AlaskaLisa Murkowski49%38%13%5%
AlaskaDan Sullivan49%32%18%5%
ArizonaJohn McCain46%44%10%1%
ArizonaJeff Flake33%48%20%1%
ArkansasTom Cotton55%27%18%2%
ArkansasJohn Boozman52%23%25%2%
CaliforniaDianne Feinstein47%33%20%1%
CaliforniaKamala Harris46%26%28%1%
ColoradoMichael Bennet46%30%24%2%
ColoradoCory Gardner40%39%22%2%
ConnecticutRichard Blumenthal54%34%12%2%
ConnecticutChris Murphy53%31%17%2%
DelawareThomas Carper55%24%20%3%
DelawareChris Coons48%29%22%3%
FloridaBill Nelson50%26%24%1%
FloridaMarco Rubio47%37%16%1%
GeorgiaDavid Perdue51%26%24%1%
GeorgiaJohn Isakson49%26%25%1%
HawaiiMazie Hirono60%24%16%4%
HawaiiBrian Schatz60%22%18%4%
IdahoMichael Crapo50%30%19%3%
IdahoJames Risch43%29%28%3%
IllinoisTammy Duckworth41%32%26%1%
IllinoisDick Durbin37%38%25%1%
IndianaJoe Donnelly47%26%27%1%
IndianaTodd Young45%26%28%1%
IowaChuck Grassley50%35%15%2%
IowaJoni Ernst45%36%19%2%
KansasJerry Moran44%34%22%2%
KansasPat Roberts39%40%21%2%
KentuckyRand Paul48%36%16%1%
KentuckyMitch McConnell33%55%12%1%
LouisianaJohn Kennedy50%25%26%2%
LouisianaBill Cassidy47%30%24%2%
MaineSusan Collins62%30%8%3%
MaineAngus King61%27%12%3%
MarylandBen Cardin50%23%27%1%
MarylandChris Van Hollen48%23%29%1%
MassachusettsElizabeth Warren54%35%11%1%
MassachusettsEd Markey49%22%28%1%
MichiganDebbie Stabenow45%36%19%1%
MichiganGary Peters37%28%35%1%
MinnesotaAmy Klobuchar59%26%15%2%
MinnesotaAl Franken55%32%14%2%
MississippiThad Cochran51%27%21%2%
MississippiRoger Wicker49%26%24%2%
MissouriRoy Blunt44%36%20%1%
MissouriClaire McCaskill42%39%18%1%
MontanaJon Tester53%33%14%4%
MontanaSteve Daines49%32%20%4%
NebraskaBen Sasse46%34%20%3%
NebraskaDeb Fischer45%35%19%3%
NevadaCatherine Cortez Masto45%32%23%2%
NevadaDean Heller39%39%21%2%
New HampshireMaggie Hassan53%31%15%3%
New HampshireJeanne Shaheen50%33%17%3%
New JerseyCory Booker48%30%21%1%
New JerseyRobert Menendez32%41%28%1%
New MexicoTom Udall46%31%24%3%
New MexicoMartin Heinrich45%31%24%3%
New YorkChuck Schumer55%29%15%1%
New YorkKirsten Gillibrand49%24%26%1%
North CarolinaRichard Burr42%32%27%1%
North CarolinaThom Tillis38%31%30%1%
North DakotaJohn Hoeven63%20%18%4%
North DakotaHeidi Heitkamp55%32%14%4%
OhioSherrod Brown47%28%25%1%
OhioRob Portman43%31%25%1%
OklahomaJames Lankford48%28%24%2%
OklahomaJames Inhofe45%34%21%2%
OregonRon Wyden56%23%21%2%
OregonJeff Merkley53%24%24%2%
PennsylvaniaRobert Casey43%32%25%1%
PennsylvaniaPatrick Toomey39%38%23%1%
Rhode IslandJack Reed51%28%21%3%
Rhode IslandSheldon Whitehouse49%32%18%3%
South CarolinaTim Scott55%22%24%1%
South CarolinaLindsey Graham44%39%17%1%
South DakotaJohn Thune56%31%13%4%
South DakotaMike Rounds51%32%16%4%
TennesseeBob Corker48%30%23%1%
TennesseeLamar Alexander45%31%23%1%
TexasTed Cruz52%32%16%1%
TexasJohn Cornyn46%27%28%1%
UtahMike Lee52%30%18%2%
UtahOrrin Hatch46%41%13%2%
VermontBernie Sanders71%22%6%4%
VermontPatrick Leahy67%22%12%4%
VirginiaMark Warner53%28%19%1%
VirginiaTim Kaine48%35%18%1%
WashingtonPatty Murray51%32%17%1%
WashingtonMaria Cantwell50%28%22%1%
West VirginiaJoe Manchin53%36%11%2%
West VirginiaShelley Moore Capito48%36%16%2%
WisconsinTammy Baldwin41%38%21%1%
WisconsinRon Johnson41%39%20%1%
WyomingJohn Barrasso53%26%21%6%
WyomingMike Enzi53%25%21%6%
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