Fifty-five percent of those polled say the first-term Democratic senator is doing a good job, a slight increase from the 52 percent who thought so in September.
The well-known former comedian and satirist had one of the nation’s closest, most controversial Senate races in 2008, winning by only a few hundred votes statewide over former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman. Since then, he has won over Democrats such as Michael McQuillan, 61, of St. Paul.
“He isn’t the personality he was when he was on TV,” McQuillan said. “He’s a serious politician. He isn’t doing any grandstanding. He’s actually just doing the job.”
Less than a third of poll respondents disapproved of Franken’s job performance, while 16 percent are unsure.
“He ought to go back to writing jokes,” said Lynette Jones, 65, a Lake Crystal Republican. “He has no idea what he’s doing in Congress.”
Jones cited Franken’s refusal to restrict federal funding for abortions and his support of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act as proof that he is out of touch with rural, conservative-leaning Minnesotans. “He just doesn’t represent our views,” she said.
Matt Burgess, campaign manager for Franken’s re-election effort, said, “The numbers show that people see him working really hard on their behalf. Senator Franken’s going to continue to work hard.”
The poll interviewed 800 Minnesota adults June 11-13, by land-line and cellphones, and has a margin of sampling error of 3.5 percentage points, plus or minus.
Franken’s job approval numbers are strongest in the Democratic strongholds of Hennepin and Ramsey counties, where 70 percent approve of the work he has done in Congress. Outstate, Franken’s approval is identical to his statewide figure. In the metro suburbs, his approval rating dips sharply, to 38 percent.
“I can’t think of anything that [Franken’s] done that’s amounted to anything,” said Sam Blanchard, 54, an independent from Blaine in Anoka County.
Among Democrats, Franken’s approval ratings are 91 percent, while 64 percent of Republicans disapprove of his job performance.
On the rise
Declining to capitalize on his celebrity, the former “Saturday Night Live” star and radio host has purposely maintained a low profile in Congress.
“He came in as an underdog,” said Donald Dallmann, 71, a Democrat from St. Peter who voted for Franken in 2008. “Everybody said he was just a comedian. He’s taken over and stands up when he’s supposed to.”
Despite the slight rise in his job approval rating, Franken remains a polarizing personality. Asked whether they had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of him, 42 percent view him favorably, but 31 percent are neutral and more than 25 percent of Minnesotans view him negatively.
David Koopman, 66, is a Maplewood independent who voted for Obama in 2008, but not for Franken. He won’t vote for him next fall, either, he said. Koopman said he’s upset at Franken’s vote this spring to ban semi-automatic rifles, but that’s not the only reason. “I personally don’t like the guy, and I haven’t from the time he got elected,” he said.
University of Minnesota political scientist Kathryn Pearson said Franken still has work to do among fence-sitters. “Maybe he hasn’t won them over completely, but through his work in the Senate maybe he’s at least neutralized some of the previous opposition,” she said.
Corey Mitchell is a correspondent in the Star Tribune Washington Bureau. Twitter: @C_C_Mitchell