Despite ongoing disagreements with the DFL-controlled House and Senate, Gov. Pawlenty has gained ground with Minnesotans. The new Minnesota Public Radio News poll finds those rating his job performance as good or excellent is 8 points higher since our last poll in October.
In general the governor is more popular among men than among women, and much more popular with Republicans than with Democrats. Fifty-two percent of self-described independents give him good or excellent marks.
Faye Olsen is a Democrat from Duluth, but she likes the governor, in part because she thinks he's a sincere person.
"That means a lot to me--sincerity," she says. "Say, Bush, I wouldn't trust him as far as I could throw him. And I would trust our governor. To me that's the difference. I just trust him. Why? I don't know really. I just think his ideas are right, and I do think he's honest. I do think he tries to help people."
Olsen, 69, says it wouldn't surprise her to see Pawlenty elected to national office.
Pawlenty's spokesman Brian McClung echoes Olsen's comments.
"People give him credit and give him points for sticking by what he believes in," McClung says.
He says Pawlenty's stand on the issues, particularly taxes, most likely account for his rising popularity since the election.
“People give him credit and give him points for sticking by what he believes in,”Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung
"The governor has said for years that state government needs to be held accountable; state government should live within its means, and we have some healthy budget revenues that are growing in this state," he says. "We don't need to be raising taxes. And whether or not people agree or disagree with Gov. Pawlenty on every single issue I think they respect him for standing up for what he believes in and for sticking to his guns."
The governor's popularity comes in spite of his opposition to income tax plans being proposed by the DFL-controlled Legislature. A Senate plan to raise taxes on individuals who make more than $141,000 per year and couples with annual incomes of $250,000 was supported by 69 percent in the poll. That plan would use the revenue primarily to increase funding for education. A similar plan passed by the House to raise taxes on high income Minnesotans to fund property cuts had the support of 72 percent.
McClung says Pawlenty's rising popularity will help him in his standoff with lawmakers.
"I don't think Democrats are going to feel real emboldened when they see Tim Pawlenty has a 55 percent excellent or good rating from the people of Minnesota," he says.
The poll of 635 registered Minnesota voters was conducted between May 7 and May 9. by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research. The margin for error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.