First things first: The theme song of the week is from the show Cass Malloy starring Caroline McWilliams.
Poll of the week: A new Gallup poll finds that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has a 31% favorable rating and a 41% unfavorable rating. This makes for a -10 point net favorability rating (favorable - unfavorable).
This poll is very similar to a February Fox News poll, which gave Ocasio-Cortez a -13 point net favorability rating because of a 26% favorable rating and a 39% unfavorable rating.
What’s the point: Ocasio-Cortez has done a very good job generating a lot of press in a very short time. The fact that over 70% of the public can form an opinion of a freshman member of Congress is statistically remarkable. For comparison, just 53% of Americans had an opinion of then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama at the end of his first two years in Congress in Gallup’s polling. That is, Obama wasn’t well known even long after his 2004 Democratic National Convention speech and just before he announced that he was running for president.
The problem for Ocasio-Cortez is that a lot of the people forming an opinion of her are coming down on the negative side. Her net favorability rating in these polls put her on par with President Donald Trump. His net favorability in an average of the latest Fox News and Gallup polls was -12 points – the same as Ocasio-Cortez’s.
Ocasio-Cortez also seems to be generating the same asymmetric intensity in public opinion as the President. Her strongly unfavorable rating was 18 points higher than her strongly favorable rating in the Fox News poll. Trump’s strongly unfavorable rating was 16 points higher than his strongly favorable rating in the same poll.
It wasn’t always this way for Ocasio-Cortez. After she burst onto the national scene last year – when she defeated Rep. Joe Crowley in the Democratic primary for New York’s 14th district – her favorable rating (24%) was nearly on par with unfavorable rating (26%) in Gallup’s polling. But as Ocasio-Cortez has become better known, her unfavorable ratings has gone up far faster than her favorable ratings.
Interestingly, Ocasio-Cortez is better known on the right than she is on the left. In the Gallup poll, just 22% of Republicans weren’t able to form an opinion of her. Among Democrats, it was higher at 29%. The same held true in the Fox News poll as well: More Republicans than Democrats hold an opinion of Ocasio-Cortez.
Ocasio-Cortez’s notoriety on the right shouldn’t be too surprising. Conservative talk radio and television shows speak about her ad nauseam. It seems to be having an impact. Her favorable rating with Republicans is a meager 5% to a 73% unfavorable rating in the Gallup poll.
Of course, it’s not like Ocasio-Cortez is disproportionately popular for a Democrat on the left either. The two Democratic presidential candidates recently tested by Gallup who had similar name recognition among Democrats as Ocasio-Cortez had similar, if not slightly better, net favorability ratings. Ocasio-Cortez scored a +41 point net favorability among Democrats, while Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren came in at +50 points and +41 points respectively.
It could be the case that Ocasio-Cortez doesn’t and perhaps shouldn’t care that her ratings have gone south. She clearly has a core group of supporters and is able to drive the national press conversation. For her own electoral sake, the group of voters who will decide her fate are in a slice of the Bronx and Queens’ sections of New York City.
There’s also nothing unique about nationally known politicians being unpopular with the general electorate. As I have noted on Twitter, almost every single candidate running for president in 2020 is more disliked than liked among all voters.
Still, these poll numbers are a pretty good indication as to why Nancy Pelosi and centrist freshman Democrats have been hesitant to tie themselves too much to Ocasio-Cortez. She simply put isn’t popular among Americans at large.
It’s also a cautionary tale to Democrats running for president. Ocasio-Cortez is no doubt someone whose energetic supporters you want on your side.
Ocasio-Cortez’s brand of politics, however, has not proven to be the golden ticket to becoming popular in our polarized politics. She’s been quickly demonized – like almost everybody else.