House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., listens as Treasury Secretary Jack Lew defends President Barack Obama's new budget proposals, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 3, 2015.
Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Majority of GOP primary voters say they are comfortable with Paul Ryan as speaker

More than six in 10 Republican primary voters say they’d be comfortable with Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as the next Speaker of the House, a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows. 

Sixty-three percent said they would feel “comfortable and positive” about Ryan taking over the top job, while 28% say they would feel “skeptical and uncertain” if the former GOP vice presidential nominee moved into the position held by retiring Rep. John Boehner.

Ryan has not said whether or not he will seek the speakership, despite urging from Republican colleagues across the political spectrum. While Ryan is viewed as the Republican most likely to be able to unify the fractured Republican conference, some on the far right have voiced concerns that he will not work closely enough with the party’s most strident conservative members.

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In the new poll, conservative primary voters appeared to be fairly at ease with the idea of Ryan holding the gavel. Sixty-eight percent of Tea Party backers and 67% of “very conservative” Republicans said they are comfortable with Ryan taking over the leadership slot. But a smaller share of Republicans who describe themselves as moderate or liberal – 54% – say they feel positive about Ryan’s possible move.

Republican primary voters also told pollsters that they would prefer a House speaker who values principles over compromise.

Fifty-six percent said they want a leader who will “stand up for principles even if this means that less gets done,” while 40% said that they would prefer a House Speaker who will “seek compromise and work to get more done.”

Boehner abruptly announced his retirement last month amid a brewing battle among Republicans over whether the government should be shut down unless federal funding for Planned Parenthood is eliminated. His second in command, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, also shocked official Washington by passing up the gavel, leaving Ryan, who chairs the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, as a possible consensus pick.

GOP voters had little love lost for Boehner and his Senate counterpart, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, before Boehner’s retirement announcement. In a NBC News/WSJ poll released last month, 72% of GOP voters said they were dissatisfied with the leadership of Boehner and McConnell, and 36% said they wanted to see both men ousted from their jobs.

The NBC News/ Wall Street Journal poll was conducted October 15-18. The margin of error for 400 Republican primary voters is 4.9%.