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New Poll Suggests Bevin Rally Comments A Drag On Approval Ratings

AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File
FILE - In this Jan. 16, 2018, file photo, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin speaks to a joint session of the General Assembly at the Capitol, in Frankfort, Ky.

Gov. Matt Bevin’s viral comments criticizing a teacher rally at the Capitol have caught the attention of state and national media, and a new poll suggests the remarks may have hurt his standing with voters.

The backlash against the governor’s remarks suggesting children were likely physically and sexually harmed as a result of a teacher demonstration hit media outlets across the country, most recently Comedy Central.

"We value teachers exactly the right amount, which is not at all," host Jordan Klepper said on The Opposition, a satirical show in the vein of The Colbert Report. "And you know who else know that? Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin." 

The comments also turned a Thursday press conference Q&A on economic development in Hazard into a spirited back-and-forth on the governor's attitudes toward teachers, with one audience member asking how Bevin can "justify the attacks that you have made on education and educators."

In response, the governor has sounded apologetic for the offense and hurt caused by the remarks, also maintaining that some listeners misunderstood the intent behind them. But political observers are wondering whether the controversy is taking a toll on the Republican's popularity.

A poll conducted by Western Kentucky University Social Science Research suggests the answer is yes. The survey found that the governor’s approval rating dropped by roughly 7 percent in the wake of the controversy. According to the poll of 531 people conducted between April 11-15, about 45 percent of Republicans and 17 percent of Democrats give Bevin a passing grade.

But Republican Party of Kentucky spokesman Tres Watson says the sampling method used skewed too far toward young voters in a midterm election, and he doubts Bevin’s comments will eat into his support among the rank-and-file.

"One comment, regardless of what level of offense you take to it, I don't think is enough to sway those voters," Watson tells WUKY.

President Trump, meanwhile, continues to fare better in the WKU poll with a 45 percent approval rating.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.
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