Sen. Joe Manchin is a popular man these days—but not so much among his fellow Democrats. According to a Morning Consult poll, the West Virginia senator's approval rating jumped from 40% to 57% in the year after President Biden took office, putting him among America's ten most popular senators. In the evenly divided Senate, Manchin has helped block Democratic initiatives including Biden's "Build Back Better" plan, and his boost in popularity in West Virginia comes mainly from Republican voters: Some 69% of those polled in the first quarter of this year approved of his job performance, compared to 35% a year earlier.
Among West Virginia Democrats, Manchin's approval rating slumped from 63% to 44%, while it rose from 31% to 51% among independents. The poll found that South Dakota Sen. John Thune is America's most popular senator, while his fellow Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is the least popular. Morning Consult says independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is still the third most popular senator despite a drop of 8 percentage points in his approval rating. Besides Manchin, one of the senators whose popularity rose by double digits year-on-year was Alaska GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski, whose approval rating went up 10 points even after she was censured by the state Republican Party.
"It turns out that Joe Manchin knows more about West Virginia voters than DC strategists," former Manchin aide Jonathan Kott tells Morning Consult. Some Senate Republicans have said Manchin should switch parties, but he has repeatedly rejected the suggestion and despite holding out on some key votes, he has sided with the Biden administration in 95% of his votes in the Senate, Business Insider notes. (Read more Joe Manchin stories.)