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Our View: Poll numbers no concern, yet, for Doyle
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It should not be a surprise to Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle that a recent polls shows the public's approval of his performance is at an all-time low. Nor should it particularly concern him.

The St. Norbert College Survey Center Poll sponsored by Wisconsin Public Radio released Friday shows that fewer than half (45 percent) of those responding are very or somewhat satisfied with Doyle. That's significantly lower than what had been Doyle's lowest rating (54 percent last fall) and where he was a year ago (59 percent approval).

Doyle's drop in the survey probably can be attributed to a few things, some out of his control.

What's out of his control? That the public's perceptions of politicians nationally are extremely unfavorable. The exception to this is President Barack Obama, who still in his first 100 days in office remains in a "honeymoon" phase with the public. Politicians routinely fall out of favor when the economy struggles. And the state economy is struggling along with the nation's. Wisconsin's unemployment rate last month reached 9.4 percent, the highest it has been in 26 years. Doyle's approval rating certainly is paying the price.

But Doyle bears some of the responsibility for his own rating, of course. Respondents likely recall the governor's role in creating and prolonging the budget stalemate of the spring and summer of 2007. The Republican Party also has been somewhat successful in painting Doyle and Democrats as tax-happy even in a time of financial crisis for many state residents. Some of that portrayal is fair, some is not.

The governor didn't seem particularly bothered by his precipitous drop in the poll.

"Polls go up and down, so I am not going to analyze it too much," Doyle said last week. "I understand that this is a very tough time. You just look at sort of generally whether people in this country are happy right now or not happy. And of course they are not very happy."

And his disapproval ratings were no worse than those for the Democratic-controlled Legislature and for the direction the state is headed in general.

Doyle has other reasons not to be overly concerned with the results. The poll also shows majority support for Doyle positions on some key issues. Two-thirds (67 percent) of respondents support higher income taxes for the state's richest residents. Sixty percent support extending legal protection to same-sex couples. About two-thirds (66 percent) support a statewide smoking ban. And a narrow majority (53 percent) supports Doyle's plan for the early release of some nonviolent state prisoners to help ease overcrowding and state spending.

With a gubernatorial election ahead next year, Doyle has plenty of time to try to convince voters that while they may not like politicians in general, they generally like the policies he supports.