MINNEAPOLIS (AP) ― Gov. Tim Pawlenty's approval rating has hit a new low in the latest Star Tribune Minnesota Poll.
Forty-eight percent of those polled approve of the way he's doing his job, while 36 percent disapprove. Both numbers are a point worse than a similar Minnesota Poll in September 2003, when the state also faced budget woes and a troubled economy.
In an e-mail to the Star Tribune, Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung responded: "In light of the fact that the state leans DFL, the economy is challenged, and we're in the closing weeks of a tough session, a 12-point advantage for approval over disapproval shows that most Minnesotans support Gov. Pawlenty holding government accountable by controlling spending and keeping a lid on taxes."
The new ratings are a decline from last September, when 54 percent supported Pawlenty's performance at a time when his national profile had soared as a potential GOP vice-presidential candidate.
The results could be partly attributed to the polling sample. The Star Tribune's telephone poll consisted of 37 percent of people who called themselves independents, 36 percent Democrats and 20 percent Republicans.
The poll of 1,042 Minnesotans was conducted over four days last week. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
But Pawlenty has slipped close to what political analysts consider a danger zone, when a politician enjoys the support of fewer than half of respondents.
Pawlenty is considered a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2012, but he hasn't even announced yet if he's running for re-election in 2010. In April, Pawlenty said on Minnesota Public Radio that he's thinking about running for re-election as governor.
Among Republicans, 77 percent approved of Pawlenty's performance, 13 percent disapproved and 10 percent had no opinion. Twenty-eight percent of Democrats surveyed approved of Pawlenty's performance, while 54 percent disapproved and 18 had no opinion. Among independents, 54 percent approved of the governor's performance, 31 percent disapproved and 15 percent had no opinion.
The poll found Minnesotans with lower incomes, under $30,000 a year, are least likely to approve of Pawlenty's performance, with only 42 percent saying they approve of the job he's doing. Slightly more than half approve in all other income groups.