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U.S. Democrats Favor Someone Other Than Pelosi as Speaker

U.S. Democrats Favor Someone Other Than Pelosi as Speaker

Story Highlights

  • 56% of Democrats do not want Pelosi to be next speaker
  • Attitudes similar by ideology
  • Results similar to those for Republicans and Gingrich in 1997

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Before the Democratic Party's wins in Tuesday's elections, which gave them majority control in the House of Representatives, U.S. Democrats said they would prefer to have a new leader in Congress. By 56% to 39%, Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents said Nancy Pelosi should be replaced as their leader in the House rather than kept in that role by being elected the next speaker. These views are similar among Democrats across the ideological spectrum.

Democrats Prefer That the Party Select a New Leader in the House of Representatives
If Democrats win control of the House of Representatives after the midterm elections, which would you want the Democrats in Congress to do -- [keep Nancy Pelosi as the Democratic leader by electing her as speaker of the House, or replace Nancy Pelosi as the Democratic leader by electing another Democrat as speaker of the House]?
Keep Pelosi Replace Pelosi No opinion
% % %
Democrats/Democratic leaners
All 39 56 5
Liberal 38 58 4
Moderate/Conservative 41 54 6
Gallup, Oct. 15-28, 2018

The question was posed to Democrats in Gallup's Oct. 15-28 poll, conducted before the party won back control of the House of Representatives in the Nov. 6 midterm elections.

Despite their lack of support for Pelosi as speaker, Democrats' opinions of Pelosi are more positive than negative. In Gallup's most recent update, from June, 48% said they have a favorable opinion of her and 31% an unfavorable one. Those figures indicate that some Democrats who have a positive opinion of Pelosi may nevertheless want her to be replaced as the party's leader.

Indeed, dozens of Democratic candidates, many of whom were elected on Tuesday, had vowed to support someone other than Pelosi as speaker should the party regain its majority status. Meanwhile, many incumbent Democrats have announced their intentions to back Pelosi as leader. The party will decide on its leader for the next Congress later this month, with the full House voting to elect the speaker once the new Congress convenes in January.

More broadly, Americans have viewed Pelosi much more negatively than positively for some time. Gallup's June update found 29% of U.S. adults having a favorable opinion of Pelosi and 53% an unfavorable one. Many Republican candidates ran ads during the campaign trying to persuade voters to support them as a way to deny the Democratic Party the majority in Congress and Pelosi the speakership.

Pelosi is hardly alone in being an unpopular congressional leader. All recent speakers of the House -- Paul Ryan, John Boehner, Pelosi, Dennis Hastert and Newt Gingrich -- were rated more negatively than positively by the end of their tenures.

Republicans Showed Similar Opposition to Gingrich in Past

In January 1997, at the beginning of the 105th Congress and amid an ongoing ethics investigation into Gingrich, Gallup asked Americans whether he should be re-elected as speaker. Opinions about Gingrich leading his party were similar among his party base to opinions about Pelosi now. The January 1997 poll found 53% of Republicans and Republican leaners wanted to replace Gingrich, while 38% wanted to re-elect him as speaker.

A few weeks after that poll, the House voted to reprimand and fine Gingrich. But he remained speaker and survived an attempt to oust him later that year. His tenure as speaker ultimately came to an end after the 1998 midterm elections when he was blamed for his party's failure to achieve the expected midterm gain in seats for the opposing party.

The 1997 poll did not ask about ideological identification, so it is unclear whether the views of conservative Republicans and moderate or liberal Republicans differed.

In contrast to Pelosi's image now, Gingrich's image among his fellow partisans in 1997 was more negative than positive, with 42% of Republicans and Republican leaners viewing him favorably and 48% unfavorably. His favorability ratings among all Americans were also slightly worse than Pelosi's are now, as 25% of Americans had a favorable opinion of him and 61% an unfavorable one.


Pelosi has been the Democratic leader in the House since 2002, including a four-year stint as speaker between 2007 and 2010. However, Americans who identify as Democrats or lean Democratic say they would like another person to hold the job this time. Whether views of Pelosi have become more positive after the midterm election victory is not yet known.

How much weight the opinion of party supporters carries with House Democrats when making the speaker choice is not clear. However, so far no one has announced they will challenge Pelosi for the speakership. Unless someone does, average Democrats' opinions on the matter will be a moot issue.

View complete question responses and trends.

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