August 21, 2015

24% of Americans now view both GOP and Democratic Party unfavorably

Double Negatives: More People Express Unfavorable Views of Both PartiesThe rise of “outsider” presidential candidates such as Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders has focused attention on the level of political frustration in the United States. By one measure – the share of Americans who express unfavorable opinions of both political parties – that frustration has grown.

In our July survey, 24% of the public has an unfavorable opinion of both the Republican and Democratic parties. That is up from 19% in January, though little changed from yearly averages in polls conducted in 2014 and 2013 (22% each).

The share expressing negative views of both parties has been higher in recent years than in the 2000s or 1990s. In the 2008 presidential election year, 12% viewed both parties unfavorably. In 2004, 10% did so, and in 2000, just 7% expressed unfavorable opinions of both the Republican and Democratic parties. 

More Republicans, GOP Leaners View Both Parties UnfavorablyYet the rise in frustration with the parties, especially this year, is not the result of an across-the-board increase in negative views. Instead, it is largely concentrated among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, who have become increasingly critical of the Republican Party.

Currently, 36% of independents express unfavorable opinions of both parties, as do 22% of Republicans and just 9% of Democrats. The biggest shift in opinion has come among Republicans, whose unfavorable impression of both parties is more than double the percentage in January (9%). Democrats’ unfavorable view of the two parties is little changed from the start of the year (8%).

Among independents, there has been a particularly stark rise in the unfavorable views of both parties among Republican-leaning independents, while there is little change in these views among Democratic leaners. Nearly half (47%) of Republican leaners have an unfavorable impression of both the Republican and Democratic parties, up from 32% in January and the highest percentage measured since 1992. Among Democratic-leaning independents, as among Democrats, there has been almost no change since January (22% today, 21% then).

Unfavorable Views of GOP Rise Among Republicans, Republican LeanersRepublicans and Republican leaners continue to express overwhelmingly negative views of the Democratic Party, and these opinions have changed little since January. But their opinions about the Republican Party have soured – and, as a result, increasing shares of both Republicans and Republican leaners view both parties negatively.

The share of Republicans who view the GOP unfavorably has more than doubled since January, from 12% to 27%. The change in opinions of the Republican Party among Republican leaners may be more striking. In January, 59% had a favorable impression of the party, while just 37% had an unfavorable view. Today, their opinions are divided: 44% have a favorable opinion of the Republican Party, while 50% express an unfavorable opinion.

As we noted in our 2014 report on political polarization, people who lean toward the Republican and Democratic parties are similar ideologically to those who affiliate with a party and hold comparable positions on many key issues. However, those who lean toward a party tend to have a less positive view of that party than do actual partisans. This is particularly true for Republican leaners, who in recent years have consistently expressed more negative views of the GOP than Democratic leaners have of the Democratic Party.

Today, about two-thirds (66%) of Democratic leaners view the Democratic Party favorably, while just 27% do not. But Republican leaners are far more critical of the GOP: Just 44% now say they have a favorable opinion of the GOP, while 50% view the party unfavorably.

Topics: U.S. Political Parties, Political Attitudes and Values, Political Party Affiliation

  1. Photo of Samantha Smith

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


  1. David L Allison2 years ago

    Would the Trump candidacy be seen more as a cause of the Republican disaffection for their party or as a result of that disaffection? Or is Trump just an outlier, neither cause nor effect? I have heard and seen Rs on line and in person cringing at the things he and several of their other candidates saying during the primary season this year.

  2. Art2 years ago

    Republicans should do well to cave in to voters but a set of special interests impedes this. Neoconservatives, Tea Party conservatives, the business establishment and even split government is complicating this. Until there is a way to unify and disarm the special interests Republicans will have low ratings.

  3. Packard Day2 years ago

    Only 24%? Really? For my money, there is “not a dime’s worth of difference” between an upcoming Hillary Clinton or a Jeb Bush Administration. Either choice would allow the “Washington DC/Wall Street Patriot Class” to sleep with the knowledge that “the fix” was still safely in place. God bless America and crony capitalism too…ehhh?

  4. Dumdedumdum2 years ago

    Socialism, is the smokescreen, that clouds Democratic vision, and in this fog, they see a uniform grey light utopia, where “everyone is about the same” “economically”, pleasing everyone, and no one.
    The media as a whole is “left leaning” and feeds their viewers a steady diet of “how great Dems and “progressives”are doing. While criticizing Republicans every step of the way, with the vast majority of comments Negative toward Republicans and Taxed Enough Already people.

  5. James B2 years ago

    The only reason the Repubs became a majority party in both houses of Congress was due to Obama, and since then, Boehner and McConnell have been busy trying to turn the Republican party back to a minority party again. I mean, who would vote R in order for those guys to loot more? They do nothing for the country’s security or economy. They pretend to oppose the Iran treaty while enabling it. They pretend to oppose PP, while funding it. They pretend to oppose crony capitalism, while trying to sneak refunding the import-export kickback scheme. They pretend to oppose open borders while funding and enabling it. Completely less than worthless.