Philly Likes Mike—Again

57 percent approve of Mayor Nutter's job performance in new poll, his best showing in years.

Matt Rourke | AP

Matt Rourke | AP

Perhaps it’s that he looks awfully good compared to those who are trying to replace him. Perhaps it’s that Simon Van Zuylen-Wood‘s terrific profile finally convinced the city that it would miss him. Or maybe it’s Nutter’s hard sell of his legacy is working.

Whatever the reason, Michael Nutter just got a glowing report card in a new poll which showed that 57 percent of Philadelphia approve of how the mayor is doing his job (36 percent disapproved). Just as critical, 45 percent of those polled thought the city was on the right track (compared to 40 percent who thought it was going the wrong way). A robust 57 percent answered optimistically that the city would be better off in five years than it is today.

Those are strong numbers, particularly for a lame duck mayor whose last public approval rating was 39 percent. That poll, released in September 2013, was still in the field when six people were killed in the Market Street collapse and talk was swirling that city schools might be too broke to open in the fall.

These are somewhat more normal times, and Nutter’s improved showing reflects that. But I think it’s unlikely Nutter would have polled at 57 back in 2013 even without the building street collapse. Public opinion feels as though it’s swung Nutter’s way over the last year and a half. Most of the blame for the PGW debacle has been placed on City Council, not the mayor. And in comparison to the candidates trying to replace him, Nutter comes across as both experienced and capable.

Does anyone doubt that, if he were eligible for a third mayoral term, he’d be a big favorite in such a theoretical race?

Nutter commissioned this poll himself, but the firm—the Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group—is legit, even if the margin of error (four points) is a bit high. Some of the final questions asked of the 601 voters polled were obviously leading and pretty useless, like the relentlessly positive agree or disagrees (Does this describe Michael Nutter? “Being independent-minded and not afraid to speak his mind”).

But the key questions about Nutter’s job performance and the direction of the city were asked before those leading ones. In past polls, Nutter has underperformed with black voters. This poll’s African American respondents comprised 42 percent of the total, but no cross tabs were provided showing how different racial groups viewed the mayor.

Nonetheless, this is a solid showing for the mayor, and a sign that the city may be getting over its mixed feelings about Nutter. Consider one last question the poll asked: does Nutter represent a change for the better or a change for the worse from John Street? A robust 52 percent said the mayor represented a changed for the better (another 31 percent saw no change).

Philadelphians, in other words, believe Nutter is leaving Philadelphia better off than he found it. That’s pretty self-evidently true. One hopes the next mayor can do the same.

The full poll results are below.

Michael Nutter Poll