House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) popularity among Republicans is at a high point compared to GOP leaders of the last several years, including former House Speakers Paul Ryan (R-WI) and John Boehner (R-OH), as indicated by a new survey.
The Axios-SurveyMonkey survey, conducted February 1–2 and titled “Future of the GOP,” measured the net favorability rating of four current congressional Republicans and ranked McCarthy the most popular by double digits, showing the GOP leader receiving a 38 percent positive and 16 percent negative rating that produced a 22-point net favorability among Republicans and those who lean Republican.
The poll demonstrates approval of the leader that other polls indicate Republicans have not seen out of a House leader in many years.
Prior to McCarthy, a poll from Civiqs showed Ryan leaving his post as speaker of the House in January 2019 with a 12 percent favorable and 71 percent unfavorable rating, one of the lowest showings for a speaker in recent history. When drilling down into his net favorability among just Republicans in that poll, Ryan received a 25 percent positive and 49 percent negative rating, giving him a -24-point net favorability.
McCarthy has been at the helm of the Republican conference since Ryan left, meaning he is about two years into that position.
While Ryan saw fluctuations in favorability throughout his term, when Ryan was two years into his position in October 2017, his net favorability in the Civiqs poll among Republicans was -24 points, the same as when he exited the speakership.
Gallup also polled Ryan’s favorability as his term was ending in December 2018, and in a subsection titled “Paul Ryan Leaves Speakership With Low Favorability Rating,” that poll displayed Ryan’s lowest favorability of the seven times the firm had rated it since he took on his role. The poll found the then-speaker with a 34 percent favorable and 50 percent unfavorable rating that produced a -16-point net favorability among all party affiliations.
Ryan’s net favorability with Gallup when he was, again like McCarthy is now, close to two years into his role (the one rating of 2017 for Ryan occurred in April) was still overall negative. In that poll, titled “Ryan’s Image Worsens After Healthcare Flop,” Ryan had a net favorability of -7 points, at 39 percent favorable and 46 percent unfavorable among all parties, which perhaps came as a result of his failed promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Preceding McCarthy and Ryan was Boehner, who, according to the Washington Post, departed his role as the “least popular speaker in three decades.” Boehner announced his resignation at a time of “record personal unpopularity” in September 2015. The Gallup poll at that time found his net favorability at -31 points among all parties.
After Boehner announced his resignation, his favorability improved some but remained negative, at -14 points. Gallup provided party-specific ratings for that poll and found that among Republicans specifically, Boehner’s net favorability was at -5 points.
The Axios-SurveyMonkey survey of McCarthy was conducted this week just as the spotlight was turning onto the GOP leader and how he would approach the handling of his two most embattled members, Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Liz Cheney (R-WY).
Greene, a Trump-backed freshman congresswoman, was being targeted by House Democrats over past inflammatory comments she had made, and Cheney, the House’s third-ranking Republican, had recently broken with the Republican Party to vote in favor of impeaching Trump, a move that was met with substantial backlash from many of her colleagues and constituents.
McCarthy, in what appeared to be a gesture of unifying his party, stood by the two vastly different congresswomen by opposing Democrats’ demand that Greene be stripped of her committee memberships and backing Cheney keeping her leadership role, from which many of her colleagues sought to remove her.
The survey also ranked the net favorability of McCarthy’s upper chamber counterpart, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and revealed McCarthy was a whopping 37 points ahead of McConnell, which Axios found also aligned with those who said they voted for Trump. “Republican respondents who voted for Trump in November gave McCarthy a high net favorable rating (+31) and McConnell a high net unfavorable rating (-18),” Axios reported.
Just prior to the survey, McCarthy on January 28 had a “very good and cordial” sit-down with Trump at Mar-a-Lago in Florida, according to a statement released after the meeting alongside a photo of the two smiling together.
The Axios-SurveyMonkey survey was conducted online with 1,024 Republicans weighing in and, among Republicans, had a margin of error of +/- four percent.
Write to Ashley Oliver at [email protected].