Outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) left Washington with fewer than two out of 10 Americans supporting him — a historic low.
That’s according to polling data compiled by statistician Drew Linzer of Civiqs, who tweeted Ryan’s dismal approval rating on Thursday evening. According to Linzer’s data, Ryan’s approval never ticked above 30 percent from the start of Donald Trump’s presidency in early 2017, and his disapproval had been steadily trending upward since 2018.
— Drew Linzer (@DrewLinzer) January 3, 2019
To compare, Nancy Pelosi’s approval rating when she lost the speakership in January of 2010 was approximately 42 percent, according to The Washington Post (Quinnipiac’s polling data differs, with a poll taken after the 2010 midterm elections showing her with just 25 percent favorability).
In fact, the Post’s data suggests that Ryan is the last popular exiting House Speaker on record dating back to at least Tip O’Neill (D-Massachusetts), who retired in 1985. The previous most unpopular speaker upon exiting was John Boehner (R-Ohio), who Paul Ryan replaced in 2015. Going by the records published in the Post, Boehner had just 26 percent approval when he retired from Congress.
Speaker Ryan’s unpopularity was prevalent among both Democrats and Republicans. Breitbart — the arch-conservative site formerly run by ex-Trump aide Steve Bannon — frequently attacked Paul Ryan for not being as vocal of a defender of Trump in comparison to other Congressional Republicans. The Wisconsin Congressman was also subjected to criticism from the left for his budget proposals that effectively privatized Medicare and turned it into a system in which seniors would get vouchers for private health insurance.
Shortly after passing President Trump’s budget-busting $1.5 trillion tax cut package at the end of 2017, Ryan blamed the rising deficits on Medicare, and has regularly called for cuts to earned benefits programs (which he calls “entitlements.”) Ryan also stepped into a minefield when tweeting about a Pennsylvania woman whose paycheck went up by $1.50 per week following the passage of the tax cuts, framing her minute pay raise as justification for the legislation that lavished most of its benefits on the wealthy.
On Thursday, Nancy Pelosi took back the speaker’s gavel, becoming the first House Speaker to return to the post after losing it since Texas’ Sam Rayburn, who died in 1961.
Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.
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