A new USA Today/Pew Research poll (Dec. 3-7, 1,507 adults; 408 Republicans, 445 Democrats, 574 Independents) tested a representative American sampling group about their attitudes and impressions toward national political institutions, now that we have moved into a post-election period.
Back in 2009, when asked whether the country was more politically divided than in the past respondents answered that it was, but only by a 46-45 percent margin. The latest data finds that 81 percent believe America is more ideologically divided, as compared to just 15 percent who say it is not. And, 77 percent say they believe the nation will become either even more divided or stay at this same apparently unbridgeable level. Additionally, 71 percent say that such a situation hurts the country “a lot”, with an additional 16 percent believing that seeing such a starkly divided ideological nation is “somewhat” harmful.
The pollsters then asked respondents to name the most important problem facing the country. Of those who answered, 76 percent (71 percent of Democrats, 78 percent among Republicans, and 80 percent from the Independent sector), said they believe President Obama and Republican congressional leaders will make little or no progress in solving the issue they identified, regardless of the topic.
In terms of job approval, 42 percent gave President Obama a positive rating as compared to just 22 percent who have a similar impression of Congress. This marks the third consecutive year in this particular survey that congressional approval ratings fell below 30 percent.
The political parties continue to project a poor image, with the Republicans again being upside-down in public approval as they have been for the better part of a decade. This particular polling sample posted the Republican Party to a 37:57 percent favorable to unfavorable ratio. But the bigger story is the Democratic Party dropping to about the same level. Recording its worst rating in more than 20 years, Democratic favorability fell to 41:54 percent.
The outlook for the new year is very different from in years past, and diametrically opposite from the public’s view after the last Republican wave election in 2010. Then, when asked whether they believed the coming year (2011, at the time) would be better than 2010, 67 percent said they were optimistic that the succeeding 12 months would be brighter, as compared to just 26 percent who were pessimistic. In this poll, only 49 percent believe 2015 will be a better year than 2014, while 42 percent think it will be worse.
One would expect the pessimistic numbers to come mostly from Democrats since their party took such a beating at the polls. But, the opposite is true. Sixty percent of Democrats answered they believe 2015 will be better than 2014, while only 34 percent of Republicans hold the more optimistic view.
Predictably, the two parties also believe the opposite side will not cooperate with their own leaders. Sixty-six percent of Democrats believe that President Obama will collaborate with Republican congressional leaders, but only 19 percent of Republicans agree.
Conversely, only 18 percent of Democrats believe the Republican leaders will cooperate with the president. Here, however, the two party respondents are closer in their perceptions. Only 34 percent of Republicans believe their leaders will work with the president. But, the more interesting statistic among the GOP respondents is that 66 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents want their leaders to “stand up” to the President.
The USA Today/Pew Research data once again provides evidence that our ideologically divided nation continues to march forward, but to the beat of very different drummers.