More than four in 10 Americans, or 43 percent, think it’s a good thing that Speaker John A. Boehner will give up his gavel and retire from Congress later this month, a new poll from The Economist Group/You Gov finds.
But, perhaps as a sign of the uncertainty to come, slightly more of the country doesn’t quite know what to make of Boehner’s surprise announcement that he's leaving the speakership after four tumultuous years. Just 13 percent of the poll’s respondents said that Boehner stepping down is a bad thing, while 44 percent said “not sure.”
The poll’s findings show a public with mixed feelings about the outgoing speaker, whose support among his Republican colleagues had slipped in recent years, as well.
Boehner was a somewhat or very weak leader, 62 percent of respondents said, and 47 percent somewhat or strongly disapproved of the way he handled his job. That compared to 25 percent who said they somewhat or strongly approved, and slightly more than a quarter who weren’t sure.
That disapproval came from both sides of the aisle. While Boehner wasn’t conservative enough for 21 percent of respondents, 22 percent found him too conservative. Similarly, 23 percent said that Republicans in Congress are not conservative enough compared with 37 percent who say they are too conservative.
Boehner spoke about the bipartisan nature of the challenge he faced in an interview on CBS’ "Face the Nation." He noted accomplishments such as deficit reduction, an overhaul of entitlement programs and keeping taxes low. “All done over last four-and-a-half years with a Democrat president, and all voted against by my most conservative members because it wasn't good enough,” he said.
According to the poll, 79 percent of respondents who identified as strongly supportive of the tea party movement believe that Boehner's “not conservative enough.” Of that same group, 88 percent believe Boehner is somewhat or very weak.
Despite the general disapproval, Americans want the next speaker to somewhat follow Boehner’s lead: Sixty-two percent say they want a speaker who will compromise to get things done.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., the current majority leader and the most likely person to succeed Boehner as speaker, has pledged to move his party in a more conservative direction.
“What you're going to see is a conservative speaker that takes a conservative Congress that puts a strategy to fight and win,” McCarthy said Tuesday on Fox News.
Kathy Frankovic, a YouGov consultant, said just because McCarthy’s victory is likely doesn’t mean he has a lot of support from Republican voters.
“Rank-and-file Republicans really have no favorite in the race for a new speaker,” she said. When poll respondents were asked who should replace Boehner, she said that less than 5 percent named McCarthy. “Just about as many named Trey Gowdy," she said, referring to the South Carolina Republican who has been encouraged to run for leadership.
The poll of 2,000 adults was conducted Sept. 25-29 and has an error margin of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points. CQ Roll Call is part of The Economist Group.
Jay Hunter contributed to this report.