Polling Ryan: The numbers so far

Polls suggest that few people know Ryan, and that those who do don't like him

By Santiago Wills
Published August 13, 2012 8:35PM (EDT)

There's not much polling data on how Romney's vice presidential pick will affect the election, but the surveys conducted thus far suggest two conclusions: 1) Few people know Paul Ryan, and 2) He's unpopular with the folks who do.

According to an analysis of several polls done by YouGov for the Cooperative Campaign Analysis Project in the months leading to the V.P. announcement, on average 43 percent of Americans had never heard of Paul Ryan. In mid-July, 52 percent couldn't tell whether he was a member of the House or the Senate, or whether he was a former Governor or the Secretary of State. At least until Saturday, then, the data shows that Ryan, despite being touted as the "Republican party’s intellectual leader" and the "GOP's rising star," is largely unknown outside Washington and political circles.

Where he is known, moreover, the Wisconsin representative does not fare well. In the same YouGov polls, 28 percent of Americans said they viewed him favorably, while 29 said they did not view him favorably.

More worryingly for the GOP, USAT/Gallup polls show that Ryan is the V.P. choice with the least favorable ratings since Dan Quayle in 1988. Ryan is seen as an "excellent" or "very good" choice by 39 percent of Americans and as a "fair" or "poor" choice by 42 percent. To put this in perspective, Joe Biden, Sarah Palin and Dick Cheney all fared better than Ryan.

Of course, the figures can spin both ways (for an example, see Fox News' take on a recent Rasmussen poll), and conservatives can explain the initially dismal results as a direct consequence of the general lack of knowledge about Ryan. That thesis, put forward by Romney pollster Neil Newhouse, is arguably supported by a Washington Post-ABC News poll, which shows that Ryan's ratings have risen since he was elevated to the ticket.

Santiago Wills

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2012 Elections Mitt Romney Paul Ryan Politics Polling