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MPR Poll: Ventura's Still a Hit
By Michael Khoo
July 13, 2000
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Minnesotans are giving Gov. Jesse Ventura high marks for the recently concluded legislative session. A poll conducted for Minnesota Public Radio, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and KARE-11 TV shows more respondents approve of the governor's performance than of the Legislature's.

See larger graph. See complete poll results.
IN THE YEAR FOLLOWING HIS ELECTION, Gov. Ventura'sapproval rating held relatively steady at about 56 percent. Then came the polarizing Playboy interview last fall and a sharp drop in public opinion. But the current poll shows the governor has recovered nicely. Once again, 56 percent of respondents rated Ventura's performance "good" or "excellent." The poll has a margin of error of plus- or minus-4 percentage points. Ventura says he feels vindicated. And he says the poll shows the public can see through what he considers unfair media accounts of his personal life and old-fashioned political sniping by editorial writers, columnists and other commentators.

"I'm very pleased that my political enemies are not having success," says Ventura. "They're not having the success that they're out there trying to do, and that is take me down. And it's not working."

Ventura says if the poll were taken today, his numbers would be higher still, as Minnesotans open their mailboxes to find sales-tax rebate checks. The survey was conducted between July 6th and 8th, before the checks were mailed. Seventy-four-year-old poll respondent Robert Jenson of Crystal says he's happy with the unorthodox governor, and he sounded a refrain familiar among Ventura supporters.

"He's put his foot in his mouth a couple of times," says Jenson. "Then again, what politician hasn't? The thing about Jesse that I like is he's not intimidated by any faction or he tells it like it is. And he's honest, I feel. And he's done some things that probably a savvy politician wouldn't do. But that doesn't make him a poor governor."

Jenson is one of 620 likely Minnesota voters contacted for the survey. In contrast to Ventura's positive reception, respondents were lukewarm on the state Legislature's performance. Fifty-seven percent said ranked lawmakers "only fair" or "poor." Republican House Speaker Steve Sviggum says he's not entirely surprised by the result.

"The Legislature's a nameless, faceless political body. It's hard to give an excellent rating to a nameless, faceless political body."

"That's hogwash."

- Governor Ventura, reacting to criticism that he wasn't "engaged" in the legislative session.
In a head-to-head match-up, 41 percent of respondents said Governor Ventura deserved higher marks for the last session, while only 34 percent sided with the Legislature. The rest divided credit and blame equally or were undecided. But Sviggum says the governor was often disengaged during the legislative session,and he admits it's a little frustrating to see Ventura steal the show at the end.

"Obviously I would like to see the governor more involved in the process. He certainly seems to be able to take credit and blame for the results of the process; that's basically the work that the Legislature did. I would like to see the governor more involved in the policy."

Ventura bristles at that criticism. "That's hogwash," he says. "We were engaged. Every conference committee that took place over here had a representative from my staff there. Would they have said the same thing about Governor Carlson? Did he attend all these conference committees? In fact, if I recollect right, I don't think he ever even spoke to a caucus in his eight years. I did. That's hogwash. That's an excuse."

Legislators say they, too, were at times disappointed with the process. Sviggum says he wasn't happy with the three-way split of government resources that ultimately lead to a budget compromise. And Assistant Senate Majority Leader Ember Reichgott Junge says the session ran far too long due to a dispute over the size of future budgets. The New Hope DFLer says voters' dissatisfaction with the process shouldn't be confused with their attitude towards the results.

"What did you think of the results of the 2000 legislative session? Did you think it was good for Minnesota? Did you think it was a good balance between tax relief and strategic investments? Did it do what you expected? And I think the results there would be very good. And that's how our government works," Junge said.

Junge says she, too, would like to see Ventura take a more active role in developing state policy.