“The Worst Job in Politics”

That’s the claim made of state governorship by MSNBC yesterday.

The biggest problem that governors and their state legislatures face, says Jon Shure of CBPP, “is the gap between people’s growing needs in the recession and the states’ abilities to meet those needs.” Social support programs, in other words, have to be slashed even as more hard-hit families are turning to them for help. Revenues aren’t expected to return to pre-recession levels until at least 2013.

Which is completely different from being any other elected official, of course. I had particular issue with the claim that

Voters’ opinions of their elected officials often reflect their deflated wallets. The average approval rating for the governors of the nation’s ten most populous states hovers somewhere below the tepid 40 percent mark.

as the average approval rating of the average Congressman is at the 20 percent mark, far lower than the claimed aggregate for governors. Not only that, but these approval ratings are both around the long term historical average – there appears to be virtually zero recession effect.

Adapted from PPIC.

And consider how journalists and political scientists differently view the article’s next claim:

Seven in 10 Californians disapprove of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s performance in the debt-saddled state. New York Gov. David Paterson’s numbers are almost as grim. Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons, who was pummeled by scandals during his 42 months in office, became the state’s first executive to lose his job at the hands of a primary challenge last month. A recent Michigan State University poll showed its state’s governor, Jennifer Granholm, with a grade of “poor” from 40 percent of residents.

For about half of the governors who will gather on Friday, this annual meeting will be their last. Many, like Schwarzenegger and Granholm, are term-limited by state law.

There’s work suggesting that term limits are blessings in disguise for legislators because it gives them a sort of “all bets off” approach to policymaking that would be unaffordable in times when re-election is still an issue, though more so for Democrats than Republicans. Retirement has been shown to have a similar effect.

There is little evidence to suggest that MSNBC’s piece has a point, or that there is any period in recent history when it would’ve. Yes, it’s quite clear the economy matters to election prospects, but this actually appears to be markedly less so for governors, not as much – and certainly not more.


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