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Donald Trump scores higher for job approval than likability in West Virginia: poll

CHARLESTON — More West Virginians approve of President Donald Trump’s work than find him likable — although both sets of numbers are high.

More people like incumbent Sen. Joe Manchin than approve of his work.

And a lot of West Virginians are still deciding what they think of Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, Manchin’s challenger in the race for U.S. Senate.

Those are among the conclusions of the most recent WVMetroNews/The Dominion Post  poll.

The latest batch of poll results dealt with the likability of prominent political figures in West Virginia.

That’s a bit different from approval rating, which deals with the perception of how they perform on the job. Likability is just that — whether poll respondents think they might enjoy the company of the person being discussed.

Trump enjoys high marks in both categories.

Fifty-four percent of those who responded said Trump is likable. Thirty-five percent said he is unlikable.

That differs just a little bit from his job approval, which is at 60 percent in West Virginia. That’s much higher than Trump’s job approval polls nationwide.

“It’s still a majority like him as an individual, but it is not as strong as his job approval rating,” said professional pollster Rex Repass, designer of the West Virginia poll. “So there’s some question regarding whether he’s someone you’d like to be friendly with.”

Manchin flips that a little bit.

About 51 percent of poll respondents see Manchin, a Democrat, as likable. Twenty-six percent say he is unlikable, with 22 percent neutral.

That compares to 43 percent who approve of Manchin’s job performance and 39 percent who disapprove.

“So while there’s some dissatisfaction with his job approval, his voting record, he is someone that is liked and that will help him in an election year in 2018,” Repass said.

Morrisey, a Republican who has twice won statewide office as attorney general, has a different issue.

Thirty-two percent find Morrisey likable. An equal 32 percent find him unlikable.

But an even bigger group — 36 percent — say they’re neutral on Morrisey.

That is roughly the same with his job approval — 31 percent approve, 36 percent disapprove and 33 percent not sure.

So Morrisey still has some work to make an impression with West Virginia voters.

“As far as Patrick Morrisey, he is still defining how he is as a candidate for U.S. Senate versus Joe Manchin who everybody knows and likes,” Repass said.

“He is defining himself as a candidate for statewide office. It’s up to him to define himself.”

Much of Morrisey’s campaign strategy has seemed to be aligning himself with President Trump’s agenda. Trump has already visited Charleston to campaign for Morrisey and promised to be back in West Virginia before Election Day.

“The voters are weighing those things, particularly in a race that could be very challenging for Manchin, given President Trump’s popularity in the state and how much he campaigns for Patrick Morrisey,” Repass said.

“Sen. Manchin is liked but you’re making that tradeoff. Is he good for West Virginia because he’s relatable or not so good because ‘He doesn’t align with the opinions I have as a voter’ regarding policy?”

The poll looked at a couple of other West Virginia political figures, too.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican, is seen as likable by 47 percent of respondents and not likable by 24 percent. Another 29 percent were neutral on Capito, who has served in Congress since 2001 and in the Senate since 2015.

Forty-seven percent said they approve of Capito’s work, 28 percent disapprove and 25 percent aren’t sure.

“To me that says Sen. Capito relates well to West Virginia voters, someone a West Virginia voter would feel very comfortable sitting down and talking to one-on-one,” Repass said. “Sort of an ideal person and an ideal position to be in for job approval rating overall.”

Gov. Jim Justice scored better on likability than he did on his job performance.

Forty-eight percent viewed Justice as likable, while 28 percent said he is not likable. Twenty-four percent were neutral on the governor, a prominent businessman who has been governor since early 2017.

Comparatively, 43 percent approve of Justice’s job performance, 37 percent disapprove and 20 percent aren’t sure.

“My interpretation for Gov. Justice is that he is perceived as relatable for West Virginians. He is obviously a very successful business person in the state,” Repass said.

“The voting population can relate to how he talks about issues, how he talks about successes in government in his administration. They don’t always approve of the job he is doing in office. But he is perceived as someone that is more like us than some other political leaders may be.”

The West Virginia poll surveyed 404 people likely registered voters from all 55 counties.

The survey was conducted  Aug.16-26.

Trump’s most recent visit to West Virginia was Aug. 21. Justice and Morrisey appeared with Trump on stage during that visit.