With the delayed transition to a Biden administration now underway, Americans have only modest expectations that the partisanship that has dominated Washington in recent years will ease in 2021. However, Democrats are much more optimistic than Republicans that relations between the two parties will improve.
Just 21% of Americans say relations between Republicans and Democrats will get better in the coming year. Far more (37%) expect relations to worsen, while 41% say they will stay about the same.
To understand Americans’ views about partisanship and the political parties after the presidential election, we surveyed 11,818 U.S. adults, including 10,399 registered voters who say they voted in the presidential election, between Nov. 12 to 17. Everyone who took part is a member of Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the ATP’s methodology.
Following Joe Biden’s victory and his post-election call for partisan unity, significantly more Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (35%) than Republicans and Republican leaners (7%) say relations between the two parties in Washington will improve.
To be sure, more Democrats say partisan relations will stay the same (44%) or get worse (20%) than predict they will improve. But Democrats are far more optimistic than Republicans, a majority of whom (54%) say relations will get worse in the coming year, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted Nov. 12 to 17.
The share of Americans who expect relations between Republicans and Democrats in Washington to improve, while low, has more than doubled – from 9% to 21% – since shortly after the 2018 midterm election, when Democrats gained a majority in the House of Representatives. Since then, the share of Democrats who anticipate improved partisan relations has increased 22 percentage points, from 13% to 35%, while remaining virtually unchanged among Republicans at 6%.
Meanwhile, the public continues to have largely negative views about the state of partisan divisions in the country. A majority of Americans (69%) say that divisions between Republicans and Democrats today are increasing, while just 8% say they are decreasing and 23% say they are staying the same.
Majorities of both Republicans (74%) and Democrats (65%) say partisan divisions are increasing. Only about one-in-ten in both parties say they are decreasing, while 26% of Democrats and 20% of Republicans say they are staying about the same.
While Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say partisan divisions are increasing, Democrats are more likely to be very concerned about partisan divides in the country.
Sizable majorities in both parties (80% of Republicans, 83% of Democrats) say they are very or somewhat concerned about divisions between Republicans and Democrats. While 40% of Republicans are very concerned by this, a somewhat larger share of Democrats (48%) say the same.
Following the 2020 elections, members of both parties are generally optimistic about the future of their parties. More than eight-in-ten Democrats (83%) today say that they are either very or somewhat optimistic about the future of the Democratic Party, and nearly three-quarters of Republicans (74%) say the same about their party.
Partisans typically express optimism about the futures of their parties. But more Democrats are optimistic today, after Biden’s win, than after Hillary Clinton’s loss in 2016 (83% now, 61% in November 2016). Republicans are nearly as optimistic about the GOP as they were in 2016 (74% now, 79% then).