Is Pelosi as Unpopular as CW Says She Is?

The short answer is no. And that answer has been the same for years.

I remember the 2006 cycle. The common wisdom inside the Beltway said that although the Democrats had a shot at retaking the House of Representatives, their leader Nancy Pelosi was too liberal and too divisive for the country, and would thus serve as a drag on her party's chances. Republicans even ran ads to this effect, trying to hit Democratic candidates in competitive districts for being too much like Nancy Pelosi. But as I predicted at the time, the tactic didn't work at all.

Looking back, too, at the past cycle, I remember how Republicans tried to make the three special elections in Republican-held districts about Nancy Pelosi. As I said after one of them, even in districts where Republicans were supposed to win, the tactic of tying Democratic candidates to Nancy Pelosi was simply not effective.

Republicans, of course, have not learned the lesson and still hold out hope that the Speaker is their magic bullet, that somehow after two cycles of the tactic being ineffective it will begin to work. But looking through the current polling, I remain skeptical.

No doubt, Nancy Pelosi is not a particularly popular figure in American politics. Her approval and favorability ratings sit in or around the 30s. She is no Barack Obama. But that's intentional. The Speaker is playing her role, serving in a way as the bad cop to the President's good cop (in the sense that Barack Obama continues to run against Congress and the status quo in Washington as President, just as he did as candidate). And inasmuch as Pelosi is a sort of lightning rod for discontent with the administration and the Democrats more broadly, she is not particularly unpopular.

Take a look at the numbers. The latest Washington Post-ABC News poll finds 38 percent approving of Pelosi's job as Speaker and 45 percent voicing disapproval -- not great numbers, but also not terrible numbers. Indeed, they are better than most of the polls on Newt Gingrich during his time as Speaker, when his disapproval rating consistently stood above 50 percent, reaching as high as 65 percent in ABC/WaPo polling and 62 percent in Gallup polling. No survey, with the exception of the unevenly weighted Harris poll (which lumps the ambivalent rating of "fair" into the disapproval column), has shown Pelosi's disapproval rating to top 50 percent. Looking, too, at favorability numbers, for every survey that shows Pelosi with an unfavorable rating above 50 percent (at times a factor of respondents being pushed into delineating an opinion they do not strongly hold) there is a survey, like the most recent one from Pew, showing Pelosi's unfavorable number to be just 41 percent.

The common wisdom is wrong about Nancy Pelosi, just as it has been for at least three years. While she isn't a tremendously popular political figure, she is not nearly as unpopular as she is made out to be within Beltway circles -- and certainly not such an unpopular figure as to serve as a significant drag on her party.

Tags: Nancy Pelosi (all tags)



it reminds me of the 1990s

when the Republicans kept thinking that if they shouted louder about Bill Clinton being a lying weasel, Americans would come to their senses about him.

by desmoinesdem 2009-06-23 05:14AM | 0 recs
Re: Is Pelosi Unpopular

I would say yes she is unpopular.  I am a Democrat and I can't stand her.  I wish she would stay behind the scenes.  She is a horrible speaker and has a nasty habit if touching her hair when she goes before the cameras.

That being said let the Republicans run against her.  I don't think it is a good strategy.  When voting for candidates x and y out in the country, I don't think people factor in Pelosi.

But on a national level she is a trainwreck.  Her poor choice of words regarding CIA briefings and in her inability to tamp the subsequent brew ha ha down is just one of the reasons that Republicans seem to be steering the national debate right now ... and not Obama and the Democrats.

On health care, GITMO, toture, North Korea, and Iran, the Republicans are dictating the grounds of debate and sticking it to us like we are still in the minority.

by RichardFlatts 2009-06-23 05:22AM | 0 recs
Re: Is Pelosi Unpopular

She does one thing that Reid can't... hold the caucus in line and push for as liberal bills as possible... she does that very well, and should be commended for it.  She's not a good spokesperson for the party... her camera presence has always been terrible, but her strength is behind the scenes... and she does a very good job at that!

by LordMike 2009-06-23 07:54AM | 0 recs

especially when you consider the alternatives for speaker if she were to step down.

by desmoinesdem 2009-06-23 09:04AM | 0 recs
Reid is a wimp

The guy doesn't realize that he has 59 (soon to be 60) votes.  

by RichardFlatts 2009-06-23 09:19AM | 0 recs
true, but

Senators are notoriously fickle...especially today. Ever read "Advise and Consent"

I'm not a fan of Reid, but you just can't lead these people.

by DTOzone 2009-06-23 09:31AM | 0 recs
Re: Is Pelosi Unpopular

I have to disagree with:

"Her poor choice of words regarding CIA briefings "

She said they lied to her. I wish she had just kept repeating it. Anyone who thinks they didn't needs to take a look this bridge I got.

by johnmorris 2009-06-23 03:31PM | 0 recs
Re: Is Pelosi Unpopular

I can't tell what she said.  She was bumbling and stumbling and stroking her hair so much through it all.

by RichardFlatts 2009-06-24 07:30AM | 0 recs
Answer: No, see also Tip O'Neil

This is not even specific to Pelosi. Most people have no idea who a Speaker is, and when they do they typically simply think of him/her as chief among Congressional rogues.

Party leaders often miscalculate by assuming there is real political mileage there. Remember the grainy political ad of an actor playing Tip O'Neil as the consumate cigar-smoking hack in, what, '82? Didn't work then, no reason to think it would with Pelosi (and with no cigar, yet!).

In rare cases a Speaker's political unpopularity actually translates into political gain for the opposition, as when Gingrich overstepped during the budget battle with Clinton.

by KitBinns 2009-06-23 05:37AM | 0 recs
Re: Answer: No, see also Tip O'Neil

The difference between the two was the Gingrich was on TV every single day and became the face of the Republican party....

Pelosi is essentially invisible... and that's just fine... her strength is in the back room, where she holds a very tight reign on the caucus and pushes the most liberal bills she can...

by LordMike 2009-06-23 07:53AM | 0 recs
also Gingrich's unpopularity

did not translate to Republicans losing Congress, just a seat or two.

by DTOzone 2009-06-23 08:35AM | 0 recs
Re: Is Pelosi as Unpopular as CW Says She Is?

Pelosi doesn't bug me nearly as much as Harry Reid, whose default position is lying on his back showing his neck.

Those favorables / unfavorables don't really help if you don't know why.  If 50% of the unfavorables think Pelosi is too compromising and not progressive enough (purely as an example) then that cuts down the amount of people that dislike her for being a "San Francisco Democrat" by a fair margin.  As a result, using her as a scare tactic could actually backfire on the more conservative candidate.

by Dreorg 2009-06-23 07:19AM | 0 recs
Re: Is Pelosi as Unpopular as CW Says She Is?

I would like to see the break down of these polls. Conservatives, moderates and liberal. Of course conservatives being fed hate radio's vervsion of Pelosi disapprove, but how many liberals disapprove because of no impeachment of Bush, no investigation of the financial crisis and so on and so on?

by phastphil 2009-06-23 07:57AM | 0 recs
Re: Is Pelosi as Unpopular as CW Says She Is?

Most people don't think of Speaker as particularly powerful and don't have much opinion one way or another. I'd bet the most common answer in those polls gets thrown out because its "Who?". But if you read a lot of American Political history names like "Mr Sam" Rayburn and John Nance (Cactus Jack) Garner keep popping up in how things got done. That's because the speaker is the third ranking Constitutional officer but quite possibly the second most powerful officer when the system is working. I think she's been one of the greats and her insistence that there will be a public option in the health reform bill is our best hope. I'm hoping she turns up the investigation spigot.

by johnmorris 2009-06-23 03:39PM | 0 recs
The power of the Speaker was muted

by the Republicans after Gingrich...the real power was held by Dick Armey and Tom DeLay.

Pelosi grabbed power back...thankfully took a lot of it away from Steny Hoyer, who I feared would have similar power to DeLay.

by DTOzone 2009-06-23 08:22PM | 0 recs
Re: Is Pelosi as Unpopular as CW Says She Is?

I feel as for women in politics, she is a great role model.  She may be divisive, but she is saying what needs to be said in way that shows that she will not back down.  I hope that she becomes more of the norm and not the exception.  

by selfevident 2009-06-23 03:51PM | 0 recs
Re: Is Pelosi as Unpopular as CW Says She Is?

Nancy Pelosi isn't as unpopular as she is portrayed byt the Beltway pundits--or the liberal blogosphere.

by spirowasright 2009-06-24 09:01AM | 0 recs
Re: Is Pelosi as Unpopular as CW Says She Is?

Her popularity is immaterial. Effectiveness should be the point of judgement. If we don't get good, comprehensive health care reform that offers a viable public auction, AND decent green energy and climate change legislation passed then she will be an utter failure as far as I am concerned. So far the prospect of health care reform is disappearing over the horizon-due mostly to a total lack leardership from the White House, the ineffectualness of Reid and the fact that Nancy Pelosi has so far done nothing on either of these two issues to show me that she intends to take an effective role. Her real character has been revealed in the lack of proper investigations of the Bush Administration and its lackeys.

by Retired Catholic 2009-06-24 01:04PM | 0 recs


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