Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup.
In one of America’s most enduring myths, President George Washington damaged his father’s cherry tree with a hatchet when he was a small child. When his father confronted him, Washington admitted what he had done, saying “I cannot lie.”
Alas, not all Georges followed the legendary example of our most famous founding father. Freshman Republican Rep. Jorge Santos of New York has been in the headlines (and on the minds of pollsters) since late December, thanks to an intense investigation into the fabrication of much of his background. Santos was back in the news this week when he told fellow House Republicans that he would recuse himself from serving on two of his appointed committees in the face of ongoing investigations into his personal and campaign finances. Santos’ withdrawal comes after poll after poll found him to be an unusually toxic figure — both in his district and more broadly.
Let’s start with the feelings of voters in the Long Island-based seat of Santos, New York’s 3rd District. Two January polls showed a majority of voters wanted him to resign from the seat he was elected to in November. First, a survey of the district in early January by Democratic pollster Public Policy Polling Unrig Our Economy found that 60 percent of voters thought Santos should leave office. Then earlier this week, a poll by nonpartisan Siena College commissioned by Newsday found that 78 percent of registered voters in the district want Santos to resign. Few polls have found such a large share of support for the resignation of a tainted politician. The Washington Post found only one poll that found 78 percent calling for Santos’ resignation: an Ipsos/McClatchy poll from December 2008 found that 95 percent of Illinois adults supported the resignation of Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich, who has been removed from Illinois law. Office next month.
Santos has said he will not resign, but polling in his district suggests he is losing support even among voters in his own party. An earlier PPP poll found that 38 percent of Republican voters thought Santos should resign. But in a recent Siena College poll, 71 percent of Republican voters said the same.
We must be careful about interpreting trends from two surveys conducted by different pollsters, but it makes sense that more Republicans (and voters overall) now want Santos to resign. The PPP survey was preceded by a January 11 news conference where Nassau County GOP officials called for Santos to resign, a clear example of cross-party opposition to the new congressman. And since that presser, additional scandals involving Santos have come to light, including records that Santos’ mother was not in New York on Sept. 11, 2001 — contrary to Santos’ claims that she was at the World Trade Center when the terrorists attacked.
Santos’ announcement that he will not serve on his committee follows a meeting with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who must consider how Santos’ myriad problems could affect the House GOP’s image. It’s especially easy to imagine McCarthy seeking to deny Santos his committee assignments, given McCarthy’s ongoing efforts to block Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar, Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell from accepting their committee posts—none of whom face criminal charges, unlike Santos. (Republicans removed Omar from the Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday afternoon.) After all, 40 percent of Americans told YouGov/The Economist in mid-January that Santos should be barred from the committee, the highest percentage of the six representatives the poll asked about. And while a large portion of respondents were undecided about whether to block the delegation’s committee assignment, Santos was the only one of the six who were both Democrats. And Republicans may not be able to serve on more than one committee.
Beyond the committee issue, though, there’s no doubt that Santos’ myriad problems are getting public notice — and Santos is unpopular not only in his district, but everywhere. In mid-January, nearly 3 in 5 registered voters across New York state told Siena College that Santos should resign, and most Democrats, Republicans and independents had an unfavorable view of him. And Santos’ notoriety has made him unusually well-known nationally (as well as unpopular) for a House member who has served just one month in office. In a YouGov/The Economist poll released last week, 52 percent of Americans had an unfavorable opinion of Santos, while only 14 percent had a favorable opinion, far worse than divisive figures like Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green. Georgia in a recent YouGov/The Economist poll.
It’s impossible to know if Santos’ vehemently negative outlook will ultimately prompt his resignation. Only a two-thirds vote of the House can force him out, unless he decides to resign on his own. Given the GOP’s narrow House majority, such a vote is unlikely to happen anytime soon, especially considering Santos occupies a swing seat that Democrats could win in a special election. But the more the public learned about Santos, the worse his numbers got. And for better or worse, Santos’ decision to turn down his committee assignment almost certainly won’t be the last we hear of him in 2023.
Other polling bites
- The Pew Research Center recently found that Democrats are more open to compromise between President Biden and the GOP-led House. Overall, 58 percent of Democrats want Biden to work with Republican congressional leaders, even if some results disappoint Democrats, while 41 percent prefer Biden to stand with the GOP, even if it causes conflict. By comparison, 64 percent of Republican GOP leaders wanted to stand up for Biden, while just 34 percent said they preferred working with the president. This isn’t a new pattern, as White House party voters seem to prefer compromise: In 2018, Pew found more Republicans wanted former President Donald Trump to work with Democrats in Congress, while more Democrats preferred congressional leaders standing up to Trump.
- Biden appears increasingly likely to seek a second term as president, and a new poll of black voters by HIT Strategies found that 59 percent supported such a bid. Black voters age 50 and older were more likely to support Biden’s re-election campaign (66 percent), while a majority (55 percent) of those under 50 favored Biden to run again. Black support proved critical for Biden in winning the 2020 Democratic nomination race, and he pushed South Carolina, with its majority black primary voters, to take the state’s lead in the 2024 Democratic primary.
- Monmouth University looked at Americans’ attitudes toward the possession of classified documents by current and former US officials, a group that includes Biden, Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence. Overall, 80 percent of Americans thought Trump knew he had classified documents in his possession, while 58 percent believed Biden knew and 50 percent thought Pence knew. But only 2 in 5 Americans said Trump or Biden’s home documents would pose a threat to national security (1 in 5 said the same about Pence’s documents). Democrats were much more likely to believe documents in Trump’s possession would endanger national security, while Republicans were much more inclined to say the same of Biden’s home files.
- According to Gallup, life satisfaction among Americans was relatively low at the start of 2023. Across seven different aspects of US society, from the moral and ethical climate to the size and influence of large corporations, an average of 41 percent expressed satisfaction with how things are going. This matched the 2022 average and surpassed the record low of 39 percent in 2021, the first result of this data set during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Gallup has polled this question regularly in January since 2001.) The average has hovered around 50 percent since 2011 and had always exceeded 50 percent before the 2008 financial crisis.
- In another January poll, Pew found that a slight majority of Americans support providing aid to Ukraine in its conflict with Russia, but a growing share think the United States is giving too much support to Ukraine. Overall, 31 percent said the U.S. is providing the right amount of aid and 20 percent said not enough. But 26 percent said the U.S. was giving too much aid to Ukraine, an increase from 20 percent who said the same in September. A plurality of Republicans (40 percent) say the U.S. is giving too much support to Ukraine, while a plurality of Democrats (40 percent) say the U.S. is giving the right amount of aid.
- A new poll by Normington Petts on behalf of Progress Arizona, LUCHA and Replace Cinema PAC suggests that Arizona independent Sen. Kirsten Sinema faces an uphill battle if she seeks re-election in 2024. In a hypothetical matchup, Cinema got 24 percent of the vote but trailed both Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego and Republican Kari Lake, who each drew 36 percent. In another test, Cinema got 27 percent, but trailed Gallego (37 percent) and former GOP Gov. Doug Ducey (31 percent). Although the poll’s sponsors oppose the movie, he performed better in the survey than the two previous polls in the Arizona race, which each had him in the mid-teens in a theoretical three-way contest.
According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker, 41.9 percent of Americans approve of the job Biden is doing as president, while 52.9 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of -11.0 points). At this time last week, 42.0 percent approved and 52.4 percent disapproved (a net approval rating of -10.4 points). A month ago, Biden had an approval rating of 43.3 percent and a disapproval rating of 51.3 percent, a net approval rating of -8.0 points.