Americans divide almost evenly over whether they have more confidence in the newly empowered Republicans in the US House of Representatives (51%) or in President Joe Biden (49%) to deal with the major issues facing the country today, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS.
But asked about the impact of Republican control of the House on several major issues, the public anticipates positive changes in few areas.
The midterm election shifted control of the House to Republicans, who will take over in January, while Democrats retained control of the Senate. Following an election in which neither party came away with a clear mandate from voters, Americans’ feelings about the results and the effects they might have on major issues are mixed.
On balance, the public expects the GOP’s takeover of the House to improve the federal budget, saying by an 11-point margin that Republican control will have a mostly positive effect rather than a negative one. But Americans are more closely divided on the effect the GOP majority will have on inflation (37% positive, 33% negative), gun policies (39% positive, 41% negative) and tax policies (34% positive, 38% negative). And they tend to expect a harmful impact on immigration laws (32% positive, 41% negative) and the level of cooperation within the federal government (23% positive, 43% negative).
Republicans have signaled their intention to open multiple investigations into the Biden administration and have asked the members of the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol to preserve records and transcripts, suggesting the potential for a counter-investigation. Americans expect the Republican takeover of the House to have a largely negative impact on investigations into the January 6 attack (24% positive, 44% negative), but are more divided about how it might affect oversight of the Biden administration (35% positive, 38% negative).
Americans are about as likely to say they’re mostly happy with the outcome of the election (28%) as to say they are mostly disappointed (30%). Democrats, however, are notably more upbeat than Republicans. Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are about twice as likely to describe themselves as happy about the election (42%) than disappointed (19%), and are narrowly more likely to say that in politics generally, their side is winning (25%) more than losing (21%). Republicans and Republican-leaners say by a 26-point margin that they’re mostly disappointed, and by a 17-point margin that they’re mostly on the losing side.
And Democrats have seen a small uptick in favorability, while Republicans have not. Overall public opinion of the Republican Party is negative, with 38% of Americans rating the GOP favorably and 45% rating it unfavorably, similar to its standing in a June/July CNN poll. Views of the Democratic Party are more closely split, with 41% rating it positively and 44% negatively. That’s an uptick from the party’s 35% favorable rating this summer, reflecting a modest rise in positive sentiment among both Democrats and independents.
None of the key figures in House leadership are particularly well-liked by the public, but within their own parties, perceptions are generally positive. While 53% of US adults hold an unfavorable opinion of outgoing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and just 33% have a favorable one, Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents express positive views by a roughly 3 to 1 margin (63% favorable, 20% unfavorable). Far fewer Americans have formed an opinion of incoming House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (64% have either not heard of him or have yet to form an opinion), but Democratic-aligned views are generally positive (33% favorable, 5% unfavorable among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents). Views of House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, who is vying to become speaker, tilt negative among the full public, 36% unfavorable to 19% favorable, with nearly half unsure how they feel about him. Among Republicans and Republican leaners, there’s been a shift toward the positive since this summer: 39% now have a favorable view and 16% unfavorable, compared with 19% favorable and 28% unfavorable in CNN’s polling this summer.
Half of Americans currently say the GOP’s views and policies are too extreme, rather than generally mainstream, while 44% call the Democratic Party too extreme – both numbers are little changed since last summer.
Both Democrats and Republicans largely express contentment with the states of their parties, but more than 3 in 10 within each party say they’d like to see significant changes.
A majority of both Democrats and Republicans say that their party needs only minor change or no change at all, although there’s a slightly broader desire for a shake-up within the GOP. Nearly 4 in 10 Republicans and Republican leaners say the party needs either major changes (31%) or complete reform (7%), while about one-third of Democrats and Democratic leaners see a similar need for major changes (26%) or complete reform (8%) within the Democratic Party.
Within the Democratic Party, generational faultlines emerged. Democratic-aligned adults younger than 45 are likelier than those 45 and older to see the need for major changes, 42% to 25%. And among those who align with the Democratic Party and think it needs major changes, 14% say the party needs to recruit younger candidates or do more to appeal to young voters.
Those who said their party needed significant change were asked to provide, in their own words, the main reason a change was necessary.
“The Democratic Party needs new, forthright leadership that will reflect the growing diversity of the American people,” said one respondent to the survey. Another answered, “I don’t mean that the existing Democratic leaders are doing a bad job but [it] may be the time for new generation of leaders.”
Another 12% say the Democratic Party is not aggressive enough or needs to push harder for change, 9% that it’s insufficiently progressive, and 8% that it’s too liberal. Another 7% call the party out of touch or not responsive.
Among those aligned with the GOP who think the party needs to undergo major change, 15% say the party should rethink its relationship with former President Donald Trump, 10% say it’s become too extreme or far right and 8% say the party needs to find new faces.
The GOP “needs to dump Trump and return to conservatism,” one respondent to the poll replied, while another wrote, “I feel like my party isn’t doing ANYTHING to help our beloved country.”
While 6% bemoaned gridlock or said the GOP should compromise more, 4% wanted the party to take a stronger stand against Democrats and 5% said it should espouse more conservative positions.
Following the defeat of many prominent 2020 election deniers in this year’s midterms, the GOP’s appetite for such candidates has ticked slightly down: 65% of Republicans and Republican leaners say the party should be accepting of candidates who believe that the 2020 election was stolen, down from 72% in July. The share who say the party should accept candidates who acknowledge the election’s legitimacy is 62%, effectively unchanged since summer.
At the same time, already low GOP confidence in elections has fallen further, further compounding a partisan divide on trust. Just 34% of Republican-aligned adults say they’re even somewhat confident that elections in America today reflect the will of the people, down from 43% in October. Seventy percent of Democratic-aligned adults express confidence in the country’s elections, up from 61% prior to this year’s midterm.
This CNN Poll was conducted by SSRS on December 1 through 7 among a random national sample of 1,208 adults drawn from a probability-based panel. Surveys were either conducted online or by telephone with a live interviewer. Results among the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.6 points; it is larger for subgroups.
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