Last updated on February 5, 2021 1:24 pm
Feb 5, 2021 By Nathaniel Rakich
Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup.
Poll(s) of the week
With former President Trump out of office, other Republican politicians, from Sen. Josh Hawley to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to Rep. Liz Cheney, are taking their turns in the limelight. But it hasn’t exactly been an auspicious debut: New polls this week from Morning Consult/Politico, YouGov/The Economist and SurveyMonkey/Axios measured the national popularity of eight prominent congressional Republicans and found that all eight were more unpopular than popular with the general public.1
These 8 congressional Republicans are pretty unpopular
The share of Americans with a favorable or unfavorable opinion of eight Republican senators and representatives in three recent polls
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Numbers for Cruz and Hawley are from YouGov/The Economist; numbers for Cawthorn are from Morning Consult/Politico; numbers for McCarthy are an average of Morning Consult/Politico and SurveyMonkey/ Axios; numbers for Boebert are an average of YouGov/The Economist and Morning Consult/Politico;
numbers for Cheney, Greene and McConnell are an average of all three polls. YouGov/The Economist and SurveyMonkey/Axios surveyed all adults, while Morning Consult/Politico surveyed only registered voters.
That said, there are some pretty important differences in the source of that unpopularity. Some are liked by Republicans but positively detested by Democrats. Some are disliked by Republicans themselves, raising doubts about their ability to shape the future direction of the party. And still others are established villains for Democrats but have yet to make a name for themselves among Republicans, suggesting room to grow as forces within the GOP.
What will the Republican Party do about the extremists in its ranks?
These eight members of Congress can be divided into three groups. First: the controversial freshmen. This list starts with Greene, who was stripped of her committee assignments on Thursday for a litany of past scandals: associating with white supremacists and right-wing militia members; making racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic Facebook posts; calling for the execution of high-profile Democrats; and spreading QAnon and other baseless conspiracy theories (though she publicly disavowed them on Thursday). Unsurprisingly, Greene is quite unpopular with the general public: According to an average of the three polls, she has a 15 percent favorable rating and a 37 percent unfavorable rating. This is due largely to opposition among Democrats, who view her unfavorably by an average margin of 56 percent to 8 percent.
But even in the GOP, she is divisive: On average, 24 percent of Republicans view her positively and 20 percent view her negatively.
[Related: What Does Impeachment And The Division Over Marjorie Taylor Greene And Liz Cheney Tell Us About The GOP?]
But Greene is not equally famous among members of both parties. On average, 64 percent of Democrats have an opinion of her (either positive or negative), but only 44 percent of Republicans do. Perhaps that is because Democrats are already using Greene as a bogeyman to motivate their base now that Trump is no longer in office, not to mention that conservative news outlets like Fox News have devoted far less airtime to Greene than the likes of MSNBC or CNN. (In the month of January, CNN mentioned Greene in 472 15-second clips, MSNBC mentioned her in 393 and Fox News mentioned her in 31, according to closed-captioning data from the TV News Archive.2)
And it’s entirely possible that as more Republicans get to know Greene, they may start to like her more. In 2019, we found that Democratic presidential candidates’ net favorability ratings among Democrats rose at a highly predictable rate as they gained name recognition. And, of course, Republicans view Trump, a political ally of Greene’s who has faced some of the same controversies, extremely favorably (84 percent to 16 percent in an average of the YouGov and Morning Consult polls).
A similar pattern is evident with Rep. Lauren Boebert, though she is not as well known as Greene. A gun-rights advocate who once expressed sympathy for QAnon and has ties to right-wing militias, Boebert averaged a 12 percent favorable rating and 25 percent unfavorable rating in the YouGov and Morning Consult polls. And the Democrats who are familiar with her strongly dislike her (35 percent to 9 percent, on average), but Republicans are more ambivalent: Only 17 percent have a favorable opinion of her, and only 14 percent have an unfavorable one. So, like Greene, Boebert still has a lot of room to define herself among Republicans.
But a third freshman who has also loudly defended Trump (including joining Greene and Boebert in the effort to overturn the 2020 election results), Rep. Madison Cawthorn, has barely made an impression among everyday Americans. According to the Morning Consult poll, he has an overall favorable/unfavorable spread of 11 percent to 16 percent among registered voters. With Republicans, it’s 16 percent to 13 percent, while he’s slightly underwater among Democrats (10 percent to 19 percent).
Notably, however, only 29 percent of voters in both parties were able to form an opinion of Cawthorn, even though he’s made a lot of news in his short career. The 25-year-old is the youngest member of Congress since 1965 and one of the few who uses a wheelchair; yet, he has also been accused of unwanted kissing and touching, has been criticized for exaggerating how competitive he was for spots at the U.S. Naval Academy and U.S. Paralympics team, and has courted controversy for an enthusiastic Instagram post about visiting a Nazi landmark and for a racist characterization on his campaign website accusing Sen. Cory Booker of working to “ruin white males.”
How Biden’s response to the pandemic is different from Trump’s
The second category of Republican the polls asked about is better-known Trump allies. For instance, Hawley, the first senator to say he would object to the 2020 election results, has spent his short congressional career cozying up to Trump ahead of a possible 2024 presidential bid. (He says he is not going to run, but famous last words…) In the YouGov poll, more than half of Americans have an opinion of him — 19 percent positive, 38 percent negative.
But his situation is similar to Greene’s: While he has earned the enmity of most Democrats (who view him unfavorably by a 63 percent to 7 percent margin), his loyalty to Trump hasn’t afforded him the adulation of as many Republicans as maybe he’d hoped. Only 51 percent have an opinion of him: 35 percent favorable, 16 percent unfavorable.
Compare that with Sen. Ted Cruz, another potential 2024 contender who, along with Hawley, became the face of the movement to overturn the 2020 election. According to YouGov, Cruz enjoys a similar level of notoriety as Hawley among Democrats: a 73 percent unfavorable rating versus a 12 percent favorable rating. But he is both better-known and better-liked than Hawley among Republicans: a 69 percent favorable rating and 17 percent unfavorable rating. (It’s possible that his greater name recognition stems from his 2016 presidential campaign, in which he won more states than any candidate other than Trump.) Overall, Cruz has a 34 percent favorable rating and a 45 percent unfavorable rating.
Last but not least in this category, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has a 23/33 favorable/unfavorable spread, per an average of the Morning Consult and SurveyMonkey polls. That’s driven largely by his poor 13/49 rating among Democrats. Unlike Hawley and Cruz, McCarthy has attempted to straddle the line between old-guard Republican decorousness and Trumpian populism (for instance, he said Trump bore “some responsibility” for the Jan. 6 siege on the U.S.
Capitol, but he also said that was true of all Americans). But when push has come to shove, McCarthy has largely deferred to Trump (most notably with his vote to overturn the election results); as a result, he has stayed within the GOP’s good graces. His average intraparty favorable/unfavorable rating is 39/20.
[Related: The GOP Might Still Be Trump’s Party. But That Doesn’t Mean There’s Room For Him.]
But the oddest favorability ratings belong to our third group: Republicans who have broken with Trump. Take Cheney. She was one of the best-known Republicans tested, and the most popular: In an average of our three polls, 27 percent of Americans view her favorably, and 31 percent view her unfavorably. But fresh off her vote to impeach Trump for inciting the Capitol attack, she is widely disliked within her own party: 44 percent have an unfavorable opinion of her, while just 16 percent have a favorable one.
This helps explain why many Trump allies have been clamoring to oust Cheney from her position in House GOP leadership. That effort failed on Wednesday, but Cheney may not be out of the woods yet: At least one Wyoming Republican has announced his intention to primary her in 2022.
By contrast, in a sentence that would have been shocking to read in 2007 (when her father, Dick Cheney, was vice president), Democrats like Cheney by an average margin of 41 percent to 21 percent. Their support is definitely lukewarm, though: In the YouGov survey, only 12 percent of Democrats had a “very favorable” opinion of Cheney, while 32 percent had a “somewhat favorable” one.
Finally, with an average favorable rating of 19 percent and an average unfavorable rating of 59 percent, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is the least popular Republican politician of the eight. He’s achieved this dubious distinction by scoring negative favorability ratings among both parties. Since he reportedly stopped speaking to Trump, intimated that he was open to the impeachment process and publicly blamed Trump for the Capitol attack, McConnell’s standing among Republicans has deteriorated: His favorable/unfavorable spread within the GOP is now an average of 34/47.
But unlike Cheney, Democrats have not given their long-time adversary any bonus points for his change of heart, bestowing a terrible 12/72 rating on him. Clearly, public opinion about congressional Republicans is all over the map. But there appears to be one common factor: A Republican’s closeness to Trump seems to determine his or her success at winning over (or repulsing) rank-and-file Americans. Trump may no longer be president, but he still looms large over the Republican Party.
Other polling bites
- California Gov. Gavin Newsom has faced criticism for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic from both the left and the right (see when he attended a dinner party unmasked at a gourmet restaurant in violation of his own regulations), and he is now facing the possibility of a campaign to recall him from office. A new state poll from the Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies has found Newsom’s approval rating down to 46 percent and his disapproval rating up to 48 percent. However, Californians still seem hesitant to actually vote to recall him: Only 36 percent said they would do so, while 45 percent said they would vote to retain him.
- Biden and congressional Democrats appear intent to pass their $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, even if it receives no support from Republicans and must pass through the budget reconciliation process. And a new Quinnipiac University poll suggests they won’t incur much backlash for doing so: The stimulus bill is very popular, with 68 percent of adults in support and only 24 percent in opposition. In addition, most Americans support one of its core provisions — an additional $1,400 stimulus check for individual adults — 78 percent to 18 percent.
- According to Gallup, Congress’s job approval rating shot up from 15 percent in December to 25 percent in January. That is still pitifully low, but remember that in between the two polls, Congress passed a $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill, the Capitol was attacked by a mob of Trump supporters and Democrats took control of the Senate.
- A Marist poll recently asked respondents if they had intentionally avoided talking to friends and family members with different political views over the past year. Fifty-five percent of adults said no, but 44 percent said they had.
- According to Léger, 30 percent of Americans are rooting for Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs to win Sunday’s Super Bowl, while 25 percent are pulling for Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The remaining 45 percent don’t care; after all, the ads are the really fun part.
According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker,3 53.3 percent of Americans approve of the job Biden is doing as president, while 35.6 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of +17.7 points). At this time last week, 54.2 percent approved and 34.7 percent disapproved (a net approval rating of +19.6 points).
Dhrumil Mehta contributed research.