What Republicans want in the next House speaker

Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
October 11, 2023, 7:28 PM GMT+0

Ideology and opposition to compromise motivate many Republicans as they consider options to replace ousted House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, new polling by the Economist/YouGov finds.

About half (47%) of Republicans say they want the next speaker to be “more conservative” than McCarthy; just 8% say they want the next speaker to be less conservative than him and 23% say they want the next speaker to be about as conservative as McCarthy.

There is a mismatch between what kind of speaker Republicans want and what kind of speaker they think McCarthy was. About half (49%) of Republicans want the next speaker to stick to their principles, no matter what; just 35% would like the speaker to compromise to get things done. Meanwhile, only 15% of Republicans say McCarthy stuck to his principles, no matter what; 50% say he compromised to get things done.

An Economist/YouGov poll this summer found that 54% of Republicans said they would prefer to have someone as their member of Congress who sticks to their principles, no matter what, while 46% prefer someone who compromises to get things done. Majorities of Democrats and Independents favor a compromise-oriented congressperson.

Among Republicans, 43% say McCarthy should have done more as speaker to work with hardline Republicans; just 6% say he should have done less, and 17% say he did about the right amount.

Who should be the next Speaker? About one-third (31%) of Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents support Rep. Jim Jordan, one of the two announced candidates. Rep. Steve Scalise — the other announced candidate — gets the support of just 8%. One in five (19%) say Donald Trump should be speaker. Republicans and Republican-leaners who say they want a speaker who sticks to their principles are more likely than those who prefer a speaker who compromises to support Jordan (38% vs. 26%) or Trump (26% vs. 14%) as speaker. They are less likely to support Scalise (4% vs. 14%), whom House Republicans nominated Wednesday as their pick for the job.

The vast majority of Republicans have favorable views of Trump, while Republican opinion of McCarthy is almost evenly split. Fewer Republicans have opinions of Jordan, Scalise, and Matt Gaetz, the Republican Representative who moved for McCarthy’s ouster. Among Republicans who do have an opinion of each, majorities are favorable toward Jordan and Scalise while opinion of Gaetz is mixed.

Majorities of Republicans say it is important for the next speaker to be a strong leader, trustworthy, intelligent, and ethical; about half say it is important for the speaker to be experienced and just 40% name being very conservative as important. Just 22% say being loyal to Trump is important.

As many Republicans strongly or somewhat disapprove of McCarthy’s ouster as strongly or somewhat approve of it. Republicans who describe themselves as “very conservative” are more likely to support the vote to oust McCarthy: 46% of them approve of it while 34% disapprove.

The conflict over the House speakership has highlighted Republican disunity. By 46% to 15%, Americans say the Democratic Party is more united than the Republican Party; 72% of Democrats and 28% of Republicans say the Democratic Party is more united.

Related: The House without a speaker: More Americans would prefer a leader they disagree with

— Carl Bialik contributed to this article

See the toplines and crosstabs from the Economist/YouGov poll conducted on October 8 - 10, 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 November 1, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 31% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 3%.

Image: Getty (Mark Wilson)