Texas constituent opinion of BP apologizer Barton dips, as if it matters

As the saga of Rep. Joe Barton’s (R-Texas) apology to BP took yet another strange turn today, a new poll shows the voters he represents think he was wrong — and that the entire episode has negatively affected their opinion of him.

Public Policy Polling released the results of a poll this morning that showed just 18 percent believed Barton was right to apologize fow what he believed was a “$20 billion shakedown” of the company; 65 percent thought BP did not deserve the apology.

The strange series of events began during a House subcommittee hearing on the Gulf Coast oil spill, when Barton apologized to then-BP CEO Tony Hayward. He said he believed the escrow fund BP agreed to establish to pay the claims of people affected by the spill was a government-led “$20 billion shakedown.”

Though Republican leaders got Barton to apologize later that day, he has been under fire consistently in the days since. Faced with the possibility that he would be removed from his post as the ranking member on the House Energy and Commerce committee, Barton apologized to fellow GOP lawmakers earlier today. He got to keep his leadership role.

Republicans hoped that would be the end of the story, but it was not to be so. Hours after apologizing to his colleagues, Barton’s Twitter account retweeted an American Prospect story titled “Joe Barton was right.” A media firestorm erupted, with Politico’s Ben Smith referring to the tweet as an “unapology.” The tweet has since been deleted and an aide has claimed responsibility for posting it, claiming he had retweeted the item without thinking.

The apology flap appears to have had a negative effect on Barton’s popularity in the state. The PPP poll shows more people view him negatively than view him positively, although the numbers are just 28 and 21 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, 42 percent of state voters believe he should resign as the Energy and Commerce committee’s ranking member, while 31 percent believe he should remain in that role.

Still, as PPP director Tom Jansen notes in a blog post, the incident is unlikely to affect Barton in the general election.

I doubt this whole episode is going to be very important four months from now- it’s too long away from the election and doesn’t have that much direct impact on voters across the country- but Barton would do his party by a favor by shutting his mouth for a couple weeks and letting the story die.

Barton won in 2008 with 62 percent of the vote. He faces activist David Cozad (D) in the general election.

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Jimm Phillips

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