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Most Oregon Voters Approve Of Brown, Wyden Ahead Of Election

<p>U.S. Senator Ron Wyden comes on stage during the Democratic election party.</p>

Alan Sylvestre


U.S. Senator Ron Wyden comes on stage during the Democratic election party.

Gov. Kate Brown and Sen. Ron Wyden are heading into election-year races with approval ratings that most presidential candidates can't begin to approach in Oregon, according to a new poll conducted for OPB.

Brown, a Democrat, wins positive marks from 51 percent of voters, compared to 30 percent who have a negative impression of her.

Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, who is running for re-election after 20 years in office, continues to be Oregon's most popular statewide elected official. He's viewed positively by 60 percent while just 21 percent view him negatively.

The survey, conducted Feb. 22-25 by DHM Research of Portland, found that only two of the seven major Democratic and Republican presidential candidates had a higher percentage viewing them in a positive rather than negative light: Democrat Bernie Sanders and Republican John Kasich. But neither had net positives as high as Wyden and Brown.

Pollster John Horvick of DHM Research said Wyden and Brown are both on track to do well in a state that hasn't elected a Republican to statewide office since 2002.

Horvick said Brown's strong approval ratings put "her in a good political position."

"Just keep your head down, keep doing the work, put together your coalition and your organization, raise money and fight on," he said of Brown. "There’s nothing in these numbers that suggests she is in great danger.” 

Horvick said Wyden has built ties with a wide array of people throughout Oregon during his 35 years as a senator and U.S. representative. While some left-of-center activists criticized Wyden for supporting free trade agreements, his approach also helped win him support from many Republican-oriented businesspeople, Horvick noted.

In fact, the survey found that Wyden had net positive ratings even among Republicans, an unusual feat in these polarizing political times. Forty-five percent of Republicans gave him positive marks, while 39 percent viewed him negatively.

Brown's positive rating is roughly the same as it was in a  for OPB. Since then, her negative ratings have climbed from 17 percent to 30 percent as more voters form an opinion of her.

So far, Wyden has not drawn any major Republican opponent. Brown's most serious Republican rival is Bud Pierce, a Salem doctor.

The DHM telephone survey polled 400 registered voters, and has a margin of error of 4.9 percentage points, plus or minus.

Horvick noted that it's not surprising presidential candidates tend to have lower approval ratings than Oregon politicians. Almost all of them face repeated high-level scrutiny and attacks.  And they are focusing their appeals to voters of their own party, which often is viewed negatively by other voters.

When it came to politicians who aren't running for office, the survey found Oregon voters have a low opinion of former Gov. John Kitzhaber just over one year after his resignation. Fifty-nine percent of voters viewed him negatively, compared to 29 percent with a positive impression. Kitzhaber resigned amid scrutiny of fiancee Cylvia Hayes' consulting contracts.

President Barack Obama received positive marks from 50 percent of Oregon voters, compared to 45 percent who viewed him unfavorably.  That's almost identical to the findings of a Feb. 27-29 national survey conducted by Gallup.

Copyright 2016 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Jeff Mapes is a senior political reporter at Oregon Public Broadcasting. Previously, Jeff covered state and national politics for The Oregonian for nearly 32 years. He has covered numerous presidential, congressional, gubernatorial and ballot measure campaigns, as well as many sessions of the Legislature, stretching back to 1985. Jeff graduated from San Jose State University with a B.A. in journalism.