February 24, 2014

Just 28% of Republicans believe GOP advocates its principles well

FT_Democrats_Republicans_TraditionCongressional Republicans’ unhappiness with their party’s performance has been evident for months. Most recently, just 12 percent of House Republicans voted for a bill to raise the debt ceiling, whose scheduled vote resulted in at least one Tea Party group calling for Speaker John Boehner’s removal.

GOP members of Congress aren’t the only Republicans disappointed with the party’s policies. In January, even before the debt ceiling vote, just 28% of Republicans and Republican leaners said the GOP was doing a good or excellent job in standing up for its traditional positions of smaller government, tax-cutting and conservative social values, while seven-in-ten (70%) rated their party’s job as “only fair” or “poor.”

The percentage of Republicans and leaners who rate the party’s performance positively has fallen 12 points since the GOP took control of the House in November 2010, according to a Pew Research survey last month. Over the past decade, the only time Republicans have been more negative about their party was in April 2009 — in the wake of Barack Obama’s election victory — when 21% rated the job it was doing as excellent or good. Democrats, on the other hand, have become more likely to say their party is standing up for its traditional positions. Roughly half of Democrats and those who lean Democratic (49%) rated their party as doing an excellent or good job on things such as protecting minorities’ interests, representing working people and helping the poor and needy. This is up 11 points from August 2011, but about the same as November 2010.

A caveat is in order when looking at Republicans’ and Democrats’ evaluations of their party’s performance on the “traditional job” measure.  The old maxim “nothing succeeds like success” applies here: Partisans tend to be happier with their parties when they’re winning. In five of six surveys since Obama took office in 2009, more Democrats than Republicans have given their party positive ratings for standing up for traditional positions. During the Bush administration, Republicans were often happier than Democrats with their party’s performance.

Still, Republicans were not particularly positive about their party’s support for traditional positions after its sweeping triumph in the 2010 elections, when the GOP won back the House. In the days following that election, more Democrats (48%) than Republicans (40%) expressed satisfaction with how well their party was standing up for its traditional positions. Since then, Republicans’ views of the party’s performance have only become more negative.

FT_GOP_ConservativeOur January survey also included the parties’ ratings of the ideologies of the two parties. Overall, these views have changed little in recent years: 55% said the Republican Party was either very conservative (23%) or conservative (32%) while 51% viewed the Democratic Party as very liberal (27%) or liberal (24%).

As in the past, Democrats and Republicans have somewhat similar views of the Republican Party’s ideology: 64% of Democrats and 51% of Republicans say the GOP is either very conservative or conservative. But Republicans are about twice as likely as Democrats to view the Democratic Party as very liberal or liberal (75% vs. 36%).

Tea Party Republicans don’t see the GOP as especially conservative, and that is likely a factor in the low ratings they give the Republican Party for standing up for traditional positions.

Just 44% of Republicans and Republican leaners who agree with the Tea Party say the GOP is very conservative or conservative; that compares with 55% of non-Tea Party Republicans. Only about a quarter of Tea Party Republicans give the party positive ratings for advocating traditional positions compared with 31% of non-Tea Party Republicans.

Topics: Congress, Political Attitudes and Values, Political Party Affiliation

  1. is a research analyst focusing on U.S. politics and policy at Pew Research Center.

  2. Photo of Carroll Doherty

    is director of political research at Pew Research Center.


  1. D. M. James3 years ago

    I think the only hope for our country to be saved from our reluctance to spend less is for term limits in both houses of Congress. Otherwise, they are only working for their re-election, and that has to be eliminated – somehow!

  2. feb3 years ago

    The failure to reconcile the mutually exclusive task of legislating social morality/conservatism and preaching small government personally creates a problem for my desire to tow the GOP platform.

  3. Natalie Roberts3 years ago

    The Republicans of all opinions and philosophies need to have a retreat for a week at least to determine what they want their party to stand for, and how they will campaign with a united front for the 2014 and 2016 elections. As a minority party, we cannot afford all the infighting that weakens and divides us, and confuses the people open to hearing what our positions are on important issues. We need to present ourselves with UNITY and CLARITY with solutions to pressing problems. For example, it is not enough to criticize Obamacare – we have to present our own plan in keeping with what we know the people want, keeping some of the good points in Obamacare, i.e. previous ailments cannot prevent you from getting insurance. Our positions have to be succinct and backed up with history and repeated often. We must also consider the Hispanic and Asian voters – what their needs are, how their cultures can be represented and respected by Republicans. An inclusive appeal, to unite all Americans, is what the Republicans should be aiming for.

  4. slk3 years ago

    if you came home, and the sewer broke and filled up the room, would you raise the ceiling??? it is “unpatriotic” to raise the debt ceiling!!! spoken by an illinois senator in ’08!!!

    1. KB3 years ago

      The debt ceiling is only raised when Congress has approved expenditures that need to be paid. In kitchen table words, you are saying it is unpatriotic to pay the bills of the United States of America. All manner of economic experts state unequivocally that not paying the bills would cause worldwide economic chaos. But also, it would increase our debt, as we would no longer have a low interest rate, since we would be a high risk.

      1. slk3 years ago

        who was that senator??? how exactly do you pay off bills, when you’re spending more then you have!!! there’s a reason we’re at over 17 trillion and climbing fast!!! the government spends 7 million, every “MINUTE”!!! please show us how you spend more then you have and reduce the debt, at the same time??? right now they’re only touching the interest owed!!! is that how you run your house!!!