(WICHITA, Kan.) — When he was a United States Senator, Sam Brownback's approval ratings were consistently positive. That's not the case during his time as governor so far, according to our exclusive FactFinder 12 Scientific Surveys.
Now, Brownback's supporters question those approval ratings and they've commissioned their own survey.
Last month, we polled 501 registered voters in Kansas. 34% approve of the job Brownback is doing as governor. That's lower than Kansans rated President Obama in the same survey. The president's approval rating was 43%.
A poll funded by Brownback's think-tank shows his approval rating at 51%.
For the past decade, Eyewitness News has contracted with SurveyUSA, an independent scientific polling company. In each poll, no less than 500 Kansans are called at random.
"We ask those adults if they're registered to vote," said SurveyUSA CEO Jay Leve. "We make sure we have the right number of men, the right number of women, the right number of young and old, the right number from Topeka, from Wichita, from Kansas City, Kansas."
Leve says SurveyUSA has conducted 79 separate surveys on Brownback since 2005.
When polls were positive, Leve says Brownback supporters didn't question SurveyUSA's accuracy. Now, with numbers declining, they say the poll under-represents Republicans.
According to our FactFinder 12 Scientific Survey in January 2011, the month Brownback took office, his approval rating was 55%. Those numbers have fallen over time to last month's poll, which shows a 34% approval rating.
The same trend is even true when we look at Republicans only. It shows Brownback's approval rating among Kansas Republicans dropping from 73% in January 2011 to 52% in April 2012.
Brownback's team disagrees with those results
"Our data don't show that," said David Kensinger who runs Road Map Solutions, Brownback's think-tank. "If you look at where we are in the political cycle, the second year is when the executive tries to get the most challenging parts of their agenda passed. To be doing those things, taking on every tough issue the previous governors have ignored and still be maintaining majority support, is remarkable."
Kensinger is referring to their own poll, which shows Brownback with a 51% approval rating.
To get another perspective, Eyewitness News talked to a Friends University Political Science Professor Dr. Russell Arden Fox. He says voters are frustrated, and it's showing up in the polls
"I suspect that what we are seeing here are an awful lot of otherwise nominal Brownback supporters looking at the paper, looking at the news, listening to the radio, and thinking our state government doesn't have its act together, our governor can't get his agenda passed," Arden Fox said.
That may continue to affect Brownback's approval ratings. Brownback's group says our latest survey does not accurately represent Republicans in Kansas.
Here's the party break-down from our poll: 42% said they're Republican. That closely matches the state's registration numbers from the last election, when 44% were Republican.
Kensinger also had issue with the cost of SurveyUSA's polls. Kensinger said "You are using them because they are cheap, and you are getting what you paid for."
"Mr. Kensinger doesn't know how much our polls cost. The terms of our contract with SurveyUSA are confidential," said KWCH News Director Chad Cross. "It's a substantial investment by KWCH to provide our viewers with data from a credible pollster like SurveyUSA."