SPLAT: Democratic Party Favorable Rating Falls to Record Low

saddemocratNovember 12, 2014 by Andrew Dugan

Story Highlights

  • Democrats’ favorable rating at a record-low 36%
  • Democratic Party lost support among Democrats, independents
  • Republican Party’s favorable rating remains steady at 42%

WASHINGTON, D.C. — After the midterm elections that saw the Democratic Party suffer significant losses in Congress, a record-low 36% of Americans say they have a favorable opinion of the party, down six percentage points from before the elections. The Republican Party’s favorable rating, at 42%, is essentially unchanged from 40%. This marks the first time since September 2011 that the Republican Party has had a higher favorability rating than the Democratic Party.

Republican and Democratic Party Favorables, 1992-2014

These results come from a Nov. 6-9 Gallup poll, conducted after Republicans enjoyed a breathtaking sweep of important contests throughout the country in this year’s midterms. The party gained control of the Senate and will likely capture its largest House majority in nearly a century. Additionally, the GOP now controls 31 governorships and two-thirds of state legislative chambers.

The descent in Democrats’ ratings caps a wild political ride for both parties over the past two years. After President Barack Obama’s re-election in 2012, the Democratic Party’s favorable rating spiked to 51%, the first time either party had enjoyed majority support since 2009. However, after the post-election glow wore off, the party’s image settled back down near the 45% average for the Obama presidency. Meanwhile, Americans’ favorable ratings of the Republican Party collapsed to 28% during the fall 2013 federal government shutdown, the lowest such rating for either party since Gallup first asked the question in 1992.

Favorable Ratings of the Major U.S. Political Parties: Recent Trend

Because of congressional Republicans’ apparent political miscalculation in allowing the shutdown, some raised the possibility of a Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives in the 2014 midterms. But the speculation was short lived. While Republicans agreed to a compromise that ended the shutdown, the Obama administration made a number of political blunders, including the botched rollout of the federal government’s healthcare website; a series of international crises in Ukraine, Iraq and Syria; the Veterans Affairs hospitals scandal; and a criticized response to the first appearance of the Ebola virus on U.S. soil. Whatever momentum the Democrats gained during the government shutdown was lost. The Democratic Party’s image stagnated as Republicans’ slowly improved, putting the parties at rough parity heading into the midterms.

The GOP currently has an image advantage over the Democratic Party; still, neither party is held in particularly high regard. This is yet another sign of Americans’ dissatisfaction with their political system.

Democrats Now Less Likely to Have Positive Image of Own Party

Across party groups, the Republican Party’s image held steady from Gallup’s last update in September. But support for the Democratic Party dropped among independents and among Democrats themselves. Currently, 81% of self-identified Democrats have a favorable view of their party, down from 88% in September and 95% shortly after the 2012 election. Independents’ ratings of the Democratic Party, at 25%, are down 10 points from September.

Favorable Ratings of the Democratic Party, by Political Party Identification, Recent Trend

Bottom Line

After the 2012 election, many political analysts focused on the GOP’s “image problem.” Now, it is the Democrats who appear to have the more battered image. Their favorability rating has never been lower, and they are reeling from defeats that cost them control of the U.S. Senate and strengthened the Republican House majority to levels likely not seen in 90 years.

On the other hand, the American public does not admire Republicans more, their numerous election victories notwithstanding. Neither party can say it is making significant progress in improving its image among the U.S. population, but undoubtedly the 2014 elections augmented the GOP’s ability to shape the agenda in Washington and in state capitals across the country. This newfound power could pose its own problems for the GOP. The party could be on the verge of winning over a greater segment of the country or, not unlike the Democrats this year, could see its brand go into a free fall. This will depend on what Republican leaders do in the coming two years.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Nov. 6-9, 2014, with a random sample of 828 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View survey methodology, complete question responses, and trends.

Majority in U.S. Want GOP in Congress to Set Nation's Course

Majority in U.S. Want GOP in Congress to Set Nation’s Course

by Lydia Saad

Story Highlights

  • 53% want GOP in Congress to have more influence than Obama
  • A third expect nation to be better off, while 19% say worse off
  • Two-thirds of Republicans optimistic; 44% of Democrats fretful

PRINCETON, N.J. — Following the midterm election that some have termed a Republican wave, the majority of Americans want the Republicans in Congress — rather than President Barack Obama — to have more influence over the direction the country takes in the coming year. This is a switch from early 2012 when a slim plurality, 46%, wanted Obama to prevail in steering the nation.

Americans' Preference for Who Should Lead U.S. Direction

Republicans’ 17-percentage-point edge over Obama on this measure exceeds what they earned after the 2010 midterm, when Americans favored Republicans by an eight-point margin (49% to 41%). It also eclipses the nine-point advantage Republicans had over Bill Clinton following the 1994 midterm in which Republicans captured the majority of both houses.

Republicans’ current edge, however, is still bested by Democrats’ 30-point lead over George W. Bush (61% to 31%) following the 2006 midterm election. Democrats regained majority control of both houses that year.

The similarity across all three of these elections is that they resulted in the president’s opposing party acquiring majority control of one, if not two, chambers of Congress. By contrast, a month after the 1998 midterm election in which the Republican majority survived — but only barely, given a decline in their House seat margin — Americans favored Clinton over the Republicans in Congress for leading the nation by a hefty 29-point margin.

Another factor likely influencing Americans’ post-election preferences for whose leadership should prevail is the president’s job approval rating. Obama in 2014 and 2010, Bush in 2006 and Clinton in 1994 all had approval ratings under 50% — or even below 40% — whereas Clinton’s in December 1998 was a soaring 73%.

Americans' Preference for Who Should Lead U.S. Direction

More Say the Country Will Now Be Better Off Than Worse Off

Although Americans are presumably happy with the outcome of the election — as it gave full control of Congress to the party they want in charge of the nation’s direction — most are not expecting a major upturn in national conditions as a result of the Republicans’ success at the polls. While more say the country will be better off now that the Republicans have won control than say it will be worse off (34% vs. 19%), close to half say it won’t make a difference.

Americans' Perception of Nation's Future, by Party ID

Americans’ expectations about the outcome are a bit subdued compared with 2006, when 48% thought the country would be better off as a result of Democrats’ victories in that midterm election. Another 16% thought it would be worse off, leaving just 33% saying the election would not make a difference.

The main factor accounting for the difference between 2006 and today could be that the 2006 midterm shifted the balance of power in Washington from unified Republican control to divided control, whereas this year the outcome only strengthened the Republicans’ hand within an already divided government. As a result, Democrats in 2006 were more likely than Republicans are today — 79% vs. 67% — to believe the country would be better off as a result of their party’s victory. And there has been an even bigger change among independents, with 43% in 2006 versus 28% today expecting things to improve.

Bottom Line

The midterm election provided a clear signal as to which party voters want to control Congress. That message is echoed in the results of the latest Gallup poll showing Americans expressly asking for the Republicans — rather than Obama — to guide the direction the country takes in the next year. But, after four years of partisan gridlock, most Americans are not optimistic that the election’s outcome will improve things.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Nov. 6-9, 2014, with a random sample of 828 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how Gallup Poll Social Series works.

Leave a Reply