Reputation Audit: Paul Ryan

May 09, 2014, 2:50 PM GMT+0

Paul Ryan is seen as one of the most qualified people in the Republican Party to serve as President, though the wider public isn't enthusiastic about a run in 2016

Running for Vice President can sometimes provide instant credibility, and Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan is a credible candidate for President – at least among his fellow Republicans. In the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, more than half of Republicans believe Ryan has the qualifications to be President, more than say that about all but one of several other possible 2016 GOP presidential contenders.

As for the public as a whole, Ryan faces the same problem as his Republican colleagues: more give him a negative rating on his qualifications than a positive one.

Only former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee scores as high as Ryan when it comes to GOP assessment of who is qualified. However, fewer Republicans disagree about Ryan’s abilities than are negative about Huckabee. No other possible Republican candidate profiled recently in Economist/YouGov Polls scores anywhere near as well.

Ryan also does well among Republicans when they are asked if they are confident in his ability to handle an international crisis. Nearly half of Republicans say they are. Just 17% say they are uneasy about his approach. The overall public is not yet convinced, however.

Ryan chairs the House Budget Committee and was named by 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney as his vice presidential choice. His presentations on budget issues has given potential voters a window on to his policy beliefs, and – for the most part – Americans believe he says what he means. Unlike Americans’ of a number of other candidates, the public generally agrees that Ryan mostly says what he really believes, not what people want to hear. Republicans overwhelmingly agree.

In fact, “honesty” is the positive characteristic people who like Ryan most associate with him. Many others call him “smart” and “intelligent,” other characteristics that may help many think of Ryan as qualified for the presidency. Another characteristic, “conservative,” also is mentioned frequently. Ryan’s workout regimen, highlighted in a Time Magazine feature about him when he was named to the 2012 GOP ticket, gets little mention.

Those who dislike Ryan – and nationally, about as may have an unfavorable view of the Congressman as have a favorable one -- also avoid mentioning Ryan’s physique. However, people who dislike Ryan also focus on honesty and intelligence – that is, on their opposites -- to characterize the Wisconsin Congressman. Those who don’t like Ryan also point to his conservatism.

Most adults, Republicans and non-Republicans, recognize that Ryan is a conservative. In fact, he is seen as a conservative by more Republicans than view any of the other possibilities audited by the Economist/YouGov Poll that way, with the sole exception of Mike Huckabee. But ideological characteristics can be seen as both positive and negative.

In a previous poll, 63% of Republicans and 53% overall saw Huckabee as conservative. Fewer than half of Republicans described Christie, Rubio, or Bush that way in other Economist/YouGov Polls. Half said Paul was conservative.

Being seen as conservative may also make Republicans more willing to believe Ryan shares their values. After all, most Republicans describe themselves as conservatives. Nearly six in ten Republicans say Ryan shares their values. More than eight in ten Republicans believe Ryan cares at least somewhat about their needs and problems. Half the public agrees, more than say that even about the relatively popular Huckabee.

But like all the other GOP possibilities, Ryan faces some opposition to his candidacy, even from Republicans. Just over a third of Republicans want him to run in 2016, while one in five don’t. The figures are just about reversed among all Americans – nearly twice as many don’t want a Ryan candidacy as do.

Image: Getty

Full results can be found here.

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.