High approval ratings are hardly a guarantee of electoral victory

Oct 3, 2012

A Channel 12 poll this week reaffirmed the status of Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and state Treasurer Gina Raimondo as the most popular elected officials of the moment. Their high marks seem to be a reflection of how voters think Raimondo and Taveras are facing tough issues head-on.

As we know, this has resulted in a lot of attention for Raimondo, and questions about the race for governor in 2014.

So it’s worth remembering that glistening approval ratings are not always a guarantee of future success.

An instructive example can be seen in the case of former treasurer Nancy Mayer, who made some aggressive attempts to tackle the pension issue back in the 1990s.

Mayer had an astounding 78 percent approval rating in a May 1998 Brown University poll. She was still at 62 percent favorable by September 1998.

Yet Sheldon Whitehouse wound up beating Mayer in the November 1998 race for attorney general, on a margin of about 67 percent to 33 percent.

Meanwhile, someone is running with relatively low approval ratings who may (or may not) triumph in spite of them this November.