PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans' opinions of House Republican Leader John Boehner, who is in line to be the speaker of the House in the new Congress, improved after the midterm elections. Though 4 in 10 Americans are still unfamiliar with Boehner, more Americans now rate him positively than negatively, a shift from three prior 2010 readings, including one taken in mid-October.
These results are based on a Nov. 4-7 USA Today/Gallup poll, conducted in the first few days after the midterm elections. Even after the big Republican gains in the House thrust Boehner into the national spotlight, 40% of Americans still do not know enough about him to have an opinion. However, that percentage has declined since July 2009.
Boehner's counterpart in the U.S. Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid, is somewhat better known, though one in three still do not have an opinion of him. Unlike Boehner, Reid is viewed much more negatively than positively. In the latest poll, 25% have a favorable opinion of Reid and 43% an unfavorable one. That is little changed from the prior measurement of Reid from May.
Reid has been rated more positively in the past. Shortly after Democrats won control of the House and Senate in 2006, 27% of Americans had a favorable opinion of him and 19% an unfavorable opinion. That eight-point net positive rating matches Boehner's current score.
Positive opinions of Reid have been rather stable since November 2006, but his unfavorable ratings have grown considerably, moving to 30% after the 2008 elections and exceeding 40% in three separate readings this year.
Republicans and Democrats have predictably different opinions of Boehner and Reid, with Republicans rating Boehner, and Democrats rating Reid, more positively. However, Republicans are far more negative toward Reid than Democrats are toward Boehner. Also, independents view Reid quite negatively, while they are more positive than negative in their views of Boehner.
The boost in Boehner's image has come largely from Republicans, whose favorable ratings of him jumped by 20 points after the party's successful election night showing. Independents' views became slightly more positive, and Democrats' opinions are largely unchanged.
That 20-point increase among Republicans for Boehner is twice as large as the increase Democrats gave Reid after the 2006 midterm elections, when his party moved from minority to majority status. Reid's favorable ratings were unchanged among Republicans in 2006, while he had a slight increase of three points among independents.
Boehner will rise to the House speakership still relatively unknown, though that is sure to change as he attempts to govern along with a Democratic president and Democratic Senate. It is not clear what direction Boehner's favorable and unfavorable ratings may take while he is speaker. Americans viewed past Speakers Nancy Pelosi and Dennis Hastert at least slightly more positively than negatively until frustration grew with their parties' stewardship of the government. On the other hand, Americans' opinions of Newt Gingrich quickly soured after he took over as speaker in 1995, and they remained that way throughout his tenure.
Results for this USA Today/Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Nov. 4-7, 2010, with a random sample of 1,021 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., selected using random-digit-dial sampling.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone-only). Each sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone-only respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, education, region, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2009 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in continental U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit http://www.gallup.com/.