Wanted: House Speaker Willing to Compromise, Poll Says

Posted October 14, 2015 at 6:00am

Even though conservative rebels within the GOP conference want a staunch conservative to replace Speaker John A. Boehner, most Americans say they’d prefer a new House leader who is willing to compromise, a new Economist/YouGov poll found.

That majority view differs from the opinions of some in the tea party movement who are driving Boehner out of office.

Fully 63 percent of respondents said they want a new speaker who compromises to get things done — putting them at odds with the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus and conservative grassroots organizations that are calling for one of their own atop the House leadership.

That gulf between the hard-line conservatives and the party’s establishment has pushed the House GOP leadership’s future into chaos.

Ohio’s Boehner announced Sept. 25 he planned to resign at the end of this month, and his presumed successor, Kevin McCarthy of California, abruptly dropped out of the race last week just as his colleagues were poised to nominate him for the gavel. Many conservatives said they viewed McCarthy as a younger version of Boehner, whom tea party activists contend gave in too much to President Barack Obama on spending and budget issues.

Boehner has said he will remain on the job until his successor is picked.

Among those polled who are at least somewhat supportive of the tea party movement, 54 percent said they want the next speaker to stick to his or her principles, no matter what.

But most Americans — 60 percent of all respondents — said they wanted the next speaker to put more emphasis on working with Democrats and Obama to accomplish more. Meanwhile, 31 percent of adults said they would like Boehner’s successor to be less conservative.

Those findings are a contrast to what the tea party craves in a leader: 59 percent of adults who are at least somewhat supportive of the movement say they want a more conservative candidate to helm the chamber. Nearly 5 in 10, or 47 percent, of respondents who are at least somewhat supportive of the tea party say they want the next speaker to oppose Democrats and the president even if that means Congress accomplishes less.

Rep. Jim Jordan, the Ohio Republican who heads the House Freedom Caucus, reiterated his group’s endorsement of Florida Rep. Daniel Webster for speaker during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.” But Jordan also indicated the roughly 40 caucus members may be open to Ways and Means Chairman Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin.

“He’s a great communicator, the kind of messenger I think our party needs,” Jordan said of Ryan, who is being urged by many colleagues to seek the job.  “And certainly, if he gets in the race, I think our group would look favorably on him.” 

Ryan has said repeatedly he is not interested in running. 

Jordan, though, said the speaker’s race was less about personalities and more about “reforming” the institution. “It’s about what’s going to change the business as usual attitude around there,” he said.

The Economist/YouGov poll also found that nearly half of Americans do not think much of Boehner’s job as speaker: 48 percent said they somewhat or strongly disapprove of his handling the job.

The opt-in, Internet-based survey of 2,000 adults was taken Oct. 8-12 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points. The Economist Group owns CQ Roll Call. 

Ryan Kelly contributed to this report.