Ensign's Approval Ratings Drop After Admitting Affair

(CBS)
Nevada Sen. John Ensign took a hit in approval ratings after admitting to a nine-month affair with a campaign staffer, a Las Vegas Review-Journal poll revealed.

The poll, conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc., shows that Ensign's 53 percent May approval rating fell to 39 percent and the percentage of people who now hold an unfavorable view of the senator is up 19 percent from a month ago.

Ensign's approval ratings in his home state changed after he publicly confessed to having an affair with a married staffer, whose husband also worked for him. Both were longtime friends of Ensign.

Although he has resigned from his position as chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee (the fourth ranking Republican in the Senate), Ensign said he has no plans to step down from his Senate seat.

Mason-Dixon Managing Partner Brad Coker told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that Ensign still has time before his 2012 elections to fix the damage made.

"His numbers have obviously dropped. He's obviously suffered damage because of this," Coker said. "But it could be a lot worse for Ensign. The really significant question is that only 29 percent think he should resign right away. He does have the ability to stay on and turn this around."

In fact, Ensign is still considered popular among his constituents when compared to other leading officials from Nevada. According to the poll, nearly half of those surveyed state that their opinion of the senator has not changed and 62 percent do not think that he should resign from his Senate seat. Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, has a favorability rating of 34 percent and Gov. Jim Gibbons, a Republican, holds a 10 percent approval rating.

Larry Sabato, head of the Institute for Politics at the University of Virginia told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that all hope is not lost for Ensign. "That sure says something, that the guy involved in the adultery scandal is the most popular senior elected official in the state," Sabato said. "I don't know what it says, but it says something."

According to the poll, out of the 625 Nevadans surveyed, Republicans and men were least likely to want Ensign to step down while Democrats and women were more in favor of his resignation.