Nancy Pelosi is No Newt Gingrich
by Jonathan Singer, Tue May 19, 2009 at 06:20:43 AM EDT
CNN says that Nancy Pelosi is facing Newt Gingrich-like approval ratings:
Nearly half of all Americans -- 48 percent -- disapprove of how the California Democrat she is handling her job as Speaker of the House in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released Monday, while 39 percent approve of her performance.
That puts her approval rating at roughly the levels Newt Gingrich had in his first year as Speaker of the House. (Back in 1995, Gingrich's approval rating was 37 percent; by 1997 -- at the same point in his speakership that Pelosi is now -- that had dropped to just 25 percent.)
The headline of this post reads "Pelosi facing Gingrich-like approval ratings," but even CNN.com is forced to admit -- even if just in parentheses -- that an apples-to-apples comparison of Pelosi and Gingrich shows the Democratic leader to be significantly more popular than the Republican leader was at a similar point in his tenure.
But let's parse these numbers further. Gingrich's disapproval rating consistently stood above 50 percent, reaching as high as a whopping 62 percent, in the period following his shutdown of the United States government in late 1995 and early 1996. From the time of this failed political gambit to the later failed political gambit that was the impeachment of Bill Clinton, Gingrich's approval rating averaged 30.9 percent, per Gallup polling (which I believe CNN co-sponsored at the time), while his disapproval rating averaged 55.5 percent. Over the course of Gingrich's entire tenure as Speaker, his net negative rating (again, per Gallup) was negative-22.6 points.
Pelosi's net-negative rating in the current CNN poll is 9 points -- not great, but not nearly a Gingrich-like number. What's more, looking through all of the polling on her Speakership, no survey has found a majority of the country disapproving of Pelosi's job performance with the exception of the Harris poll, which asks a strangely weighted question that lumps the ambivalent feeling of "fair" into its disapproval rating. Gingrich's disapproval rating averaged well north of 50 percent during his time as Speaker, while Pelosi's disapproval rating hasn't even hit that mark in a single equally weighted poll.
Again, this isn't to say that Pelosi's numbers are great, because they aren't. But they also aren't terrible -- and they certainly aren't Gingrich-like, whatever the headline-writers at CNN say.