Poll indicates Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves vulnerable as election season heats up
Published 8:45 am Sunday, January 22, 2023
A majority of Mississippi voters would prefer a new governor in 2023, according to a new Mississippi Today/Siena College poll.
The poll showed 57% of voters would support “someone else” over current Gov. Tate Reeves in a November election, while just 33% would support Reeves, who announced last week he will seek a second term as governor in the Nov. 2023 election.
Among Republican respondents, Reeves garnered 55% support in the scenario, while one-third of Republicans would prefer to elect someone else. More than two-thirds (67%) of independents, who in Mississippi often vote in Republican primaries, prefer someone else over just 24% who prefer Reeves.
But the poll wasn’t all bad for Reeves. He currently leads narrowly against a known Democratic challenger in the general election and leads handily against a potential Republican primary challenger, according to the survey results.
Editor’s note: Poll methodology and crosstabs can be found at the bottom of this story. Click here to read more about our partnership with Siena College Research Institute.
Reeves leads Democrat Brandon Presley, the four-term public service commissioner who announced his campaign for governor last week, by a narrow 43%-39% margin, according to the poll. That margin is within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 4.6%, meaning the race could either be virtually tied or Reeves could be up by 9 points. The statewide survey was conducted between Jan. 3-8, several days before Presley announced his candidacy.
Reeves carried strong support among Republicans in a head-to-head matchup with Presley, and Presley greatly outpaced Reeves among Democrats and narrowly among independents. One-third (33%) of independent respondents said they’d vote for Presley, 31% said they’d vote for Reeves and 27% said they didn’t know or had no opinion.
Presley, who has never held statewide office, is not well known across the state, according to the poll. Just 21% of Mississippi voters said they had a favorable opinion of Presley, 15% said they had an unfavorable opinion of him, and a substantial 61% said they did not know enough to say. Presley enjoyed the highest name ID in the 1st Congressional District, where he lives and where he has served as public service commissioner the past 15 years. But even there, 41% of respondents don’t know enough to say whether they find him favorable or unfavorable.
Reeves’ name ID across the state is much stronger, with just 11% of poll respondents indicating they didn’t know enough about Reeves to say whether they found him favorable or unfavorable.
A 61% majority of voters also said they did not know enough to render an opinion about former Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr., who has said he is contemplating challenging Reeves in the August Republican primary. Waller challenged Reeves in the 2019 Republican primary, forcing a runoff despite entering the election late and facing a substantial fundraising disadvantage. The new poll showed 19% of voters find Waller favorable, while 18% find him unfavorable.
Head-to-head in a potential Republican primary, Reeves defeats Waller 52% to 29% among poll respondents. But independents, who often vote in Republican primaries, favor Reeves over Waller by only a 38%-37% margin.
In Mississippi, party primary elections are open to all voters. Notably, 29% of Democrats who were surveyed said they planned to vote in the Republican primary later this year.
When asked to choose between Reeves and “someone else,” African Americans who responded support the unknown candidate by a 78% to 11% margin, while white Mississippians support Reeves by a 45% to 44% margin.
In terms of the race against Presley, white voters support Reeves 63% to 21%, while Black voters support Presley 69% to 8%.
The Mississippi Today/Siena College Research Institute poll of 821 registered voters was conducted Jan. 8-12 and has an overall margin of error of +/- 4.6 percentage points. Siena has an ‘A’ rating in FiveThirtyEight’s analysis of pollsters.