Cruz and Sanders rise in Morning Consult survey of most popular senators

One of the sad realities of American politics is that Congress has horrible approval ratings. (The most frequent numbers cited show that having an impacted molar removed is still slightly more popular.) With the public in such a sour mood regarding the legislative branch you’d think that most of them would wind up being unemployed after each election, but that never seems to be the case. The answer to that mystery is the fact that while the institution as a whole is wildly unpopular, voters seem to feel far better about their individual representatives. (At least in most cases.) We see more evidence of the phenomenon this week with a new, extensive national survey from Morning Consult. They’ve polled all fifty states to see how folks are feeling about their own senators and quite a few of them garner some pretty high numbers. Perhaps unsurprisingly, some of the members with the most upward movement are the ones running for president.

Sen. Bernie Sanders may have watched his final hopes of being the Democratic presidential nominee flame out Tuesday night, but when he eventually heads home he can return knowing the people of Vermont still love him. Even after months of battling with front-runner Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail, Sanders remains the most popular senator in America.

Based on interviews with more than 62,000 registered voters since January, Morning Consult crunched how constituents felt about their home-state senators. Sanders maintained his spot at the top of the list from November, with an 80 percent approval rating.

Other presidential contenders saw mixed results from the campaign trail. Florida Republican Marco Rubio’s approval rating dropped 5 points from November, down to 45 percent. His disapproval ratings increased 8 points to 41 percent. Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, who is still competing for the Republican nomination, saw his approval rating increase 3 points to 55 percent with Texans, while his disapproval numbers went down two points to 30 percent.

So Sanders and Cruz are moving up while Rubio has sagged in popularity. Part of this may be rooted in the fact that people still like a winner (or at least a strong contender with a chance of winning) while they’re not so wild about someone who fails. But since Sanders seems to be on the way out, why is he on top? Two reasons. First of all, this survey was conducted over an extensive period dating back to January. It’s really only in the last couple of weeks that Bernie has lost hope of defeating Goliath and taking Hillary down. But beyond that, Sanders has always been near or at the top of the list in this survey, dating back to well before he tossed his hat in the ring. The fact is, Vermont just loves them some Sanders.

Rubio was flailing from early on despite the best efforts of the media to prop him up as the eventual nominee in waiting. That likely played into his poor showing, particularly when combined with the fact that he stated early on that he didn’t really want to be a senator anyway and was only interested in either being the President or going home. The public can be downright uncharitable that way.

The full list is at the link so you can check the status of your favorites, but here’s the thumbnail summary of the best and the worst.

Highest Approval:
1) Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)
2) Susan Collins (R-Maine)
3) John Hoeven (R-N.D.)
4) Angus King (I-Maine)
5) Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)
6) Thomas Carper (D-Del.)
7) Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)
8) John Barrasso (R-Wyo.)
9) Al Franken (D-Minn.)
10) Chris Coons (D-Del.)

Highest Disapproval:
1) Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)
2) Pat Roberts (R-Kan.)
3) John McCain (R-Ariz.)
4) Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)
5) Harry Reid (D-Nev.)
6) Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)
7) David Vitter (R-La.)
8) Jon Tester (D-Mont.)
9) Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.)
10) Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.)

There are some interesting trends there. People in the northeast seem to like their senators the best. (Plus Minnesota, for some reason, but you never know what those people are likely to say or do.) Meanwhile, the Miss Unpopularity contest winners are spread all over the map. The three Democrats at the bottom of the list are fairly obvious choices but none of them are up for reelection this year so they don’t have much to worry about yet. It is interesting that the two party leaders, McConnell and Reid are both near the bottom of the barrel, but that’s likely a symptom of the “year of the outsider” and the general distaste both parties seem to hold for the establishment these days.

The last one I would point out is John McCain. He’s facing a serious primary challenge this year for the first time in recent memory and he’s one of the least popular senators in his own state. We’ll be keeping a close eye on that race in the weeks to come.

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