Poll: McConnell the country’s least popular politician

Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has the lowest favorability rating of any elected official with a national profile, according to a new Harvard-Harris poll provided exclusively to The Hill.

McConnell scores just a 19 percent favorable rating in the national poll, worse than President Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

Forty-nine percent of voters polled have a negative view of the Senate leader. The rest of those polled didn’t know McConnell, or didn’t know enough to have an opinion.

{mosads}McConnell, who is not up for reelection until 2020, only has an 18 percent job approval rating in Kentucky according to a poll released this week by the left-leaning Public Policy Polling.

McConnell is the only Republican elected official polled that is not viewed favorably by a majority of his own party.

Only 32 percent of Republican respondents view McConnell favorably, while 40 percent have a negative view of him.

President Trump, meanwhile, is at 41 percent favorable and 55 unfavorable, with 79 percent of polled Republicans having a positive view of the president.

Vice President Pence is the only GOP elected official above water on favorability, at 44 positive and 42 negative.

Ryan is underwater, posting a negative 33-47 split, but he is viewed favorably by 63 percent of Republican respondents nationwide.

A political adviser to McConnell dismissed the numbers, noting that it is typical for congressional leaders to get little of the success of legislative achievements, but much of the blame for failures.

“National approval numbers are totally inconsequential for congressional leadership who, if they do their job well, are bestowed little of the credit for successes yet shoulder much of the blame for shortcomings,” McConnell’s political adviser Josh Holmes told The Hill.

“There is no national campaign to shape the image of the men and women who help lead their conferences in Congress, and if there was, it would most certainly take time, energy and resources away from the agenda and the members who elect them. Congressional leadership isn’t about being popular, it’s about not being afraid to wear the blame for the often thankless job of making a positive difference.”

The confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch was a big victory for McConnell, who blocked President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland for nearly a year.

His biggest legislative defeat was on the ObamaCare repeal, something that has drawn Trump’s ire.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that Trump lashed out at McConnell in an August phone call, ripping the GOP leader for his failure to repeal ObamaCare.

On Thursday, he criticized both McConnell and Ryan, saying they bungled an opportunity to raise the debt ceiling.

McConnell has criticized what he views as “artificial deadlines” imposed by the White House that make it more difficult for him to move legislation, and there are reports that he was deeply frustrated by Trump’s response to the racial unrest in Charlottesville, Va.

Trump’s job approval rating is at its lowest point in the Harvard-Harris survey, with 43 percent of respondents approving and 57 percent disapproving.

However, that is far better than the GOP as a whole. The Republican Party’s job approval rating is at 30 percent positive and 70 percent negative. That’s a 9-point plunge for the party since April. Only 56 percent of Republicans are happy with what the party has accomplished with its majorities in the House and Senate.

The Democratic Party has a 42 percent approval rating, with 48 percent disapproving. Seventy percent of Democrats say they’re happy with the job their party is doing.

“Trump and McConnell seem to be locked in a death spiral,” said Harvard-Harris co-director Mark Penn. “If the Republicans don’t unify with Trump and unify amongst themselves in tax reform, they could face some major losses given these numbers.”

Trump is boosted by the 53 percent approval rating he wins for his handling of the economy.

While 59 percent of voters say the country as a whole is on the wrong track, most say the economy is on the right track by a 47-35 margin. Sixty-six percent see the economy as strong.

When asked if Trump should get credit for current economic conditions, 45 percent said yes, 14 percent said no and 40 percent were neutral.

“Any other president would have had sky-high numbers with these ratings on the economy, and most are even willing to give him credit for the improvement,” Penn said.

“Trump has stabilized at his base but remains way below 50 percent in support and that encourages politicians to attack him,” he said. “A majority of men and white voters, however, do approve of the job he is doing while in contrast almost 9 in 10 African-American voters disapprove of the job he is doing. And while there is broad dislike, especially among women, of his style and way of governing, a majority of voters approve of the job he has been doing on jobs and the economy.”

McConnell’s ratings are similar to those of former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon, who gets a 17 percent favorable rating.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is at 28 percent favorable and 34 unfavorable, with Democrats viewing him positively by a 2-to-1 margin.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (R-Calif.) posts a negative 31-47 split, but is viewed favorably by a majority of Democrats.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) remains the most popular politician in the country and is the only national figure in the poll that a majority of voters view favorably.

The Harvard-Harris Poll online survey of 2,263 registered voters was conducted from Aug. 17-22. The partisan breakdown is 37 percent Democrat, 31 percent Republican, 29 percent independent and 3 percent other.

The Harvard-Harris Poll is a collaboration of the Harvard Center for American Political Studies and The Harris Poll. The Hill will be working with Harvard-Harris Poll throughout 2017. 

Full poll results will be posted online later this week. The Harvard–Harris Poll survey is an online sample drawn from the Harris Panel and weighted to reflect known demographics. As a representative online sample, it does not report a probability confidence interval.

– This story was corrected at 4:09 p.m. to reflect that Sen. McConnell is up for reelection in 2020. 

Tags Bernie Sanders Charles Schumer Mitch McConnell Paul Ryan
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