House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced his resignation Friday at a time of record personal unpopularity, after leading Congress through a period where public approval of the body hit new record lows.
In August, a Gallup poll found 54 percent of Americans holding unfavorable views of Boehner and 23 percent favorable. Despite his position, nearly one-quarter had no opinion of him (23 percent). Boehner's best ratings came immediately after his election as speaker in 2011, following massive Republican victories in the midterm elections, where nearly twice as many had positive as negative impressions (42 percent favorable, 22 unfavorable). The honeymoon was brief, as his ratings slid to an even split by April (34-34).
Even among Republicans, Boehner's image tilted negative. While 37 percent reported favorable impressions of him, 42 percent were unfavorable. Those mixed reviews reflect the divisions within the Republican Party he led in Congress, as strident conservative factions regularly voiced distrust of party leadership. In late 2013, Pew Research surveys found Boehner with far more negative ratings among Republicans identifying with the tea party movement than non-tea party Republicans.
The Gallup survey showed Boehner received little praise outside his party either; 57 percent of independents and 59 percent of Democrats rated him negatively earlier this summer.
Boehner's job ratings are the worst for any exiting speaker since Tip O'Neill. A February CBS News-New York Times poll found 26 percent approved of Boehner while 55 percent disapproved, for a net approval rating of negative 29. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) was also clearly negative at -20 net approval (38-58), while speaker Dennis Hastert's (R-Ill.) net favorable rating was -10. Nancy Pelosi's approval ratings were also negative, but narrowly so in March 2010 (-4 in a Washington Post poll).
Looking back further, Tom Foley and Jim Wright held essentially split approval ratings around the time they left office, while O'Neill's favorable ratings were positive (plus-9). Take O'Neill's ratings with a grain of salt, though, since his final marks are about a year and a half before he left office.
A major reason for Boehner's historical unpopularity is likely Americans' broad disillusionment with Congress, which hit record lows in popularity while he was speaker. In March, 22 percent approved of Congress in a Washington Post-ABC news poll, while 70 percent disapproved.