November 25, 2015

In politics, most Americans feel they’re on the losing side

It could be a sign of the times – or something more lasting – but far more Americans today feel like their side is losing more often than winning in politics.

Far More Republicans Than Democrats Say Their Side 'Loses' More Than 'Wins'In our new survey examining the public’s attitudes about government, just 25% say that, “on the issues that matter,” their side has been winning more often than it has been losing. More than twice as many (64%) say their side loses more often than it wins.

The feeling that political losses outnumber victories is widely shared across demographic groups. Substantial majorities of men (66%) and women (62%) feel like their side loses more than it wins. And there are only modest differences when it comes to race and ethnicity: 66% of whites, 65% of blacks and 59% of Hispanics all say their political side loses more often than it wins.

Yet there are clear partisan differences – fully 79% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say their side loses more often than it wins, compared with 52% of Democrats and Democratic leaners.

This is yet another indication of the broad dissatisfaction Republicans express toward politics, a feeling that extends to views of the GOP-led Congress and their own party. While Republicans hold majorities in both the House and Senate, favorable ratings for Congress – while extremely low among members of both parties – are lower among Republicans (23% favorable) than Democrats (31%). In addition, more Republicans than Democrats continue to view their own party unfavorably (31% vs. 19%).

However, while Republicans generally feel like their side is “losing,” most Democrats do not feel like political “winners.”

Most Americans Feel Like Their Side Is 'Losing' - Except Well-Educated DemocratsOverall, about half of Democrats and Democratic leaners say their side in politics loses more than it wins, and this sentiment is especially widespread among Democrats with lower levels of education. A majority of Democrats with no more than a high school education (59%), as well as those with some college experience (54%), say their side loses more than it prevails.

Among the only groups who feel like they’re winning are well-educated Democrats. Those with at least a college degree are more likely to say they feel like their side is winning (51%) than say it’s losing (41%).

In Politics, More Older Americans See Their Side As 'Losing' More Often Than NotIn general, younger people are more likely than older people to feel their side is winning: About a third of those under 50 (30%) say their side wins more than it loses compared with 20% of those 50 and older.

Older Republicans are more likely than younger Republicans to see their side as losing in politics today. Still, a majority of Republicans under 30 (69%) do hold this view, and they are much more likely to say this than their Democratic counterparts. Just half of young Democrats say this.

Those Who Feel Their Side Is 'Losing' at Politics Are More Likely to be Angry at GovernmentWhat we found – perhaps not surprisingly – is that, in general, feelings of political “losing” are associated with higher levels of anger toward government. Among those who say their side loses more than it wins politically, 27% are angry at the federal government – three times the percentage among those who feel like their side wins more frequently (9%).

Topics: U.S. Political Parties, Political Attitudes and Values, Federal Government, Trust in Government

  1. Photo of Hannah Fingerhut

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


  1. 1TonFun2 years ago

    All Americans are losing except for the political windbags. The Two Party Machine is off the rails. Neither party produces a product worthy of the voters. Cycle after cycle all the voter gets is a choice between the hacks that make it through the Democratic and Republican party machine vetting process. Interchangeable fear-mongering mild psychopaths that will tell most any lie to get elected. Once elected these pre-approved ‘leaders’ then spend most of their ‘working’ hours on the phone, or wining and dining, trying to con constituents out of more money for themselves and the Party Machine they answer to.

    Want a magic-bullet solution? Good luck finding that. But in the meantime one thing that can help a lot is to take gerrymandering out of the Democratic and Republican party machine hacks (i.e., “politicians”) hands. Computers using Census data have been able to ‘draw’ competitive district lines for over fifty years, yet the foxes are still allowed to run the hen-house. When the Democratic and Republican Party approved star money raising hacks are forced to appeal to voters from the opposite party to get a majority then America can start to move back toward a pragmatic/rational center.

    If you got a problem with moving back to a consensus driven center then get used to more Sanders and Trumps. It is just a matter of time before an alternative Party is formed if this grid-lock nonstop Primary mentality doesn’t return to consensus politics. Bring on the chaos. If the Le Pen (?) Party in France wins big then maybe we can learn something about the transition from a two party system to a three party system, or maybe not.

  2. Joseph Fleischman2 years ago

    If this poll were conducted during the Bush II presidency the Dem/Rep split might have been reversed. Having Obama as president has been a big deal for liberals while frustrating for conservatives.
    Joseph in Merida

  3. Packard Day2 years ago

    Anyone who tries to tell you that these past seven years under Barack Obama have not given us the greatest economic windfall in several generations is either 1) Not paying attention*, or 2) Shamelessly shilling for the Republican Party, or 3) Obviously not living in a top 10% (a.k.a. Investor Class) household…[*S&P 500 Index is up 210% since March 9, 2009. Obamacare Health Insurance Industry has quadrupled shareholder profits during this same period. Prime midwest farmland has doubled in value since our first constitutional scholar President came to power.] So God bless America, President Obama, and crony capitalism too…I guess.

    1. Not So Fast2 years ago

      Speaking of shilling . . .

      You pick March 9th, 2009 as a basis point. The very low point of the worst stock market crash of our times. You would have to go back to the early 1990’s to find the S&P 500 lower than it was on that day,

      Hardly a fair basis for comparison.

  4. Gregory2 years ago

    Progressives who think their side is losing more that it’s winning should listen to the rational Republican analysts (there are some), who recount with mixed resentment and admiration how the last seven years have changed the course of the country. And they should look at the hysterical pushback to get a feeling of how the old order sees the progress we’ve made and that they are panicked we will make.

    We cant’ really call it the Obama Revolution, but I like to call it the Obama Evolution.

  5. icthelite2 years ago

    Did those taking this pole ask those they’ve counted here if they have actually voted? So many people whine about what is happening in our government and country but have not even contributed the time it takes to go to the poles.

  6. tlgeer2 years ago

    What we are so angry about is that those who we elected to represent us are not paying the slightest bit of attention to what our wishes are. I know that we have, repeatedly, let them know what we want. They pretend to listen, and make speeches about how they are going to do this or that. Then, once we have elected, or re-elected, them they do nothing about the issues that we have raised.

    Instead of doing what we elected/hired them for they are doing what their political party says to do. IOW, they have chosen their party over their country. And they do it repeatedly.

    It is not time to take physical action. But if they continue to represent us I can, sadly, see it happening. I see it on these forums every day. People who are getting more and more fed up with Congress. And our State Governments. Despite the nonsense that the right has fed to us, and so many people just inhale it, our President is not trying to change our way of Government, and their is no proof whatsoever that he has even tried.

    This hysteria needs to end. And the only way it is going to end is if the listeners and readers simply don’t pay attention to those sites. There are a lot of them. On both sides. I saw a cartoon that had a split screen. The left have had a tv and a man sitting on a share. The announcers voice was saying “how can we stop all of this violence?” The other half of the screen shows the watcher turning the tv off. It was a excellent answer.

    FDR and JFK said, famously, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. And it is true. Our country is allowing fear to rule what we are doing and saying. And it must stop.

  7. RT2 years ago

    Unless you give thousands in campaign contributions why would you expect to be on the “winning side?”

  8. Gordon Bailey2 years ago

    Term Limits would go a long ways to reduce the miss trust in Government!
    Our Government continues to interject into every phase of our lives and in most cases we don’t need it!

    1. Gregory2 years ago


      Here in California, at least, term limits have made matters much worse. We have a lot of state legislators who, by the time they have enough experience to learn how to get things done for their constituents and enough courage to stand up to the governor and their parties’ leaders, are termed out.

      Be careful what you wish for, you might get it.


  9. Steve Nissen2 years ago

    There are a whole bunch more than the 27 percent in my age group that are angry. I speak with allot of folks, libs and reps are all sick of the feds. We’re angry, fed up and a rise against the feds is festering right under their noses.

    1. Moore2 years ago

      Steve, We get that your anger is real, but who are these “feds” at whom both liberals and conservatives are angry? If you mean the federal government, we should keep in mind that the government is composed of liberals and conservatives. In former times we might have included moderates but, alas, moderates are a dying breed.