When I first saw this headline, it seemed like a “dog bites man” story. Of course Nancy Pelosi is unpopular with the electorate; that’s hardly news. What is news is just how unpopular she has become. Gallup finds her approval rating at an all-time low of 29%, lower than during the ObamaCare debate, while her disapproval has hit a new high:
Pelosi’s ratings were 2-to-1 positive, 44% to 22%, when she first assumed the speakership in January 2007, but they became closely divided by March of that year and remained so in November 2008. Views became more negative than positive for the first time in the first half of 2009, possibly because of Pelosi’s public stance against the CIA’s use of “enhanced interrogation” of terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay prison, and her dispute with the CIA over whether she had been briefed on the matter. Spanning the period these issues were in the news, her favorable rating fell from 42% to 32%. Pelosi’s favorable rating recovered slightly in the first half of 2010 to 36%, but it has since tumbled to the new low.
Independents in particular have become more negative about Pelosi, with her favorability dwindling nine points among this group since May, to 21%. Nearly 6 in 10 independents (58%) now view her unfavorably, compared with 86% of Republicans and 22% of Democrats.
Their graph shows the dramatic change:
Before becoming Speaker, most Americans didn’t know enough about Pelosi to dislike her. Even as Speaker in the 11oth Session of Congress, her popularity and unpopularity rose almost in parallel as she became more well known, and she remained popular enough to help Democrats win another election and strengthen their majority in the House. Almost immediately, though, her numbers began to tank as voters saw her bare-knuckle partisanship first in the Porkulus bill and then again in the ObamaCare debate. Even that, however, apparently pales in comparison to the distaste she has inspired since the bill’s passage, going from a -15 favorability to a -27 in the last six months.
Some of this is certainly due to the feelings about Democrats overall. However, Republicans don’t make up 56% of the electorate. Also, this poll surveyed general-population adults, not registered or likely voters (as did the other polls in this sequence). Among likely voters in this midterm cycle, those numbers are almost certainly much worse.
Compare these numbers to those for John Boehner, who gets a 27/31 favorability in Gallup’s polling, with 42% having no opinion of Boehner. Assuming Boehner becomes Speaker, that latter number will change, and the approval/disapproval numbers will become more partisan. However, this also shows the folly of picking Boehner as a Democratic boogeyman for this election, and the wisdom of Republicans in tying every Democrat in Congressional elections to Pelosi and her leadership position.