HED:Fordice popularity takes major slide

CATEGORY: Governor

AUTHOR: BOBBY

HED:Fordice popularity takes major slide

By Bobby Harrison

Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON – Gov. Kirk Fordice’s popularity has plummeted.

Only 19 percent of voters statewide say their opinion of him is “favorable,” according to a poll conducted last week by Mason-Dixon of Washington, D.C.

The poll numbers, released Tuesday, show 57 percent view Fordice unfavorably. That result contrasts sharply with a September 1996 Mason-Dixon poll in which 25 percent viewed the Republican governor unfavorably.

Infidelity factor

The new poll was conducted days after the revelation that Fordice vacationed in France with a woman whom he plans to marry after divorcing his wife.

“Fordice’s recent actions regarding his marriage have done considerable damage to his legacy, as both his personal popularity and job performance ratings have dropped considerably,” wrote J. Bradford Coker, managing director for Mason-Dixon Polling and Research in a poll analysis.

The poll has a margin of error of 4 percent, meaning actual numbers could be 4 percentage points higher or lower. The poll primarily looks at upcoming statewide elections and was underwritten by media outlets, including the Daily Journal.

Coker said the poll numbers indicate people are more upset with Fordice’s personal life than his job performance.

According to the poll, 7 percent think Fordice is doing an excellent job and 29 percent think he is doing a good job. Some 42 percent say he’s doing a fair job and 21 percent say he’s doing a poor job.

That compares with September 1996, when 11 percent said he was doing an excellent job, 45 percent said he was doing a good job, and 29 percent thought Fordice was doing a fair job. In 1996, only 14 percent thought he was doing a poor job.

In the latest poll, 24 percent of the women polled think the governor is doing a poor job while 18 percent of the men think he’s doing a poor job. Thirty-eight percent of blacks think Fordice is doing a poor job while 14 percent of whites rated the governor’s job performance as poor.

Staff reaction

Fordice spokesman Robbie Wilbur said it’s obvious the poll was influenced by the governor’s marital problems.

In the long run, Wilbur believes Mississippians will look beyond the personal issues and realize that “the state is much better off because of Gov. Fordice.”

“The finances are more stable,” Wilbur said. “There are more jobs and there is more capital investment in the state.”

Fordice’s highest ratings in Mason-Dixon polls came in August 1995, when he scored a favorable rating of 63 percent and an unfavorable rating of 18 percent.

By November 1995, his favorable rating had dropped to 47 percent while his unfavorable rating had risen to 29 percent. But he still won re-election to a second term that month by gaining 55.6 percent of the vote against Democrat Dick Molpus.

Fordice is the first Republican governor of this century and the first governor this century elected to consecutive terms.