A Majority of Americans View Republican Party Unfavorably

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By Glynn Wilson

While 48 percent of the American public views the Democratic Party unfavorably at this time, according to the latest Gallup poll, a majority of Americans, 53 percent, rate the Republican Party unfavorably, which is going to make it difficult for Republican candidates to prevail in national elections for the foreseeable future.

The American public’s view of both major political parties is down from November 2012, when President Barack Obama won re-election, but the Republican rating is the lowest since May 2010.

While social networks and blogs are full of comments from people who wish a pox on the houses of both parties, the data shows that only 20 percent of the American public views both parties unfavorably. Only 12 percent view both parties favorably.

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The poll comes at a time when Americans continue to express disenchantment with the major institutions of the U.S. political system, including Congress and the media.

Democratic Party Generally More Popular

The American public has typically seen the Democratic Party more favorably than the Republicans since Gallup first asked this question in 1992. The Democrats have an average favorability rating of 52 percent, while the Republicans average 46 percent.

“Clearly, both parties are currently underperforming relative to their historical averages — a trend that has been apparent for several years now,” Gallup says in its analysis.

The Republican Party’s favorable rating has generally been in the low 40s to high 30s since mid-2005 — “perhaps not coincidentally when President George W. Bush’s disapproval ratings began to move above 50 percent,” Gallup says.

Neither party has been viewed favorably by a majority of Americans for long since 2009, with the exception of a post-2012 election “victory bump” of 51 percent for the Democratic Party. Republicans last recorded a majority favorability rating of 51 percent came shortly after the start of Bush’s second term, in February 2005.

“The seven-percentage-point ‘favorability advantage’ that the Democratic Party now enjoys over its Republican rivals is in line with the average six-point Democratic gap measured since 1992,” Gallup says. “However, Americans have sometimes held a much more positive view of one party than the other. Often, lopsided favorable ratings for one party occurred around times of great upheaval at the ballot box or other significant political events.”

The Democratic Party held a 26-point favorability advantage over the Republican Party — the largest gap measured in Gallup’s trend line — in December 1998, which was likely a backlash against the impeachment proceedings brought by Republicans in Congress to try to unseat a popular President, Bill Clinton. Democrats also held a large favorability advantage over Republicans after Democrats took control of Congress in 2006 and captured the White House in 2008.

The Republicans’ largest advantages in favorable ratings over the Democratic Party have been far more modest by comparison — the highest being a 10-point edge in February 2005, just after Republican President Bush was re-elected and the Republicans firmly controlled Congress.

Implications

“Americans continue to view the Republican Party less favorably than the Democratic Party, but neither party musters a positive image among a majority of Americans,” Gallup concludes. “The Democrats’ current favorability lead over the Republicans is not unusual historically, and hardly assures a pending Democratic wave in 2014.”

Republicans had even lower favorability ratings in surveys shortly after the 2008 presidential election, Gallup says, “but regained their footing over the ensuing two years and routed the Democrats in the 2010 congressional elections.”

These depressed favorability ratings appear to be a continuation of a longer trend that has seen Americans sour on the two parties, Gallup says, while dismissing the chances of any third party from rising up and challenging them in national elections and projecting even lower voter turnout rates in the near future.

“It is not clear that a new political party could coalesce the dissatisfied and credibly challenge the major parties,” Gallup says. “More likely, should these low political party favorable ratings continue, the result may be declining voter participation rates — as in the presidential contest of 2012, which had lower turnout rates than the presidential elections of 2004 and 2008.”

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted June 1-4, 2013, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 1,529 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, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

© 2013, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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