Paul Ryan Maintains Positive Image Among Republicans

Paul Ryan Maintains Positive Image Among Republicans

The FINANCIAL -- House Speaker Paul Ryan enjoys modestly higher favorable ratings among both Republicans (71%) and national adults (44%) than Ted Cruz and Chris Christie, who will speak this week at the Republican National Convention. Americans also view Ryan more favorably than they do presidential nominee Donald Trump. Of six key Republican leaders asked about, only former President George W. Bush has a higher favorable rating than Ryan does.

These results come from a July 13-17 Gallup poll conducted just before the convention. Ryan, who has endorsed Trump but kept him at arm's length, skipped key party convention votes on Monday but will address the convention Tuesday. His speech is expected to be one rooted in his party's favored policies -- including ones at odds with Trump's.

Both Cruz and Christie, Trump's rivals in the 2016 Republican primaries, will speak at the convention. Cruz's image has recovered quickly among the party base in recent months. At the time he suspended his campaign in early May, Republicans viewed him as negatively as they did positively. Today, they are almost twice as likely to view him favorably as unfavorably. Christie's favorable rating hasn't moved among Republicans since he ended his campaign in February. About half of Republicans had a favorable view of him then, similar to the rating he has now after spending months campaigning for Trump, according to Gallup.

One notable Republican leader who is not attending the convention is 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, a vocal critic of Trump throughout the nomination process. The former Massachusetts governor's attempts to influence the outcome have not endeared him to the party, as Republicans now view him about as negatively (46%) as they do positively (44%). That is a far cry from September 2012, when about nine in 10 Republicans had a favorable view of Romney.

Like Romney, former President George W. Bush is a notable no-show at the convention. Republicans still view him favorably overall, and his 52% favorable rating among national adults is further evidence that his image is recovering from the 34% he finished his presidency with. Still, Americans continue to assign Bush more responsibility for current economic problems than they do President Barack Obama. Americans generally view former presidents more charitably than current presidents, even those like Bush who left office with low public support.

Ryan's Favorable Rating Among Republicans Back Above 70%

Since Romney selected Ryan as a vice presidential candidate in 2012, consistent majorities of Republicans have held favorable views of the House speaker. His current 71% favorable rating among Republicans is nearly back to where it was in late 2012 and early 2013. Ryan's favorable rating among Republicans dipped to 57% in 2014, when he was out of the spotlight and fewer held opinions of him. Now that he again has a prominent role within the party, his favorable rating is up -- but so is his unfavorable rating, at 16%. This higher unfavorable rating likely reflects ongoing frustrations within the party over Republican congressional leadership.

Still, Ryan retains high positive ratings among party loyalists after roughly nine months in the speakership. That stands in stark contrast to former Speaker John Boehner's ratings after he announced his resignation last fall, as well as ratings of current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in Gallup's last measurement of him in October.

Bottom Line

Many in his party have long respected Speaker Ryan as a unifying figure who can overcome steep political challenges. Rank-and-file Republicans hold him in high esteem. The 2016 presidential election is yet another challenge for Ryan, as he seeks to keep his party together after a divisive campaign season that rocked his party's establishment. Though he doesn't always refrain from criticizing Trump, Ryan has endorsed him.

With many key GOP figures skipping the convention this year, Ryan could play a critical role in uniting his party -- not only for the general election, but also for the Republican majorities in Congress he seeks to maintain.