Newt Gingrich, I think it's safe to say, has had a terrible week. It seems like just opening his mouth makes him unpopular. But it's worth looking back to see if he was ever popular, and if so, when.
Well, as it turns out, he's never been popular. We looked back at major polling outlets' numbers on Gingrich favorability, dating back to his emergence on the national scene in 1994. Below is a scatter plot of Gingrich's favorables over time.
(The chart below includes 92 different public surveys, but there is undoubtedly more historical data no longer easily accessible. For a good graph of recent Gingrich favorability, which we've integrated into this post, check out TPM here. The chart below also includes NBC/WSJ data, which measures favorability in a positive/negative scale, with a "neutral" answer category.)
Gingrich was only net favorable (that is, more popular than unpopular) three times since 1994. And all those times were before March 1995. He's never been a truly well-liked national figure.
It's also worth noting during periods of heavy Gingrich exposure his unfavorability climbed further. In 1997, around the time of the coup, nearly two-thirds were unfavorable toward Speaker Gingrich. And frequently in 2011 over half have been unfavorable toward candidate Gingrich.
These numbers are obviously bad news. Unlike, for example, Sarah Palin, or even John McCain in 2008, Gingrich has never been popular. He has no foundation of former good will on which to build a candidacy. And he's well-known, and so isn't the blank slate of, say, Tim Pawlenty or Jon Huntsman. It's no wonder Gingrich has had a bad week. These numbers tell us a bad week for Gingrich is one in which he opens his mouth.