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Top Congressional Leaders Viewed Negatively on Balance

Top Congressional Leaders Viewed Negatively on Balance

Story Highlights

  • House Speaker Paul Ryan viewed favorably by 40%; unfavorably by 45%
  • Mitch McConnell viewed favorably by 24%, including 48% Republicans
  • Pelosi's 55% favorability rating among Democrats is lowest in nine years

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans view each of the top four U.S. congressional leaders more negatively than positively as the midterm election draws near and the public's opinion of Congress as a whole remains mired in long-term low approval ratings.

The Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Republican Paul Ryan, who announced earlier this year that he is retiring in January 2019, has the most positive ratings: 40% favorable and 45% unfavorable. His resulting net -5 image score compares with his Senate counterpart, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's -26. Across the aisle, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi's net favorability of -24 is similar to McConnell's, while Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer's -15 is somewhat better.

Favorable Ratings of U.S. House and Senate Leaders
Next, we'd like to get your overall opinion of some people in the news. As I read each name, please say if you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of that person -- or if you have never heard of them.
House Speaker Paul Ryan House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer
% % % %
Favorable 40 29 24 29
Unfavorable 45 53 50 44
Unknown/No opinion 15 18 26 28
Net favorable -5 -24 -26 -15
Gallup, June 1-13, 2018

These data are from a Gallup poll conducted June 1-13, 2018, which also found that Americans know the two members of the House better than they do the two senators. Fewer than two in 10 Americans have no opinion of Ryan (15%) or Pelosi (18%), but more than one-quarter do not have an impression of Senators McConnell (26%) and Schumer (28%).

The last time Gallup measured opinions of all four leaders was April 2017. Although Ryan's net favorable rating has since remained roughly the same, Americans' assessments of the other three leaders have worsened significantly. In April 2017, Ryan's net favorable image rating was -7, Pelosi's was -14, McConnell's was -17 and Schumer's was -5.

The current net favorable rating for McConnell is the historical worst for him since Gallup's first reading in 2010, and Pelosi's is close to her -27 record worst in October 2010.

Ratings of Leaders, by Party

McConnell is the only top congressional leader who fails to earn a majority positive rating from his own party's rank and file, as 48% of Republicans view him favorably. In contrast, Ryan's favorability is 69% among Republicans. On the Democratic side, the favorable ratings of Pelosi (55%) and Schumer (54%) are similarly positive but far from overwhelming.

The favorability ratings of McConnell, Pelosi and Schumer by their opposing party loyalists are all in the teens, while 22% of Democrats view Ryan favorably.

Favorable Ratings of U.S. House and Senate Leaders, by Party
Republicans Independents Democrats
% % %
Favorable 69 34 22
Unfavorable 23 45 66
Favorable 48 18 10
Unfavorable 36 50 65
Favorable 11 22 55
Unfavorable 83 52 27
Favorable 15 21 54
Unfavorable 70 45 18
Gallup, June 1-13, 2018

Pelosi has a 55% favorable rating among Democrats. This percentage matches the lowest favorability recorded for her in 2009 among her own party. Over the past 10 years, her rating among Democrats reached a high of 66% several times.

On the whole, Pelosi has had persistently net negative image ratings since 2007 when she became speaker. Before that, more Americans had no impression of her than had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of her.


Pelosi ended her term as speaker with an overall 33% favorability rating in 2011, which was somewhat higher than her successor, John Boehner's 23% rating recorded two months before he announced his retirement in 2015. By comparison, Ryan's 40% favorability rating among all Americans makes him the most popular of the last three speakers so far, although his term doesn't end until January 2019. Using history as a guide, Ryan's favorable rating would be expected to worsen as time goes on. All recent speakers left the speakership with net negative favorability ratings, much worse off than when they started.

Ryan, who reluctantly became speaker of the House following Boehner's departure in 2015, enjoyed net positive favorability ratings from the time Mitt Romney named him his vice presidential pick in 2012 until April 2017 when Democrats' views of him became increasingly negative and drove down his overall rating.


His favorability among Republicans has remained around two-thirds for the last several years.

Bottom Line

Given the current 19% job approval rating of Congress, it is not surprising that the public does not view top congressional leaders positively. Furthermore, recent history has shown that assuming the role of House speaker has had adverse effects on favorability ratings. While Ryan's image is currently the best of the lot, he still falls below majority-level favorability. Meanwhile, Americans view the two leaders who have been in office the longest, McConnell and Pelosi, the most negatively. While McConnell's term as a senator doesn't expire until 2021, Pelosi is running for re-election this November. Although she has won handily in the past and is not expected to face a serious challenge, she may want to put in more work to improve her image with her constituents.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted June 1-13, 2018, with a random sample of 1,520 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. 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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