Senators take polling hit after voting against background checks bill

Senators from Alaska, Arizona, Nevada, and Ohio are facing a backlash for voting against gun control legislation, according to new polling.

Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) have all seen their approval ratings fall since voting against a proposal to expand background checks earlier this month, according to the liberal-leaning Public Policy Polling (PPP).

In Arizona, only 32 percent of voters said they approved of Flake, while a majority — 52 percent — said they're less likely to vote for him in a future election because of his vote against the background check bill. Just 19 percent said Flake's vote made them more likely to back him in the future.

Murkowski has lost the majority approval she enjoyed in the months prior to the gun vote. In February, Murkowski scored a 54-33 percent approval/disapproval in the PPP poll; now, 46 percent approve of her work, while 41 percent disapprove. While Murkowski used to enjoy support from nearly six in 10 Alaska Democrats; now only 44 percent approve of her.

The poll results were similar for Alaska's Begich, who is running for reelection in 2014.

While 49 percent approved of Begich in February, just 41 percent do so now. Nearly four in 10 voters said they're less likely to vote for both Murkowski and Begich after they rejected the background check legislation.

In Ohio, where 72 percent of voters support background checks, Portman has seen his approval drop a net 18 points in the past six months. Only 26 percent of Buckeye State voters now say they approve of the senator, with just 8 percent of Democrats and 24 percent of independents saying they approve of Portman's handling of his job.

Thirty-six percent of Ohio voters say Portman's opposition to the gun bill makes them less likely to support him, versus 19 percent who say it will increase their future electoral support.

The least dramatic drop came in Nevada, where Heller saw his approval numbers dip from 47 percent in November to 44 percent now. But 46 percent of Nevada voters say they're less likely to support Heller's re-election bid, versus 25 percent who say they are more likely. Among independents — a crucial swing vote in Nevada politics — Heller's approval has dropped 10 points since November.

“The background checks vote is a rare one that really is causing these Senators trouble back home,” said Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling, in a statement. “All five of these senators, as well as Kelly Ayotte [(R-N.H.)], have seen their approval numbers decline in the wake of this vote. And the numbers make it clear that their position on Manchin/Toomey is a major factor causing the downward spiral.” 

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