House speaker chaos: New poll shows Americans increasingly blame Republicans for dysfunction in Congress

Jim Jordan
Rep. Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, at the Capitol on Tuesday. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)
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As House Republicans continue to struggle to elect a new speaker, a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll shows that Americans increasingly blame them more than Democrats for the dysfunction on Capitol Hill.

The survey of 1,675 U.S. adults, which was conducted from Oct. 12 to 16, found that a full two-thirds (66%) now say conservative Republicans deserve at least “some” blame for “the current gridlock in Washington” (up 7 points since January), while nearly as many (64%, up 11 points) say the same about moderate Republicans.

In contrast, there has been no change in the number of Americans who say progressive Democrats deserve at least some blame (57%), while the number who say moderate Democrats deserve at least some blame (52%, up 2 points) has barely budged.

By the same token, Americans were just 5 points more likely back in January — right after the GOP spent 15 tortured, tumultuous rounds of voting trying (and eventually, just barely managing) to elect former Speaker Kevin McCarthy — to blame Republicans (39%) rather than Democrats (34%) “the most” for D.C.’s ongoing paralysis.

Today, that gap has doubled to 10 points, with 42% of Americans now blaming Republicans the most versus just 32% blaming Democrats.

Republicans lukewarm on potential McCarthy replacements

Internally, there is little consensus among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents about who should replace the ousted McCarthy.

Less than half (41%) say Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, the hard-line co-founder of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump. Jordan, who was nominated by his colleagues last week to be the party’s candidate for speaker, lost his first attempt to win the gavel on the House floor Tuesday after 20 Republicans voted for someone else.

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However, even fewer say interim Speaker Patrick McHenry (3%) or Trump himself (14%) should be the next Speaker of the House. If “not sure” (33%) and “none of these” (9%) were one candidate, they would have more support than anyone else.

Few pay close attention to House speaker drama

This indecision stems in part from inattention. Just 19% of Republicans (and 17% of Americans overall) say they have been following the current House speaker election “very closely.”

Retrospective feelings about McCarthy are also rather lukewarm, with Republicans modestly but not overwhelmingly giving his performance as speaker a thumbs down (29% approve, 35% disapprove, 36% not sure) — and modestly but not overwhelmingly favoring his removal (37% approve, 27% disapprove, 36% not sure).

Yet there are signs that the GOP’s seemingly endless speaker drama has not been good for its brand. A full 63% of registered voters now say the GOP isn’t “paying enough attention to America’s real problems,” up from 59% in January, while even more say Republicans are more interested in scoring political points (64%) than passing legislation (22%). That 42-point margin is twice as large as the corresponding gap on the Democratic side (55% scoring political points, 34% passing legislation).

Perhaps as a result, approval of “the way Congress is doing its job” has declined significantly this year, falling to 12% from a previous high of 21% in February.

Nevertheless, partisan polarization remains the most powerful force in American politics. When asked “who you would vote for in the district where you live” if “an election for U.S. Congress were being held today,” 43% of voters say the Democratic Party candidate — and 43% say the Republican.

In February, Democrats had a 45% to 42% edge.


The Yahoo News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,675 U.S. adults interviewed online from Oct. 12 to 16, 2023. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to March 15, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (32% Democratic, 27% Republican). Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. adults. The margin of error is approximately 2.7%.