The Republican Party: In Congress and in 2012

February 16, 2011, 1:48 AM UTC

When Republicans look at their possible 2012 presidential candidate, there is no clear frontrunner – according to the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, although this early in the process there is certainly a focus on known quantities.   Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee are in the lead, followed by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and the Republican 2008 Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin. 

Tea Party Republicans favor Gingrich and Huckabee, followed by Romney and Palin. 

Many of the other names mentioned as possible 2012 presidential candidates are as yet unknown to many Republicans (and unknown to even more Americans overall).   But Republicans basically like all their possible candidates.  All get more favorable than unfavorable ratings from Republicans, and the Republican ratings for Palin, Romney, Huckabee and Gingrich are overwhelmingly favorable (Tea Party-identifying Republicans are even more positive).  

Do you have a favorable or an unfavorable opinion of the following people?
(Republicans Only)
  Favorable Unfavorable Not Sure
Sarah Palin 66% 28% 6%
Mitt Romney 64% 17% 19%
Mike Huckabee 69% 15% 45%
Newt Gingrich 60% 18% 13%
Tim Pawlenty 39% 12% 49%
Mike Pence 29% 9% 62%
Haley Barbour 36% 12% 52%
Mitch Daniels 27% 10% 63%
John Thune 25% 7% 68%
Michele Bachmann 41% 16% 43%
Jon Huntsman 18% 6% 76%
Ron Paul 50% 22% 28%

But first Republicans have to deal with two years of their party’s control of the U.S. House of Representatives.   Americans are not very hopeful about that:  only 14% think the new Congress will accomplish more than usual, while more than twice as many say it will accomplish less.  Republicans are somewhat more hopeful.

There is less negative feeling about the new Speaker of the House, John Boehner, than there was about the former Speaker, Nancy Pelosi.  Americans divide closely when it comes to their opinion of Boehner.  28% are favorable, 34% are not.  51% of Republicans rate him favorably, while just 13% give him an unfavorable rating.   The Republican Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, gets lower ratings than does the Speaker. 

Do you have a favorable or an unfavorable opinion of the following people?
  All Respondents Republicans
  Favorable Unfavorable Not Sure Favorable Unfavorable Don't know
John Boehner 28% 34% 38% 51% 13% 36%
Mitch McConnell 23% 32% 45% 40% 15% 45%

What Republicans want to see in Congress includes budget cuts and health care repeal:  76% of Republicans support cutting $58 billion in domestic spending and foreign aid, 67% would withdraw $179 million given to the United Nations, and 82% would repeal the health care reform legislation.  64% of Republicans would also extend the Patriot Act.  Americans overall are less sure of all these actions, though half are willing to cut $58 billion in domestic and foreign aid spending.  

The focus on the deficit extends to the debt limit:  a majority of Americans overall (and 71% of Republicans) reject an increase. 

One major Republican opinion difference from Democrats in this poll is their attitude towards political compromise.  While 58% of Americans overall want their representative in Congress to compromise in order to get things done, two out of three Republicans disagree. 

Tea Party Republicans are even more unwilling to accept compromise.  All groups want their representative to follow the wishes of their constituents, even if that goes against the representative’s personal principles. 

Nearly one in five of the more than 90% of Americans who have heard of the Tea Party identify with it:  it is a feeling much more likely to be expressed by Republicans (37%) than Democrats (4%).  Support is lowest in the Northeast (the most Democratic part of the country).  Just 8% there identify with the Tea Party.