Photograph by Steven Higgs

Gov. Mitch Daniels flunks the respect test with Hoosiers. In a poll released by the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics, Daniels averaged only 5.7 on a scale of 10. The poll shows Republican Daniels and his Democratic challenger Jill Long Thompson in a dead heat, despite Daniels' 3 1/2 years in office.

When it comes to respect from their constituents, state and national politicians fail miserably in Indiana, according to a poll released June 24 by the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics in Fort Wayne.

Poll results also show Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels and November challenger Democrat Jill Long Thompson in a tie if the election were held today.

After three-and-a-half years in office, Daniels received the equivalent of an F on constituent respect, an average of 5.7 on a scale where 10 meant "you have the highest possible respect for the person." Long Thompson averaged 4.8.

President George W. Bush received the lowest rating -- 4.5 -- among Hoosiers contacted by telephone between June 10 and 12.

The Mike Downs Center operates out of the Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne campus and conducted the poll in association with SurveyUSA.

The Center reported only the numerical results and did not assign letter grades to them. Default grade scales at IU, for example, break down grades on 90-80-70 bases, with D-range grades being 60-63 percent a D-, 64-66 percent a D and 67-69 percent a D+.

Respondents were asked about their level of respect for seven political figures and three private citizens.

Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, a Nobel Peach Prize nominee, received the highest respect ratings in the poll. But even he received the equivalent of a D- at 6.3.

The state's junior senator, Democrat Evan Bayh, ranked second with 6.0, another D-.

Presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and John McCain earned nearly identical ratings, with Democrat Obama at 5.6 and Republican McCain at 5.5.

Respondents also ranked non-political public figures: Mother Theresa (8.5), Indianapolis Colts Coach Tony Dungy (7.3) and Oprah Winfrey (4.8).

Another poll released by the Downs Center on June 19 showed that Southern Indiana may be the key in the Daniels-Long Thompson race.

"When likely Hoosier voters are asked, 'If the election for governor were today and you were standing in the voting booth right now, who would you vote for, Republican Mitch Daniels or Democrat Jill Long Thompson?,' the race appears very tight with each candidate receiving the support of 49 percent of the respondents," the Downs Center said in a news release.

The candidates' names were rotated so that neither candidate had an advantage by being first every time, the release said.

Daniels led the central part of the state by a 58 to 39 percent, with Thompson leading in the northern part, 56 to 40 percent.

Long Thompson led Daniels in the southern part of the state by a 51-47 percent spread.

According to the release, the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics is a non-partisan organization that helps the people of Indiana understand the role of politics and government in their daily lives.

Steven Higgs can be reached at .