Jan Brewer

Gov. Jan Brewer addresses the annual Governor's Dinner of the Arkansas Republican Party on Thursday. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

Nearly half of Arizona voters are unhappy with the job Jan Brewer is doing as governor, a new poll shows, but not enough to want to oust her before her term ends in 2014.

The survey by Public Policy Polling also found fewer than a third of the 500 people questioned approving of the governor's attempt - unsuccessful so far - to fire Colleen Mathis as chairwoman of the Independent Redistricting Commission.

But while many voters are unhappy with Brewer's move, they remain generally ignorant of the work of the commission itself. In fact, 42 percent said they could not say whether they support or oppose the lines the commission has drawn for the state's nine congressional districts - the districts that Brewer and fellow Republicans contend are unfair and the districts that Brewer said were drawn so improperly that it gives her grounds to fire Mathis.

Overall, the survey found Brewer with a 42 percent approval rating, with 49 percent disapproving and the balance unsure. But just 32 percent of those questioned said they would support recalling her, with 58 percent opposed.

The poll results contrast with Brewer's 56 percent approval rating by a different pollster in April 2010, fresh on the heels of her decision to sign SB 1070. And the new survey shows the public remains supportive of that measure to give police more power to detain and arrest illegal immigrants, with 57 percent still backing the law and just 35 percent opposed.

Gubernatorial press aide Matthew Benson said there should be no surprise that his boss' numbers have slid.

"Signing SB 1070 was a shot of adrenaline for the governor's popularity," he said, saying that move "brought her public approval to levels that may not have been sustainable for the long term."

Benson said he does not believe the slide in the governor's ratings is in any way related to the decision to fire Mathis. He said too few people care about that to make a real difference, regardless of the fact that 43 percent say they disapprove.

"The redistricting commission and the process that has been followed here is of hyper concern to a relatively small number of very politically plugged in individuals," Benson said.

Politics clearly is at play: The survey found Republicans supported Brewer's move to get rid of Mathis by a 54-16 margin, with the balance undecided. But that was offset by a more united front by Democrats who were 72-13 percent opposed to the firing.

Benson said, though, he believes voters have more pressing things on their mind.

"The economic climate in Arizona and nationwide is affecting elected officials of every political persuasion in every state," he said. "And, frankly, I think there are a number of governors out there who would give their left arm for a 42 percent public approval rating."

But that still leaves the fact that 43 percent of those questioned oppose Brewer's decision to remove Mathis and just 31 percent support the governor, whether because they are aware of the work of the commission or simply the publicity surrounding the firing.

That includes last Thursday's Supreme Court hearing where Brewer's attorney argued that the governor believes her power to fire a commissioner for gross misconduct or substantial neglect of duty is so broad that it even would let Brewer remove someone because she did not like her hair style - assuming two-thirds of the Senate would go along. And that publicity also includes the high court's ruling that same day that the governor had not, in fact, demonstrated in her letter firing Mathis that the commissioner had committed acts that rose to the level where she could constitutionally be removed.

Benson said, though, he does not see the public attitudes, measured in the days after that court ruling, as a rebuke.

"The governor did what she did because she believed it was in the best interests of the state," he said. "She thought it was an appropriate action, given her oversight role with the redistricting commission."

While the Supreme Court ruled Brewer acted illegally and reinstated Mathis, that is not the end of the issue.

The governor has asked the court to reconsider its action. Brewer also wants the justices to expedite a full explanation of their ruling so she can explore whether there is a way to fire Mathis in a way that meets with court approval.

Brewer also has been on a series of out-of-state trips recently to help generate sales for her book, "Scorpions for Breakfast." But Benson said he would "imagine that the impact (on voter attitudes) has been minimal."

The survey, conducted from Nov. 17 to 20 has a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.

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