Who should and should not be given congressional committee seats?

Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
January 19, 2023, 3:19 PM GMT+0

With Republicans now holding a majority in the House of Representatives, new debates have arisen over blocking certain members of Congress from committee assignments. The latest Economist/YouGov poll asked Americans what they think about six members of Congress, including three Democrats recently denied seats by the new Republican majority (Ilhan Omar, Adam Schiff, and Eric Swalwell) and three Republicans — two of whom were stripped of their seats by the prior Democratic majority (Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar) and newly elected congressman George Santos.

While many Americans don't have an opinion on whether these members are assigned seats, people who do are about as likely to say each member should be seated as they are to say they should be denied a seat. The one exception is Santos — who has come under scrutiny by both parties after admitting to lying about parts of his resume; twice as many people think he shouldn't receive a committee assignment as think he should.

When asked broadly, Americans are divided on the question of whether the majority party in Congress should be able to prevent certain individual members of the minority party from serving on congressional committees: 34% say the majority should be allowed to block assignments and slightly fewer — 30% — say they should not be. A similar share of people (36%) are not sure. Republicans (45%) are slightly more supportive of allowing the majority party to prevent committee assignments than Democrats are (33%).

When asked about seating individual members of Congress, however, respondents are even less sure. Americans are most likely to have a stance on assignments for two Republican members asked about: George Santos and Marjorie Taylor Greene. Two in five Americans (40%) do not want Santos seated on a congressional committee. One-third (33%) say Greene — who was blocked by Democrats from serving on committees in February 2021 — should not get an assignment. Fewer – 22% — oppose seating the third Republican asked about, Paul Gosar, who was relieved of his assignments in November 2021. Speaker Kevin McCarthy has stated that all three – Santos, Greene, and Gosar — will receive committee seats in the current Congress.

But there are three Democrats that McCarthy has confirmed he will remove from committees: Adam Schiff, Eric Swalwell, and Ilhan Omar. Slightly more Americans say Omar should not serve on a congressional committee (32%) than say the same about Schiff (28%) or Swalwell (26%). Many Americans (42-52%) do not have an opinion on their appointments.

More Americans have favorable than unfavorable views of nearly all of these members of Congress. Santos fares the worst, with twice as many viewing him unfavorably (44%) as favorably (21%). Both Democrats and Republicans are more likely to rate him negatively than positively. Greene also fares somewhat poorly among Americans in general (31% favorable, 37% unfavorable) but is viewed positively by Republicans. All three Democratic members — Omar, Swalwell, and Schiff — are rated positively by Democrats but negatively among Republicans.

Related: What do Americans think of George Santos?

— Linley Sanders contributed to this article

See the toplines and crosstabs from the Economist/YouGov poll conducted on January 14 - 17, 2023 among 1,500 U.S. adult citizens.

Methodology: Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to June 1, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (34% Democratic, 31% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 3%.

Image: Getty (Win McNamee)