PRINCETON, NJ -- As the 111th Congress nears its August recess, Americans continue to view Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi more unfavorably than favorably, 48% vs. 32%. House Republican Leader John Boehner's ratings are equally positive and negative; however, the majority of Americans have either not heard of him or don't know enough about the 10-term Republican congressman and two-term House GOP leader to rate him.
Pelosi's image in the latest Gallup Poll, conducted July 10-12, is little different from her image in May, when 34% of Americans viewed her favorably and 50% unfavorably. Pelosi's ratings turned more negative than positive between November 2008 and May 2009, spanning the controversy over what she knew and when she knew it regarding the CIA's use of waterboarding as a coercive interrogation technique. Even though that controversy has died down, her image has not recovered to date.
As seen in May, a bare majority of Democrats view Pelosi favorably, but Republicans as well as independents have mostly unfavorable views. In May, Gallup reported that the decline in Pelosi's ratings seen at that point was the result of lower favorability from Republicans and independents, with little change in Democrats' views. Since then, Republican favorability toward Pelosi has increased slightly, from 9% in May to 14% today, while the percentage of Democrats viewing her favorably has declined from 62% to 55%, its lowest point since she ascended to the speakership.
Views of Boehner
Boehner is not a familiar name to a majority of Democrats and independents, and he is largely unknown to nearly half of Republicans. Naturally, his image, among those who can rate him, is more favorable than unfavorable among Republicans and tilts negative among Democrats. In contrast to Pelosi's mostly negative ratings from independents, Boehner's ratings from this group are about equally balanced.
These ratings of Boehner are the first Gallup has obtained on the Ohio lawmaker.
The high proportion of Americans who have no opinion of Boehner -- 52% overall -- may reflect his mere two-plus years as the top-ranking Republican in the U.S. House, since his election to the leadership post after the 2006 elections. While Pelosi was chosen as House Speaker the same year -- making her second in the line of succession to the president -- she had previously served as House Democratic leader from 2003 through 2006, thus giving her a four-year advantage over Boehner on the national stage.
At a time when Congress holds the power to pass landmark legislation in healthcare and energy and is considering additional economic stimulus spending that could affect the country for generations to come, Americans have less than full confidence in two of its leading power players. Pelosi's image is damaged to the point that just a third of Americans view her favorably and nearly half unfavorably. And while Americans are at least familiar with Pelosi, Boehner is an unknown commodity to nearly half the country, leaving only a quarter who view him favorably.
Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,018 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted July 10-12, 2009. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).
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.