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Paul Ryan's Image Worsens After Healthcare Flop

Paul Ryan's Image Worsens After Healthcare Flop

by Art Swift
Chart: data points are described in article

Story Highlights

  • Americans' favorable image of Speaker Ryan falls to 39%
  • Image plummets among Democrats, Republicans' opinions hold steady

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Amid the collapse of the Affordable Care Act repeal in the U.S. House of Representatives, Paul Ryan's image is taking a hit -- 39% of Americans have a favorable opinion of the House speaker, down nine percentage points from November. Ryan's unfavorable rating has increased 12 points, and his image is more negative than positive for the first time since Gallup first asked about him in 2012.

Paul Ryan Image Plummets Nationwide

In 2012, Mitt Romney selected Ryan as his running mate during that year's presidential election. At that point, 25% of Americans viewed him favorably, 17% viewed him unfavorably, and 58% had never heard of him or had no opinion.

Although Ryan soon became better known, opinions of him became only slightly more positive than negative.

Ryan assumed office in October 2015 after John Boehner retired from the position. Ryan, who previously had been chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, came to the speakership reluctantly, initially not wanting to be a candidate.

Ryan's favorable ratings rose to 42% after succeeding Boehner and to 48% last November after Donald Trump was elected president in a Republican sweep.

Ryan's ratings may have tumbled this year because of the failure to repeal the ACA, also known as Obamacare, but they likely would have done so sooner or later had he followed the typical pattern for recent speakers of the House.

John Boehner as speaker had a fairly brief honeymoon period, as did Nancy Pelosi in the same position.

Speakers tend to be rated more negatively than positively, though Dennis Hastert was the exception for most of his eight years in the top spot.

Ryan is not alone in low ratings among House leadership. Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, currently has a 34% favorable rating and a 48% unfavorable rating -- slightly worse than Ryan's.

Democrats' Image of Ryan Nose-Dives

A chief reason favorable ratings have dropped for Ryan is that Democratic support has cratered. While never high, his favorable rating among Democrats has fallen to 14%, from 39% in November.

Independents' view of Ryan also has soured, but not as much as Democrats'.

The dropping ratings may be a result of Ryan's aggressive push to "repeal and replace" the ACA, one of President Barack Obama's signature pieces of legislation. Gallup's April 5-9 survey was taken soon after the House canceled its vote on the new healthcare legislation proposed by Trump and Ryan.

Paul Ryan's Image Drops Among Democrats
% Favorable Rating, by Party
  Republican Independent Democrat
  % % %
Apr 5-9, 2017 66 39 14
Nov 9-13, 2016 66 44 39
Aug 3-7, 2016 61 48 29

Republicans' favorable ratings of Ryan have been in the solid majority range but not overwhelmingly so. Two-thirds of Republicans have a favorable opinion of the speaker, holding steady from November.

Bottom Line

Ryan is speaker of the House amid significant intraparty squabbling among Republicans and strong opposition from Democrats who are looking to regain the House in 2020.

One of the speaker's top legislative priorities, repealing Obamacare, did not come to the House floor for a vote, despite his efforts. Factions within the GOP could not come to an agreement on the terms of the deal, and this episode may have contributed to a decline in Ryan's favorability.

It is also possible that this decline is the result of the hyperpartisan dealings in Congress since Trump's inauguration. With Ryan emerging as Trump's most visible supporter in Congress, Democrats who never fully embraced Ryan have become even less supportive. Of course, the lack of support from Democrats may be simply because of his role as speaker, a position that bedeviled the past two speakers of the House, Pelosi and Boehner.

With tax reform and a budget on the House agenda in the coming months, Ryan will have his hands full contending with a tempestuous majority and a minority with an eye toward the 2018 congressional elections.

A key to Ryan's survival as speaker will be in maintaining GOP support in Congress, something that Boehner was unable to do.

Historical data are available in Gallup Analytics.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted April 5-9, 2017, with a random sample of 1,019 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 ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 70% cellphone respondents and 30% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View survey methodology, complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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