Several months into the era of unified Republican government in Washington, D.C., Morning Consult dove into the data to determine how Republicans and Democrats across the country feel about the state of their political parties.
Economic issues remain a top priority for Democrats and Republicans, while health care — Democrats’ top issue — has driven much of the agenda in the opening months of President Donald Trump’s tenure in office. Republicans are hoping to pass their overhaul of the Affordable Care Act soon, bringing with it a large reduction in taxes and paving the way for a massive tax overhaul they argue will give the economy a much-needed boost. As they’ve found, governing is difficult, and their efforts toward that end thus far have resulted in GOP voters being slightly more skeptical of their members of Congress than Democrats are of their own elected officials.
Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party is complete: Thirty-eight percent of Republicans now say he best reflects the party’s values, compared with 29 percent who said so just before the GOP’s convention in Cleveland last summer. On top of that, more than half of Republican voters (55 percent) say Trump should best reflect the values of the party. Trump’s consistent criticism of previous presidents also appears to have sunk in with rank-and-file GOP voters. While 17 percent of Republicans said last summer that former President George W. Bush best reflected the party’s values, just 7 percent are still sticking to that claim. It’s not looking too good for the #NeverTrump brigade either — only 3 percent of Republicans said Ohio Gov. John Kasich was the best embodiment of the party’s values.
For Democrats, Obama remains the “donkey in the room,” and is the best standard bearer for the current iteration of the party for 35 percent of those voters, virtually unchanged from last summer. However, a smaller share of Democrats (29 percent) were unsure about whether he should best reflect the party’s values, and slightly more voters (18 percent) appear to back the direction of independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont than the party’s 2016 presidential primary victor, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (15 percent).
When it comes to Congress, voters from both parties generally approve of their leaders. Both House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and House Minority Leader of Nancy Pelosi of California are considerably more well-known among the rank and file than their Senate counterparts, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, who took the reins of the Democratic caucus after the retirement of former Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada.
In an era of increasing partisan polarization, not too many voters from either party lay much blame within their ranks. And despite the intraparty debate that consumed the Republican Party during its eight years out of the White House and is currently underway among Democrats who find themselves in the political wilderness, a fair share of both Republicans and Democrats described themselves as moderate.
However, as that battle plays out among Democrats who are looking for a new message ahead of the next two election cycles, that share of moderates (42 percent) is matched by those who refer to themselves as liberals (29 percent) or democratic socialists (13 percent), a designation long embraced by Sanders. The differences underscore the current debate fomenting among the base.
Republicans are also feeling a little more upbeat about the state of their party, not an unusual sentiment to emerge after a victorious presidential campaign. And while Republicans are feeling a little better about the future of their party, Democrats were considerably more likely to feel like their leaders care about them and serve effectively as their surrogates in government.
Among GOP voters, the feeling of wariness for party leaders was most commonly found among lower-income earners and moderates, who may feel the party has moved too far to the right in recent years. For Democrats, the biggest gap in trust was found among younger voters, suggesting that the party has some work to do among millennials and other young adults.
A Huge Swing in Optimism Among Republicans
Trump’s victory in November had a profound effect on partisan perceptions for the future of the country, leaving Republicans feeling rosy and Democrats even more dejected.