Is John Boehner a More Popular Speaker Than Nancy Pelosi?

Yes, according to polls. But he still has one more year to match Pelosi’s four-year term.

John Boehner takes the gavel from his predecessor Nancy Pelosi after being re-elected speaker on Jan. 3, 2013.
National Journal
Matt Vasilogambros
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Matt Vasilogambros
Feb. 26, 2014, 7:22 a.m.

It is bruis­ing to be the speak­er of the House — con­trolling a caucus, de­cid­ing on le­gis­la­tion, be­ing the voice of the party, but­ting heads with op­pos­ing law­makers. It of­ten leaves speak­ers in the red among Amer­ic­ans.

But how have our two most re­cent speak­ers fared?

A new poll re­leased on Wed­nes­day shows House Speak­er John Boehner’s fa­vor­ab­il­ity num­bers have re­boun­ded since the gov­ern­ment shut­down last Oc­to­ber, hov­er­ing around the same level as Nancy Pelosi’s at this point in her speak­er­ship.

Ac­cord­ing to the Gal­lup sur­vey, con­duc­ted Feb. 6-9, 32 per­cent of Amer­ic­ans have a fa­vor­able view of the speak­er. That’s bet­ter than his all-time low of 27 per­cent fol­low­ing the shut­down, which most Amer­ic­ans blamed on Re­pub­lic­ans. This doesn’t mean Boehner is par­tic­u­larly pop­u­lar. He is still seen un­fa­vor­ably by 50 per­cent of the adult pop­u­la­tion, which is only a 1 per­cent­age point de­crease from the poll taken after the shut­down. When he star­ted as speak­er, only 22 per­cent of Amer­ic­ans saw him un­fa­vor­ably.

But that’s still not as bad as the read­ings for Pelosi when she had the speak­er’s gavel, ac­cord­ing to Gal­lup’s num­bers.

In her time as speak­er, Pelosi’s un­fa­vor­able rat­ing among Amer­ic­ans in­creased from 22 per­cent when she took the gavel to 56 per­cent when she re­lin­quished it.

(Gal­lup) (Gal­lup)

When Boehner be­came speak­er, he had a fa­vor­ab­il­ity rat­ing of 42 per­cent, which has stead­ily de­ceased over his three-year ten­ure. Just two years in­to his time in of­fice, his fa­vor­ab­il­ity sank to 31 per­cent.

When Pelosi took the speak­er­ship in 2007, her fa­vor­ab­il­ity was at 44 per­cent, dip­ping be­fore set­tling at 42 per­cent two years in­to her ten­ure. Then Pres­id­ent Obama took of­fice and her fa­vor­ab­il­ity num­bers stead­ily dropped as Re­pub­lic­an at­tacks grew. Re­pub­lic­ans con­stantly ran against Pelosi dur­ing that time, to a de­gree that Demo­crats haven’t done against Boehner. 

Be­fore she gave up the gavel, Pelosi’s fa­vor­ab­il­ity fell to its low­est point: 29 per­cent, which is still 2 points high­er than Boehner’s low­est point.

So, who is the more pop­u­lar speak­er between the two? Ac­cord­ing to the Gal­lup data points, the av­er­age fa­vor­ab­il­ity for Boehner is 39 per­cent. It’s around 37 per­cent for Pelosi dur­ing her time as speak­er. The av­er­age un­fa­vor­able rat­ing is 39 for Boehner, and around 44 per­cent for Pelosi dur­ing her ten­ure.

Judging by these num­bers, Boehner has been the more pop­u­lar speak­er. But he has been speak­er for only three years. Pelosi had four.

This latest Gal­lup Poll was also taken just days be­fore Boehner sup­por­ted an in­crease to the debt ceil­ing with no strings at­tached, avoid­ing a de­fault on United States loans. So, his num­bers could get bet­ter.

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