September 16, 2015

Polls show Republicans in a restive mood

Even before Donald Trump and Ben Carson roiled the GOP presidential race by surging past more traditional candidates in the polls, the nation’s Republicans were a restive bunch. Over several surveys, many expressed disapproval of their own party and leaders even after Republicans captured both houses of Congress in the 2014 midterm elections.

One undercurrent in recent surveys – and a theme of the campaign itself – is the negative sentiment many hold for the political establishment. Seven of the 16 GOP presidential candidates are either sitting senators or have held office in Washington. But many of them are running as anti-Washington candidates, and others have battled party leaders, such as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz; he made headlines by taking on his own party’s leader on the Senate floor.

Here are some snapshots of the Republican mood:

Republicans view extensive Washington experience in a candidate more negatively than Democrats and independents1An April 2014 poll found that extensive Washington experience was viewed more negatively than positively, more so among Republicans than Democrats. Republicans (36%) more than Democrats (20%) said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate with Washington experience. That figure rose to 56% for Republicans and Republican leaners who agreed with the Tea Party. Almost half of Republicans and Democrats said it wouldn’t matter to them if a candidate had been an elected official in Washington.

2A Washington Post/ABC News poll asked the question somewhat more pointedly and came up with starker results. About six-in-ten (58%) Republicans said they wanted the next president to be someone “outside the existing political establishment” compared with 24% of Democrats who said the same. About two-thirds (64%) of conservative Republicans said they wanted a candidate from outside the establishment.

3Several recent surveys have tracked growing dissatisfaction within the Republican Party. Our July survey found that positive views of the GOP among Republicans had declined 18 percentage points since January, from 86% to 68%. By contrast, 86% of Democrats viewed their party favorably.

4Republicans More Critical of the New Congress and its LeadersRepublicans had much to celebrate after capturing both the House and Senate in the 2014 midterm elections, but their opinion of GOP congressional leaders soured during the first months of the new term. In May, Republicans’ approval of the performance of their leaders on the Hill fell to 41%, and just 37% said the leaders were keeping their campaign promises. By contrast, in April 1995, after the GOP had recaptured both chambers of Congress for the first time in four decades, fully 80% of Republicans said that their leaders were keeping their promises. Three-quarters of Republicans surveyed in May said their representatives in Congress should challenge President Obama more.

Republicans unhappy with how the GOP represents them on immigration.5 Candidate Donald Trump has drawn attention to the issue of illegal immigration with his proposals to force Mexico to build a wall along the southern border and force deportations of those living in the U.S. illegally. But even before he made immigration an issue, about six-in-ten (59%) Republicans said in May that their party was not doing a good job representing their views on illegal immigration. This includes about two-thirds (65%) of Republicans who opposed legal status for undocumented immigrants. More than half (55%) who did favor a path to legal status also were unhappy with the party.

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

  1. Photo of Bruce Drake

    is a senior editor at Pew Research Center.


  1. mike povero2 years ago

    I feel that a protracted presidential race is not a natural process and is encouraged by people that need to divert attention from how America is being syphoned dry. We are the only country in the world that feels it is necessary to be constantly in a political race. While we are beseeched to watch the left hand, the right hand is picking the country’s pocket. Our government has been made nearly helpless over the past eight years due to partisanship lashings from the extreme right.

    1. Pleazzer2 years ago

      “Our government has been made nearly helpless over the past eight years due to partisanship lashings from the extreme right.”
      RATHER from OBAMA breaking the laws of the land and not following the Constitution. It will take a lot of time to straighten out all the crap he has done illegally.

  2. Bob Prokop2 years ago

    As divisive as the illegal immigration issue has become, it impacts so many other issues including health care, spending, and law enforcement, that it could become not only the focus of 2016 campaigns but the issue to win on. Whether or not Trump’s views on the topic are anything but bombast is up for grabs, but as Ted Cruz pointed out last night he has certainly put the issue front and center in the media.

    1. Robert2 years ago

      It appears as though Ted Cruz does that quite a bit; he will take an issue brought up by another candidate, i.e. Trump and the immigration subject or Rand Paul and the Defunding of Planned Parenthood- he was the first to take it to the Senate floor and initiate discussion on the defunding of PPH. And Ted Cruz will take those very issues and run with them whilst taking credit for the man behind the issues themselves as though he were the one whom thought of these things first. The utmost in political hypocrisy. Ted Cruz will take the credit for an issue another candidate came up with first. This is nothing less than ideology theft. I believe this statement sums up Ted Cruz as a politician. I would personally never vote for him for he is lacking an inherent ethical and perhaps moral judgment.