October 18, 2013

The tough job of being House speaker

FT_Boehner_PelosiWinning election as speaker of the House is no way to win a popularity contest, as Rep. John Boehner has discovered. In nearly three years as House speaker, Boehner has seen his unfavorable rating among the public double – from 25% to 50%.

The Pew Research Center’s most recent survey found that 27% view Boehner favorably, 50% view him unfavorably, while 23% are unable to rate him. In December 2010, shortly before he became speaker, 28% had a favorable impression of Boehner, 25% viewed him unfavorably and nearly half (47%) had no opinion.

Opinions of Boehner’s predecessor, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, followed a similar trajectory during her four years as speaker. Views of Pelosi were mixed at the start of her tenure (32% favorable, 27% unfavorable), with many (42%) unable to rate her. By December 2010, in her final month as speaker, nearly twice as many had an unfavorable opinion of Pelosi (55%) as a favorable view (29%).

Not surprisingly, most of the rise in negative views of Boehner and Pelosi has come among members of the opposing party, as well as political independents. But unfavorable views also increased among Republicans for Boehner (by 14 points since December 2010) and Democrats for Pelosi (by 11 points from 2006-2010).

Unfavorable views of the two speakers who served prior to Pelosi — Reps. Dennis Hastert and Newt Gingrich – also increased during their tenures. Shortly after the GOP’s big victory in 1994, which propelled Gingrich into speakership, 28% viewed Gingrich unfavorably; by January 1997, a little more than two years later, 65% had a negative opinion of him. But Gingrich’s unfavorable rating declined toward the end of his time as speaker (49% unfavorable in October 1998).

Topics: Congress, U.S. Political Parties

  1. Photo of Carroll Doherty

    is director of political research at Pew Research Center.


  1. Michael E Jones3 years ago

    You should ask a question that really reveals American attitude/expertise. I suggest you field a few questions flavored this way:

    1 In a very short comment, using your own words, what is the primary role of (insert name)

    2. Which is a skill needed most by a congressional person?

    Select an answer for each pair:

    leadership or popularity
    veteran or civilian
    lawyer or excecutive

    The article above leads the reader to draw their own conclusions, what in the world are the determinants. I should not have to seek another article to see what those are. I have a feeling it will be as viewed by a persons “party filtered glasses”. I suggest first determine if a real knowledge of the role of a leader. I have experienced in my 20 year military career and almost 20 year at a large telecommunication firm, competent people can barely overcome the more political incompetent ones. I hope I have not been too critical of article or premature, I will scour site now and see if this type of information is here!

    1. Shelley3 years ago

      Mr Jones, you have a very good point. I believe we are looking at info the political parties and the media tell people. So few understand how government works. Another sad story about the quality of education in American. It’s amazing that citizens are in school at least 13 years ( through high school) and have been proven by numerous studies to not have basic knowledge in anything!