Americans Have Negative Opinions of Many Political Leaders and Both Parties in Congress

    NEW YORK , N.Y. – November 15, 2011 – As President Obama struggles to raise his own job approval numbers, he is not alone in being in negative territory. With two exceptions, other leaders in Washington are also viewed more negatively than positively. One exception is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. A majority of Americans (52%) give positive ratings to the overall job she is doing while three in ten (31%) give her negative marks. This is, however, lower than the last time this question was asked in May when three in five (61%) gave her positive marks and one-quarter (26%) gave her negative ratings.

    The other figure who is more positive than negative is Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. In his first showing on this survey since assuming office, more Americans give him positive ratings than negative (20% vs. 17%). But the larger issue is that almost two-thirds of Americans (64%) are not familiar enough with the Defense Secretary to have an opinion of the job he is doing.

    These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,463 adults surveyed online between October 10 and 17, 2011.

    All other political figures, as well as the two parties in general in Congress, have negative ratings. Specifically:

    • Almost half of Americans (46%) give Vice President Joe Biden negative ratings while three in ten (30%) give him positive ratings and one-quarter (24%) are not familiar enough to have an opinion;
    • One-third of U.S. adults (32%) have a negative opinion of the job Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is doing, just one in ten (11%) have a positive opinion and over half (57%) are not familiar enough with him;
    • Looking at another economic figure, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, one-third of Americans (33%) have a negative opinion of the job he is doing, 19% give him positive marks and half (48%) are not familiar enough with him to have an opinion;
    • Two in five Americans (43%) give Speaker of the House John Boehner negative ratings, 17% give him positive marks and two in five (40%) are not familiar enough to have an opinion;
    • Looking at the two Democratic Congressional leaders, over half of Americans (54%) give House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi negative ratings, while 18% give her positive marks and 28% are not familiar with her. Two in five U.S. adults (42%) give Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid negative ratings, 10% give him positive ratings and almost half (47%) are not familiar enough with him to have an opinion; and
    • At the bottom of this group are the political parties in Congress. Over half of Americans have negative opinions of both Republicans in Congress (53%) and Democrats in Congress (54%).
    So What?

    Secretaries of State have always enjoyed some of the best ratings among all political leaders, regardless of party. This may be that since they are not involved in domestic issues, they are not blamed for dissatisfaction with things at home, including frustrations about the economy. The rest of these leaders are not as lucky and here is another possible indication that the election next fall may be one where the unhappiness with this larger group of people comes to the surface. The result could be an election where it’s not that one party or the other loses, but incumbents lose.

     

    TABLE 1

    FAMILIARITY WITH 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

    May

    Oct

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

    85

    83

    83

    81

    82

    82

    82

    82

    81

    81

    81

    81

    87

    83

    Vice President Joe Biden

    70

    67

    69

    68

    71

    70

    72

    67

    72

    71

    72

    71

    78

    76

    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi

    68

    65

    66

    66

    67

    69

    71

    68

    69

    69

    72

    69

    75

    72

    Democrats in Congress

    66

    64

    64

    65

    68

    69

    67

    71

    68

    68

    67

    66

    66

    67

    Republicans in Congress

    62

    61

    59

    58

    63

    65

    64

    66

    67

    64

    64

    63

    62

    66

    House Speaker John Boehner

    37

    N/a

    37

    N/a

    27

    N/a

    N/a

    N/a

    N/a

    N/a

    37

    48

    54

    60

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

    32

    N/a

    N/a

    N/a

    39

    N/a

    44

    N/a

    N/a

    N/a

    N/a

    N/a

    53

    53

    Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke

    42

    43

    43

    41

    44

    48

    N/a

    N/a

    49

    45

    48

    45

    51

    52

    Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner

    35

    44

    41

    39

    43

    42

    43

    43

    43

    39

    41

    40

    43

    43

    Defense Secretary Leon Panetta

    N/a

    N/a

    N/a

    N/a

    N/a

    N/a

    N/a

    N/a

    N/a

    N/a

    N/a

    N/a

    N/a

    36

    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

    52

    16

    36

    31

    19

    12

    17

    Defense Secretary Leon Panetta

    20

    3

    17

    17

    11

    5

    64

    Vice President Joe Biden

    30

    5

    25

    46

    22

    24

    24

    Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke

    19

    3

    16

    33

    17

    16

    48

    House Speaker John Boehner

    17

    3

    14

    43

    20

    23

    40

    Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner

    11

    1

    10

    32

    14

    18

    57

    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi

    18

    3

    14

    54

    19

    35

    28

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

    10

    2

    8

    42

    15

    27

    47

    Republicans in Congress

    13

    2

    11

    53

    21

    32

    34

    Democrats in Congress

    12

    2

    11

    54

    23

    31

    33

    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

    Oct.

    %

    30

    46

    24

    May

    %

    35

    43

    22

    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

    Oct.

    %

    52

    31

    17

    May

    %

    61

    26

    13

    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 LEON PANETTA – TREND

    How would you rate the job Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is doing?

    Base: All adults

    Positive

    Negative

    Not Familiar

    2011

    Oct.

    %

    20

    17

    64

    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

    Oct.

    %

    11

    32

    57

    May

    %

    17

    27

    57

    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

    Oct.

    %

    18

    54

    28

    May

    %

    24

    51

    25

    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 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

    Oct.

    %

    17

    43

    40

    May

    %

    22

    32

    46

    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.

    TABLE 9

    RATING OF SENATE MAJORITY LEADER HARRY REID – TREND

    How would you rate the job Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is doing?

    Base: All adults

    Positive

    Negative

    Not Familiar

    2011

    Oct.

    %

    10

    42

    47

    May

    %

    17

    36

    47

    2009

    Dec.

    %

    11

    33

    56

    Aug.

    %

    10

    29

    61

    March

    %

    12

    26

    61

    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

    Oct.

    %

    19

    33

    48

    May

    %

    22

    29

    49

    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 DEMOCRATS IN CONGRESS – TREND

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

    Base: All adults

    Positive

    Negative

    Not Familiar

    2011

    Oct.

    %

    12

    54

    33

    May

    %

    18

    48

    34

    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 12

    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

    Oct.

    %

    13

    53

    34

    May

    %

    18

    44

    38

    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.

     

    Methodology

    This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between October 10 and 17, 2011 among 2,463 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.

    J40806

    Q1225, 1228

    The Harris Poll® #118, November 15, 2011

    By Regina A. Corso, SVP, Harris Poll, Public Relations and Youth Research