Low Favorable Ratings Still Plague Top Dogs on Capitol Hill
Politics

Low Favorable Ratings Still Plague Top Dogs on Capitol Hill

by Lydia Saad

Net favorability toward Sen. Harry Reid is his lowest yet

PRINCETON, NJ -- Relatively few Americans have a favorable impression of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid or Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner -- the two top-ranking members of Congress. But as weak as both men's ratings have been in recent years, Reid's has recently gotten worse, with his favorable score dropping from 27% in April to 21% today.

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Reid's image has consistently tilted negative since he emerged as a nationally known figure in 2008. Before that, the majority of Americans had either not heard of him, or had no opinion of him. But now his net favorable score (the percentage viewing him favorably minus the percentage viewing him unfavorably) is the worst of his career, at -24.

While Reid's image took a hard hit since April, Boehner's rating is down only slightly. Twenty-eight percent of Americans view him favorably, down from 31%, and 50% view him unfavorably. This is roughly equivalent to his ratings since late 2013, but far worse than his image prior to that.

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The latest results are based on a Gallup telephone survey conducted Sept. 25-30 with 1,252 national adults.

Reid's favorable image has dimmed among all party groups since April, although most notably among Democrats, dropping eight percentage points to 46%. Smaller declines occurred among Republicans and independents, reflecting the fact that his scores were already so low among these groups that they didn't have much further to fall.

From a longer-term perspective -- at least since 2012 -- Reid's favorable rating has hovered near 50% among Democrats, while it has declined among independents and Republicans.

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Boehner's Image Nearly Underwater With Republicans

While Reid's favorable ratings are far from stellar, he can at least boast a relatively positive net favorable score among rank-and-file Democrats, as only 16% of Democrats have an unfavorable view of the Democratic leader. Boehner, by contrast, is in a far worse position with his political base with a full 40% of Republicans viewing him unfavorably, versus 46% viewing him favorably.

Boehner's image among Republicans started to sour in 2012, along with the broader slide in the Republican Party's image. However, after recovering somewhat earlier this year, his favorability recently got significantly worse, with his unfavorable score among Republicans rising 11 points since April.

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Boehner's image likely suffered in 2013 from Americans' disaffection with Congress over the budget shutdown, and Republicans' disappointment with the lack of spending cuts in the final budget deal that Boehner supported. His troubles within the GOP this year could stem from the mounting criticism he has faced from conservatives -- including three Tea Party Republicans who challenged Boehner in the primary election in his district this spring -- partly over his support for pursuing comprehensive immigration reform.

Like Reid, Boehner has also seen a clear decline in support from independents, with his favorable rating falling to 22% among this group, from 32% in late 2012 -- while his rating among Democrats is largely unchanged, at 21%.

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Bottom Line

As voters prepare to go to the polls in November, neither party's leader in Congress offers his members a positive face with the American public. Boehner's 28% favorable rating is slightly higher than Reid's 21%, but Boehner's unfavorable rating is also slightly higher (50% vs. 45%). Essentially, the situation is a draw -- not significantly disadvantaging either party.

Beneath the surface, however, both men appear to have significant problems. While Reid is managing to maintain close to 50% favorability among Democrats, he is becoming far less palatable to independents, a trend that could compel his colleagues who want to repair their party's image with voters after the election to consider their alternatives. Boehner's status with his own party is even worse than Reid's, with nearly as many Republicans viewing him unfavorably as favorably. That could inspire opponents within the GOP caucus to challenge Boehner for the speakership, although overcoming the House rules to mount such a challenge would be daunting.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Sept. 25-30, 2014, with a random sample of 1,252 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, and cellphone mostly). Demographic weighting targets are based on the most recent Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the most recent National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the most recent U.S. census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.

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.

View survey methodology, complete question responses, and trends.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.

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