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Brown's popularity still up, poll shows

After winning the Jan. 19 special election to take the Senate seat of the late Ted Kennedy, Republican Sen. Scott Brown now has a 70 percent approval rate in Massachusetts, according to a March 9 Rasmussen Reports poll.

The poll said 30 percent of respondents strongly approve of Brown, and 57 percent of Democrats approve at least somewhat of the Republican senator.

Scott Rasmussen, the founder and president of Rasmussen Reports, said in a telephone interview with The Daily Free Press that voters base their opinion of Brown “off of the fact that he won the election, he became a national figure. He’s got some charisma, a nice personality.”

Rasmussen said Brown’s high approval rating is not particularly surprising.

“All newly elected politicians get a bounce. When Barack Obama won the presidency he won with 53 percent of the vote and by the time he took office his approval ratings were in the mid 60s,” he said. “People want their elected leaders to succeed, and there’s always a honeymoon.”

However, he added, “They like what they see initially, but the reality is those numbers will come down.”

Boston University assistant political science professor Andrew Reeves agreed with this assessment.

“He still sort of has this honeymoon because he hasn’t had to take that many votes or talked about controversial issues so it’ll certainly go down,” Reeves said. “We saw this with Obama. He was sort of running against the status quo but it only takes so long before you become part of the status quo.”

BU political science professor Graham Wilson gave another reason for the possible future decline.

“He’ll be under a lot of pressure from the Republican leadership to vote in ways that will not be very popular in this state. I expect to see this approval rating come down in the next six months,” Wilson said.

He also said many who participate in the polls may not know enough about Brown to give a truly educated opinion.

Students at BU were also skeptical about Brown’s high approval rating.

“He’s probably riding a post-election buzz and inevitably I think it probably will fall,” said first-year School of Medicine student Vijay Prasad. “In Massachusetts you have to be a different sort of Republican. If he maintains an independent streak it could remain high but it’s going to depend on political winds and how things change.”

Patrick Ferrell, a freshman in the College of Communication, had a different explanation for the new senator’s high approval rating.

“People aren’t generally happy with how Obama’s doing so far so it might just be the fact that it’s a Republican in office instead of a Democrat,” he said.

Dissatisfaction with the current administration and the health care debate were common reasons why students believed so many people were happy with Brown and even why he was elected in the first place.

College of Arts and Sciences freshman Ryan McKay said Brown’s appeal was exaggerated by opponent Attorney General Martha Coakley’s failures.

“I voted for him but more as a reaction to how pathetic the other candidate was,” McKay said. “[Coakley] was taking the fact that she would win for granted.”

When considering his performance thus far, some were hesitant to give him approval or criticism just yet, citing that he has only been in office for a little over a month.

“I think there have been a lot of important issues that have been discussed while he’s been there so far, with health care certainly coming to a head, and it will be interesting to see the role that he plays,” Reeves said. “He’s been showing some inclination to bipartisanship but he’s also held fast against health care. He’s staking out an interesting position thus far.”

Some students said they like Brown because of his tendency toward bipartisanship.

“I’ve actually been a little impressed with him,” Prasad said. “He sided with the Democrats on one of the jobs bills and I thought that was kind of refreshing because it was against the hyper-partisanship kind of mantra that’s been going on.”

Staff writer Neal J. Riley contributed reporting to this article.

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