Ratings of Leaders in Washington, While Still Mostly Negative, Improve Slightly

    NEW YORK, N.Y. – February 9, 2011 – A new Harris Poll finds that the ratings of some of the most prominent leaders in Washington have improved slightly. However their ratings are still mostly negative; they are just slightly less unpopular now than they were at the end of last year.

    Secretary of State Hilary Clinton continues to be by far the most popular Cabinet member and majorities still do not know enough about Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Fed Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Defense Secretary Bob Gates, or the new House Speaker John Boehner to have any opinions of them. However those familiar with John Boehner are up 11 points to 48%, from 37% last October and his positive ratings are up from 12% to 22%.

    These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,566 adults surveyed online between January 17 and 24, 2011 by Harris Interactive.

    Findings in this Harris Poll include:

    • While substantial majorities are familiar with most of the people covered in the survey, sizable numbers say they are not familiar enough to have any opinions about some of the most visible leaders – Secretary of State Hilary Clinton (19%), Vice-President Joe Biden (29%) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (31%);
    • More than half of all adults do not feel they are familiar enough with the following leaders to have any opinions about them: Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner (60%), Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke (55%), Defense Secretary Bob Gates (53%), and House Speaker John Boehner (52%);
    • Hilary Clinton’s ratings are now 50% positive and 31% negative, a slight improvement and her best numbers since August 2009;
    • Joe Biden’s ratings are now 33% positive and 39% negative, a significant improvement since last October and equaling his best numbers since August 2009;
    • While less than half of adults are familiar with him, Bob Gates has mostly positive (30%) rather than negative (18%) ratings–these are his most positive ratings since early 2009;
    • Tim Geithner continues to get more negative (26%) than positive (14%) ratings, but even these weak numbers are better than they have been in recent months;
    • Nancy Pelosi continues to have many critics. Fully 48% of adults give her negative ratings. However her numbers are a slight improvement on her ratings late last year when she was still House Speaker;
    • While most people do not have an opinion of Ben Bernanke, his critics (25%) still outnumber his admirers (20%) by a small margin; and
    • The generic questions about the two parties in Congress continue to show that they are both almost equally unpopular-the Democrats are 47% negative and 19% positive, the Republicans are 44% negative and 20% positive. However in both cases these are not as bad as they were at the end of 2010, when both parties had negatives in the low 50s.

    So What?

    These modest improvements are consistent with other indicators that the national mood has improved slightly over the last couple of months. Several polls have shown modest improvements in President Obama’s ratings. Consumer confidence has improved a little, as have some of the other leading economic indicators. The stock market made gains for most of the last few months. However many of these numbers are still low by historic standards and the unemployment rate remains very high. Whether the modest uptick we have seen recently is the beginning of an upward trend or just a temporary blip remains to be seen.

     

    TABLE 1

    FAMILIARITY OF SENIOR CABINET MEMBERS, CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS AND PARTIES IN CONGRESS

    Are you familiar enough with each of the following to have an opinion regarding them?

    Base: All adults

    FAMILIAR

    2009

    2010

    2011

    Mar

    April

    May

    June

    Aug

    Sept

    Dec

    Jan

    Mar

    June

    Oct

    Jan.

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

    85

    83

    83

    81

    82

    82

    82

    82

    81

    81

    81

    81

    Vice President Joe Biden

    70

    67

    69

    68

    71

    70

    72

    67

    72

    71

    72

    71

    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi

    68

    65

    66

    66

    67

    69

    71

    68

    69

    69

    72

    69

    Democrats in Congress

    66

    64

    64

    65

    68

    69

    67

    71

    68

    68

    67

    66

    Republicans in Congress

    62

    61

    59

    58

    63

    65

    64

    66

    67

    64

    64

    63

    House Speaker John Boehner

    37

    N/a

    37

    N/a

    27

    N/a

    N/a

    N/a

    N/a

    N/a

    37

    48

    Defense Secretary Robert Gates

    40

    44

    43

    42

    45

    46

    49

    47

    48

    44

    47

    47

    Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke

    42

    43

    43

    41

    44

    48

    N/a

    N/a

    49

    45

    48

    45

    Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner

    35

    44

    41

    39

    43

    42

    43

    43

    43

    39

    41

    40

    Note: N/a indicates not asked; In January 2011 Nancy Pelosi became House Minority Leader (from House Speaker) and John Boehner became House Speaker (from House Minority Leader).

     

    TABLE 2

    RATINGS OF SENIOR CABINET MEMBERS, CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS AND PARTIES IN CONGRESS

    How would you rate the overall job each of the following is doing?

    Base: All adults

    Positive

    Excellent

    Pretty Good

    Negative

    Only Fair

    Poor

    Not

    Familiar

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

    50

    19

    32

    31

    20

    11

    19

    Vice President Joe Biden

    33

    8

    24

    39

    20

    19

    29

    Defense Secretary Robert Gates

    30

    8

    22

    18

    13

    5

    53

    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi

    22

    6

    15

    48

    15

    32

    31

    House Speaker John Boehner

    22

    5

    16

    27

    15

    11

    52

    Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke

    20

    5

    16

    25

    15

    10

    55

    Republicans in Congress

    20

    4

    15

    44

    24

    20

    37

    Democrats in Congress

    19

    5

    14

    47

    21

    26

    34

    Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner

    14

    4

    11

    26

    12

    13

    60

    Positive = excellent or pretty good Negative = only fair or poor; In January 2011 Nancy Pelosi became House Minority Leader (from House Speaker) and John Boehner became House Speaker (from House Minority Leader).

     

    TABLE 3

    RATING OF VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN – TREND

    How would you rate the job Vice-President Joe Biden is doing?

    Base: All adults

    Positive

    Negative

    Not Familiar

    2011

    Jan.

    %

    33

    39

    29

    2010

    Oct.

    %

    26

    46

    28

    June

    %

    26

    45

    29

    March

    %

    29

    44

    28

    Jan.

    %

    28

    39

    33

    2009

    Dec.

    %

    30

    42

    28

    Sept.

    %

    30

    41

    30

    Aug.

    %

    33

    38

    29

    June

    %

    30

    38

    32

    May

    %

    32

    36

    31

    April

    %

    34

    32

    33

    March

    %

    35

    35

    30

    Excellent or pretty good. Only fair or poor. Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% because of rounding.

     

    TABLE 4

    RATING OF SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON – TREND

    How would you rate the job Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is doing?

    Base: All adults

    Positive

    Negative

    Not Familiar

    2011

    Jan.

    %

    50

    31

    19

    2010

    Oct.

    %

    48

    32

    19

    June

    %

    45

    35

    19

    March

    %

    48

    33

    19

    Jan.

    %

    49

    33

    18

    2009

    Dec.

    %

    48

    34

    18

    Sept.

    %

    48

    34

    18

    Aug.

    %

    51

    31

    18

    June

    %

    47

    34

    19

    May

    %

    50

    33

    17

    April

    %

    51

    32

    17

    March

    %

    49

    36

    15

    Excellent or pretty good. Only fair or poor. Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% because of rounding.

     

    TABLE 5

    RATING OF DEFENSE SECRETARY ROBERT GATES – TREND

    How would you rate the job Defense Secretary Robert Gates is doing?

    Base: All adults

    Positive

    Negative

    Not Familiar

    2011

    Jan.

    %

    30

    18

    53

    2010

    Oct.

    %

    27

    20

    53

    June

    %

    23

    20

    56

    March

    %

    27

    21

    52

    Jan.

    %

    26

    21

    53

    2009

    Dec.

    %

    28

    21

    51

    Sept.

    %

    28

    18

    54

    Aug.

    %

    28

    17

    55

    June

    %

    28

    13

    58

    May

    %

    28

    15

    57

    April

    %

    30

    14

    56

    March

    %

    27

    13

    60

    Excellent or pretty good. Only fair or poor. Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% because of rounding.

     

    TABLE 6

    RATING OF TREASURY SECRETARY TIM GEITHNER – TREND

    How would you rate the job Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is doing?

    Base: All adults

    Positive

    Negative

    Not Familiar

    2011

    Jan.

    %

    14

    26

    60

    2010

    Oct.

    %

    12

    29

    59

    June

    %

    10

    29

    61

    March

    %

    13

    30

    57

    Jan.

    %

    14

    29

    57

    2009

    Dec.

    %

    15

    29

    57

    Sept.

    %

    16

    26

    58

    Aug.

    %

    17

    26

    57

    June

    %

    15

    24

    61

    May

    %

    16

    26

    59

    April

    %

    18

    26

    56

    March

    %

    11

    24

    65

    Excellent or pretty good. Only fair or poor. Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% because of rounding.

     

    TABLE 7

    RATING OF HOUSE MINORITY LEADER NANCY PELOSI – TREND

    How would you rate the job House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is doing?

    Base: All adults

    Positive

    Negative

    Not Familiar

    2011

    Jan.

    %

    22

    48

    31

    2010

    Oct.

    %

    19

    52

    28

    June

    %

    20

    49

    31

    March

    %

    16

    52

    31

    Jan.

    %

    18

    50

    32

    2009

    Dec.

    %

    22

    49

    29

    Sept.

    %

    20

    49

    31

    Aug.

    %

    19

    48

    33

    June

    %

    18

    49

    34

    May

    %

    21

    45

    34

    April

    %

    21

    44

    35

    March

    %

    23

    45

    32

    Excellent or pretty good. Only fair or poor. Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% because of rounding; until January 2011 Nancy Pelosi was House Speaker.

     

    TABLE 8

    RATING OF DEMOCRATS IN CONGRESS – TREND

    How would you rate the job the Democrats in Congress are doing?

    Base: All adults

    Positive

    Negative

    Not Familiar

    2011

    Jan.

    %

    19

    47

    34

    2010

    Oct.

    %

    16

    51

    33

    June

    %

    14

    54

    32

    March

    %

    14

    54

    32

    Jan.

    %

    17

    54

    29

    2009

    Dec.

    %

    18

    50

    33

    Sept.

    %

    18

    51

    31

    Aug.

    %

    21

    47

    32

    June

    %

    21

    43

    35

    May

    %

    25

    39

    36

    April

    %

    22

    42

    36

    March

    %

    25

    41

    34

    Excellent or pretty good. Only fair or poor. Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% because of rounding.

     

    TABLE 9

    RATING OF REPUBLICANS IN CONGRESS – TREND

    How would you rate the job the Republicans in Congress are doing?

    Base: All adults

    Positive

    Negative

    Not Familiar

    2011

    Jan.

    %

    20

    44

    37

    2010

    Oct.

    %

    14

    51

    36

    June

    %

    11

    52

    36

    March

    %

    16

    51

    33

    Jan.

    %

    16

    50

    34

    2009

    Dec.

    %

    14

    50

    36

    Sept.

    %

    11

    54

    35

    Aug.

    %

    12

    52

    37

    June

    %

    12

    46

    42

    May

    %

    14

    45

    41

    April

    %

    14

    48

    39

    March

    %

    15

    47

    38

    Excellent or pretty good. Only fair or poor. Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% because of rounding.

     

    TABLE 10

    RATING OF FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN BEN BERNANKE – TREND

    How would you rate the job Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is doing?

    Base: All adults

    Positive

    Negative

    Not Familiar

    2011

    Jan.

    %

    20

    25

    55

    2010

    Oct.

    %

    20

    28

    52

    June

    %

    17

    29

    55

    March

    %

    21

    28

    51

    2009

    Sept.

    %

    25

    23

    52

    Aug.

    %

    20

    24

    56

    June

    %

    18

    23

    59

    May

    %

    19

    24

    57

    April

    %

    20

    23

    57

    March

    %

    14

    28

    58

    Excellent or pretty good. Only fair or poor. Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% because of rounding

     

    TABLE 11

    RATING OF HOUSE SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER – TREND

    How would you rate the job House Speaker John Boehner is doing?

    Base: All adults

    Positive

    Negative

    Not Familiar

    2011

    Jan.

    %

    22

    27

    52

    2010

    Oct.

    %

    12

    25

    63

    2009

    Aug.

    %

    8

    19

    73

    March

    %

    9

    16

    75

    Excellent or pretty good. Only fair or poor. Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% because of rounding; Until January 2011 John Boehner was House Minority Leader.

     

    Methodology

    This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between January 17 to 24, 2011 among 2,566 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

    All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

    Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

    These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

    The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

    J39369

    Q1225, 1230

    The Harris Poll® #18, February 9, 2011

    By Humphrey Taylor, Chairman, The Harris Poll