5 Senators Whose Approval Ratings Have Plunged Since Opposing Background Checks


AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

After the U.S. Senate blocked a bipartisan compromise bill from senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) that would have expanded gun sale background checks to cover all commercial sales, President Barack Obama issued a stern warning to the congresspeople who killed a measure that almost 90 percent of the American public supported. “If this Congress refuses to listen to the American people and pass common-sense gun legislation, then the real impact is going to have to come from the voters,” the president said. He went on to urge reform advocates to “let your representatives in Congress know that you are disappointed and that if they don’t act this time, you will remember come election time.”

Less than two weeks later, the American people have responded — and the results do not look good for the “gun rights” lobby.

A new round of numbers from Public Policy Polling confirms that the backlash that hit Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) last week is a national phenomenon. Voters are angry that the Senate killed the Manchin-Toomey bill, and senators from across the country are seeing their approval ratings plunge as a result.

Here are five senators who have seen their approval ratings decline since voting to block background checks:

Jeff Flake

Senator Flake (R-AZ) now has a dismal 32 percent approval rating among Arizonans, compared to 51 percent who disapprove. According to PPP, that means that Flake has supplanted Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as the least popular member of the Senate.

A majority 52 percent of voters said they’re less likely to vote for Flake due to his vote against background checks, compared to just 19 percent who say they’re more likely to support him. Flake’s betrayal of a mother who lost her son in a mass shooting probably isn’t helping matters, either.

Lisa Murkowski

Lisa Murkowski
Senator Murkowski’s (R-AK) approval rating is now down to 46 percent, with 41 percent disapproving; this marks a net decline of 16 percent from PPP’s previous poll in February.

A convincing 60 percent of Alaska voters support gun sale background checks, while 35 percent oppose them — 39 percent of Alaskans say they’re less likely to vote for Murkowski due to her vote against the Manchin-Toomey bill, while 26 percent say they’re more likely.

Mark Begich

Mark Begich
Alaskans have also turned against Senator Begich (D-AK) due to his vote against background checks (and, most likely, his unconvincing explanation for his decision.) Begich’s approval rating now sits at 41 percent, with 37 percent opposed — down a net 6 percent from February.

Right now, 39 percent of Alaska voters say they’re less likely to vote for Begich due to his opposition to background checks, while just 22 percent say they’re more likely.

Rob Portman

Rob Portman portrait
Senator Portman (R-OH) has seen his popularity plummet a net 18 percent over the past six months, cratering to its current level of 26 percent, with 34 percent disapproving.

Portman’s opposition to background checks is a major factor in his decline — 72 percent of Ohio voters support background checks, and 36 percent say they’re less likely to support Portman in a future election due to his vote against Manchin-Toomey (compared to just 19 percent who are more likely).

Dean Heller

Dean Heller
Senator Heller’s (R-NV) approval is now 44 percent —  down from 47 percent just before his election in November — with 41 percent disapproving. There are major warning signs that it could get worse for him, however; among Independent voters his approval has dropped a net 15 percent, and 46 percent say that his vote against background checks makes them less likely to support him. Just 25 percent say they’re more likely to vote for Heller due to his opposition to Manchin-Toomey.


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