A majority of Nevada voters continue to think Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid isn't doing a great job, according to a new Review-Journal poll.
However, Reid's job performance rating has ticked up slightly in recent months, the poll of 400 likely voters found. Forty-six percent of those polled thought Reid was doing an excellent or good job, while 53 percent rated his performance fair or poor.
That's up from a June survey that saw Reid's performance regarded positively by 43 percent and negatively by 56 percent.
The poll was conducted Aug. 13-15 by Washington, D.C.-based Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. and carries a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.
No politician wants to see a rating that is more negative than positive, said Mason-Dixon managing partner Brad Coker. But everything's relative, and things could be much worse for Reid, a Nevada Democrat, considering how dimly Congress is regarded nationwide.
"He doesn't seem to be any worse off than he was (in June) and maybe even slightly improved," Coker said. "That's the good news, because the numbers on Congress as a whole have been really bad recently."
Coker said the House of Representatives and its leaders, chiefly Speaker Nancy Pelosi, appear to have taken the brunt of voters' anger over Congress going on vacation without passing energy legislation.
"The Senate at least is seen as getting some legislation done, whereas in the House, the speaker is seen as blocking votes on things she doesn't want to talk about," Coker said.
Nonetheless, Reid continues to suffer back home for his role as Democratic leader. That forces him to play a high-profile partisan frontman, a role at odds with the "Independent Like Nevada" slogan of his last campaign.
"His ratings were always very good until he became Democratic leader," Coker said. "He's trying to be leader of a Democratic Party that's tilted more toward the left and more toward the East and West Coasts" than Reid personally.
Reid became the Senate minority leader in 2004 after the re-election defeat of South Dakota Sen. Tom Daschle.
Many have suggested that Daschle's defeat holds warnings for Reid; the South Dakotan also had a moderate image in his heartland state, and high popularity ratings, until he took up his party's mantle.
Reid became majority leader after the 2006 election in which the Democrats took the Senate.
Review-Journal polls in April and September 2006 found 43 percent of Nevadans viewed Reid favorably, 39 percent unfavorably.
In May 2007, it was 46 percent favorable, 42 percent unfavorable.
Reid's rating bottomed out in an October 2007 poll that found just 32 percent of his constituents saw him favorably and 51 percent unfavorably.
"That was when he took on Rush Limbaugh and got hammered in the national press for a couple of weeks," Coker recalled.
"He seemed to learn his lesson and go back to his low-profile style after that."
Since then, Reid's numbers have steadily improved, from 41 percent positive in December 2007 to 43 percent in June and 46 percent today.
A spokesman for Reid said his position in the U.S. Senate is good for Nevada.
"Polls don't matter to Senator Reid," Jon Summers said. "Results do, and he's doing everything he can to leverage his leadership position to deliver meaningful results for our state."
Last week's National Clean Energy Summit, which Reid hosted in Las Vegas, was an example of his clout, Summers said.
Contact reporter Molly Ball at mball @reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2919.