Released: April 20, 2006
Public Disillusionment with Congress at Record Levels
Anti-Incumbent Sentiment Echoes 1994
Summary of Findings
The American public is angry with Congress, and this is bad news for the Republican Party. The belief that this Congress has accomplished less than its predecessors is markedly higher than at any point in the past nine years, and by a wide margin Republican leaders are blamed for this. Many more voters than in the recent past say the issue of partisan control of Congress will be a factor in their vote in November. And as has been the case since fall, voters are significantly more inclined to vote for Democrats than Republicans – by a 51% to 41% margin.
The public’s strong appetite for change in Washington is seen both in the majority of voters who say they would like to see most members of Congress defeated in November (53%), and in the sizable minority who wants to see their representative turned out in the midterms (28%). Both measures reflect anti-incumbent sentiment not seen since late in the historic 1994 campaign, just before Republicans gained control of Congress. In recent elections, far fewer voters evinced a desire for change; in October 2002, just 38% said they did not want to see most members reelected and 19% said that about their own representative.
The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted among 1,501 Americans from April 7-16, finds that the Democrats maintain a large advantage in voting intentions for the fall. The Democrats’ current 10-point lead is little changed from February (50%-41%), but there has been only a handful of occasions since 1994 when either party has held such a sizable advantage in the congressional horse race.
As was the case in February, the Democrats’ edge in the ballot test stems largely from its strength among independent voters. Roughly half of independents (51%) say they favor the Democratic candidate in their district, compared with just 31% who say they will vote Republican. And compared with recent elections, far more independents say the issue of which party controls Congress will be a factor in their vote this fall.
While solid majorities of Democrats and Republicans continue to cite the question of partisan control as a factor in their vote, more than four-in-ten independent voters (45%) now express this view. In the two most recent midterms, only about three-in-ten independents said the question of which party controlled Congress would figure in their voting decisions.
President Bush’s sagging poll ratings are hurting GOP fortunes. Fully twice as many voters view their ballot this fall as a vote against Bush rather than as a vote for the president (34% vs.17%). But the party’s prospects also are being undermined by the fairly common view that the 109th Congress has achieved little to date. Fully 41% of voters say the current Congress has accomplished less than its recent predecessors, 47% say its accomplishments are the same, and just 7% think it has accomplished more. That is by far the most negative evaluation of Congress’s record in polls since 1997. Independents, along with Democrats, are much more critical of the record compiled by Congress than in the two previous off-year elections.
In general, people who fault Congress for accomplishing little say they blame Republican leaders for this (58% vs. 13% who blame Democratic leaders). More broadly, the Republican Party’s image continues to slip. Just 40% say they have a favorable opinion of the Republican Party, down slightly since February (44%); this is the GOP’s lowest favorability mark in surveys dating to 1992. The Democratic Party has a somewhat more positive image (47% favorable).
Although this is not significantly different from readings in the past few months, it is also the lowest recorded by Pew since 1992. However, the Democrats hold a decided advantage over the Republicans as the party better able to reform the government.
In addition, the gap in how Republicans and Democrats rate their parties for standing up for traditional positions has narrowed. About a year ago, 51% of Republicans and independents who lean Republican had a positive view of the party’s effectiveness in advocating traditional GOP positions – reducing the size of government, cutting taxes, and promoting conservative social positions; just 33% of Democrats (and Democratic leaners) said their party was doing an excellent or good job in standing up for traditional Democratic stances, such as helping the poor and protecting minorities. But today, 47% of Republicans see their party as effective in standing up for its traditional issues compared with 40% of Democrats.
President Bush’s image has eroded along with the Republican Party’s. Just 40% express a favorable opinion of the president, compared with 57% who have a negative impression. This is the lowest favorable rating in Bush’s presidency and below former President Clinton’s low point of 48% in May 2000. Since last March 2005, positive opinions of Bush have declined by 13 percentage points (from 53% to 40%).
Bush’s job approval stands at 35%, close to his 33% rating of last month. On the issue that has dominated Congress in recent weeks – immigration – Bush’s rating is even lower (25%). And Congress fares no better than the president in views of its handling of the issue; just 21% approve, while roughly three times that number (64%) disapproves. Democrats now hold a significant advantage as the party better able to deal with immigration (by 43%-27%). Just two months ago, prior to the inconclusive Senate debate on the matter, the two parties were seen about evenly on this issue (38% Democrat/34% Republican).
Finally, a bright spot for Republicans is the public’s decided belief that the GOP has stronger – if not necessarily better – leaders than the Democratic Party. By roughly two-to-one (53%-26%), more Americans say the Republican Party has stronger political leaders. In contrast, about as many people believe the Democratic Party has better political leaders as say that about the Republican Party (40% vs. 38%).
Views of the Parties
Overall favorable ratings of the Republican Party have dropped slightly since February, and now stand 12 percentage points below where they were in the aftermath of President Bush’s reelection. While most Republicans say their view of the party is favorable, moderate and liberal Republicans (at 75% favorable) are significantly less positive than are conservative Republicans (90% favorable). And just a third of independents currently have a favorable view of the party.
The Democratic Party has only a slightly better overall image than the GOP (47%). Democrats themselves give the party good marks, with 86% saying their view of the party is very or mostly favorable. Unlike the Republican Party, there is no internal division ideologically in Democrats’ views of their party. Independents are divided about the Democrats, with 41% having a favorable impression and 43% an unfavorable one.
The Democratic image advantage widens when it comes to public views of specific traits associated with the two parties. By 52% to 28%, Americans say the Democratic Party, compared to the Republican Party, is better described by the phrase “concerned with the needs of people like me.” The Democrats are also seen as better able to bring about needed changes to the country (by 47% to 32%) and to reform government in Washington (44%-28%). Opinions on these measures have remained fairly stable since October.
Compared with the Democratic Party, the Republican Party is seen as more influenced by lobbyists and special inte
rests (45% say this better describes the Republicans, 28% the Democrats). The Democratic Party also has an edge as the party viewed as governing “in an honest and ethical way” (by 36% to 28%), though nearly a quarter of those polled (23%) say this phrase applies to neither party.
The Parties in a Word
Top-of-the-mind expressions of opinion about both parties tend to be more negative than positive. When asked what single word describes their impression of each party, pluralities for each party responded a negative or critical term. But the most common words mentioned tend to be descriptive rather than evaluative. By far, the single most common word for the Republican Party was “conservative” and for the Democratic Party, “liberal.” Following these ideological labels was “fair,” a term that some respondents meant as “even-handed” and others evidently meant to be tepid praise, if that. Similar numbers described each party as “good” or “very good.”
Thematically, negative terms about the Republican Party largely address its perceived support for business and the wealthy, while those for the Democratic Party tend to highlight the perceived weakness and disorganization of the party. The GOP is associated with being “greedy,” “rich,” “business,” “crooks,” “corrupt,” “money,” and “for rich people.” The Democrats are seen as “weak,” disorganized,” and “confused,” with a few mentions of “slow” and “struggling” tossed in. Several people also described the party as “too liberal,” and a few others mentioned “socialist” and “communists.”
Partisans Rate Parties’ Performance
For most of Bush’s presidency, Republicans have expressed a fairly positive view of the party’s performance in standing up for traditional positions such as cutting taxes and reducing the size of government. By contrast, Democratic partisans have given their party lower marks for effectiveness in advocating traditional Democratic positions like protecting the interests of minorities and helping the poor and needy.
But Republicans have become more critical of their party’s performance in this regard, while over the past year Democrats have become a bit less critical of their party. About a year ago (March 2005), 51% of Republicans said their party was doing an excellent or good job in advocating traditional positions, compared with just 33% among Democrats who gave a positive evaluation of their party. Today, 47% of Republicans say their party is doing an excellent or good job in standing up for traditional positions, compared with 40% of Democrats.
There are now also bigger ideological divisions in these evaluations within the Republican Party than in the Democratic Party. Conservative Republicans are 20 points more likely than moderate and liberal Republicans to rate the GOP as doing an excellent or good job in standing up for traditional positions (60% vs. 40%). Democrats are divided ideologically in views of their party’s performance, but the differences are not as large: 52% of conservative and moderate Democrats have a positive opinion of their party’s advocacy of traditional positions, compared with 38% among liberal Democrats.
In general, the public believes the Republican Party has stronger leaders than the Democratic Party (by 53%-26%) and divides evenly when asked which party has better leaders (40% say the Democrats, 38% say the Republicans). Republicans overwhelmingly say the GOP has better (79%) and stronger (76%) leaders. But independents and Democrats make sharper distinctions as to which party has the better and stronger leaders. Only about a third of independents (32%) say the Republican Party has better leaders, but half say the GOP has stronger leaders. The gap among Democrats is even larger; just 9% of Democrats say the Republican Party has better leaders, but more than a third (36%) believes the Republican Party has stronger leaders.
With a growing number of Americans dissatisfied with what Congress has accomplished in this term, and most of them blaming the Republican leaders in Congress, the Republican Party is facing an electorate looking for change this fall. For the first time since 1994, a majority of voters (53%) say that they would not like to see most members of Congress reelected. This is 15 percentage points higher than in October of 2002, just prior to the midterm elections that year that brought significant Republican gains. The increase is even greater among independents and liberal Democrats (up 24 percentage points in each group). Even among moderate and liberal Republicans, nearly half (46%) now think most members of Congress should not be reelected – an increase of 12 points since the fall of 2002.
Historically, voters have been happier with their own member of Congress than with Congress as a whole. But compared with the fall of 2002, there has been a nine-point increase in the percentage of voters who say they do not want their own U.S. representative reelected. Currently, 28% say this compared with 19% in October 2002. The largest increases in anti-incumbent sentiment are seen among moderate and liberal Republicans (up 15 points, to 25% today), and among independents (up 13 points, to 36%).
Reflecting both political polarization and discontent with Washington, a record number of voters – 56% – say that the issue of party control of Congress will be a factor in their vote. This is eight points higher than on the eve of the election four years ago, when 48% said party control would be a factor in their decision making. Since 2002, both liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans have become even more likely to say that party control of Congress matters. But especially noteworthy is the fact that more than four-in-ten independents (45%) say this as well, up 15 points from 30% on the eve of the 2002 midterm, and 29% in 1998. For independents to be paying so much attention to party – especially this early in the campaign – is unusual, and it is benefitting the Democrats. Independents who say party is a factor favor the Democratic candidate in their district by greater than two-to-one (62% to 27%).
At the same time, criticism of Congress’s performance among independents is also strongly associated with voting preferences. Independents who criticize Congress for doing less than usual say they plan to vote Democratic by an overwhelming 68% to 18% margin.
Is a Third Party Needed?
A narrow majority of the poll’s respondents (53%) agree that the U.S. should have a third major political party in addition to the Democratic and Republican parties, but there is no upward trend in this measure over the past decade or so. Moreover, most people think the parties present a real choice to voters. When asked whether there are differences in what the Democratic and Republican parties stand for, most Americans say there are: 33% believe there is a great deal of difference, and 42% say there is a fair amount of difference. Just 21% say there is hardly any difference at all between the two major parties.
Looking to November
With a 10-point advantage overall in intended congressional vote, the Democratic Party is holding its own among many groups it lost in 2002 and 2004, and is even leading among many of them. For example, the Democratic candidate is favored over the Republican by 17 percentage points (56%-39%) among white, non-Hispanic Catholics, by 50%-42% among white mainline Protestants, and by 52%-40% among voters in the Midwest. The Democratic candidate is tied with the Republicans among other groups that the Democrats have lost in recent elections, including whites, men and Southerners.
In nearly every group except for white evangelical Protestants and Republicans themselves, more of those interviewed today support the Democratic candidate than was the case at about this time four years ago (February 2002), or on Election Day in 2002 or 2004. The Democrats now lead by a wide margin in the West (by 23 points) and the Northeast (19 points); in February 2002, the Republicans held a slight advantage in both regions. Especially worrisome for the Republicans is the current 20-point Democratic lead among independents. Four years ago, the Democratic and Republican candidates were essentially tied among independents (42% Republican, 39% Democrat).
Cynical About Ethics Reform
Most Americans (75%) say they are at least somewhat concerned about the influence of lobbyists and special interest groups in Washington. However, fewer than half say they are very concerned about this issue (46%). The public is divided over whether bribery and corruption in Congress is more common today (47%), or no different than it has been in the past (49%).
There is overwhelming support for legislation placing stricter limits on the value of gifts that House members and senators may accept from lobbyists. Roughly three-quarters of Americans (76%) favor tougher limits on the gifts that lawmakers may accept from lobbyists. About a decade ago, there was comparably broad support for tighter limits
on lobbyists’ gifts to lawmakers. While the Senate passed a limited gift ban last month, the House has yet to take action on such legislation.
At the same time, there is considerable skepticism that such limits would actually reduce the influence of special interests in Washington. A narrow majority (52%) believes a law to place stricter limits on lobbyists’ gifts would not make much difference; slightly fewer (45%) believe such a law would be effective in reducing the influence of special interests.
Independents, in particular, are dubious that a gift ban would really curb the influence of special interests. Only about four-in-ten (39%) say it would, compared with 58% who say it would not make much difference. Democrats are fairly evenly divided while a thin majority of Republicans (53%) believe such a law would reduce the influence of special interests.
Democratic Advantage on Reform
The Democratic Party continues to hold a modest edge as the party better described as governing “in an honest and ethical way;” 36% say this phrase better characterizes the Democratic Party while 28% say it better describes the Republican Party. A relatively large minority (23%) believes neither party governs in an honest and ethical fashion.
The Democrats have a bigger advantage as the party better able to reform the government in Washington. More than four-in-ten Americans (44%) believe the Democratic Party can do better in reforming the government, compared with 28% who choose the Republican Party.
Opinions on both of these measures have remained fairly stable in recent months. In the summer of 1994, the pivotal year when Republicans won control of Congress, neither party had a significant advantage in public views of honesty and reforming the government.
In the current survey, there are significant differences among Republicans regarding the party’s image for honest and ethical governance. Roughly two-thirds of conservative Republicans (69%) say that description better applies to the Republican Party, but fewer moderate and liberal Republicans agree (55%). The differences are much smaller on the Democratic side. Independents are more likely to view the Democratic Party than the Republican Party as governing honestly and ethically (by 33% to 19%), but a third of independents (32%) say that description does not apply to either party.
In addition, fewer Republicans than Democrats believe their party could do a better job of reforming the government in Washington, DC; 69% of Republicans say the GOP could do better in this regard, compared with 82% of Democrats who point to their party as being better able to reform the government. Independents by roughly two-to-one (40%-19%) point to the Democratic Party as better able to reform government.
About six-in-ten Americans (62%) agree with the statement – “I am tired of all the problems associated with the Bush administration.” In comparison, somewhat more Americans expressed that sentiment during the latter part of the Clinton administration (71% in August 1999, 72% in September 2000).
As expected, there is a huge partisan gap in feelings of “Bush fatigue.” Large majorities of Democrats (82%) and independents (69%) express weariness with the administration’s problems, compared with just a third of Republicans.
Only about one-in-five Americans (21%) say they wish that Bush could run for a third presidential term, which is lower than the percentage expressing that sentiment about Clinton late in his second term. In this regard, by roughly three-to-one (70%-23%) the public says it wants the next president to offer policies and programs that are different from Bush’s, instead of offering similar policies.
This view has changed little since October and presents a striking contrast with the latter stages of Clinton’s presidency, when there was considerable support for the next president to adopt similar policies and programs.
Even among Republicans there is a fair amount of support for the next president to pursue policies that are different from the Bush administration’s.
Nearly half of moderate and liberal Republicans (48%) and about a third of conservative Republicans (31%) say they want the next president to offer different policies. Overwhelming numbers of independents (81%) and conservative and moderate Democrats (91%), as well as virtually all liberal Democrats (98%), want the next president to set a new policy course.
Rice Still Popular, Cheney Slips
The public takes a mixed view of leading Bush administration officials. About seven-in-ten (69%) express a favorable opinion of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, based on those familiar enough with Rice to give a rating. In contrast, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s positive rating stands below 50% (at 45%); Rumsfeld’s favorability has remained fairly stable over the past year, but is well below his peak of 76%, in April 2003 during the first month of the Iraq war.
Vice President Dick Cheney’s favorable ratings have been steadily declining over the past year. Six months ago, Americans were divided in their view of the vice president (48% favorable, 52% unfavorable). Today, six-in-ten Americans have an unfavorable view of Cheney, and nearly a third (32%) have a “very unfavorable” opinion of him. Just six months ago, a quarter of the public who could rate him felt this way.
Rep. Tom DeLay, who recently announced his retirement from Congress, is far more visible today than six months ago, and has won both supporters and detractors since then. Nearly a quarter of the general public (23%) has a favorable view of him, up from 18% in October 2005. But DeLay’s unfavorable rating also has risen, from 40% to 49% during this period. Among those who can rate him, however, his 69% unfavorable rating remains unchanged from a half year ago.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s favorable rating ranks highest among Republicans tested (84%), and has inched upward from six months ago (79%). Arizona Sen. John McCain’s standing is down from 74% favorable in October to 68% today, while his unfavorable rating has risen from 26% to 32%. Other Republicans, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Virginia Sen. George Allen, are not familiar to many Americans and receive mixed ratings from those who know them.
Rating Potential Candidates
Giuliani, Rice and McCain are broadly popular among Republican voters, but also are viewed favorably by majorities of independent and Democratic voters. More than nine-in-ten Republican voters (94%) have a positive opinion of Giuliani, among those familiar enough to rate him; about eight-in-ten Democratic voters (80%) and independent voters (77%) also express favorable opinions of the former New York mayor.
Rice also draws overwhelmingly favorable ratings from Republican voters (93%), but also from majorities of registered independents (58%) and Democrats (55%). McCain has a lower positive rating among Republicans (70%), but gets much higher marks among independents (68%) and Democrats (66%). However, McCain’s ratings among independent and Democratic voters have declined since October (by 12 and 10 points, respectively).
Frist fares well among Republican voters (71%), but receives a positive rating from only about third of independents (32%) and Democrats (31%) familiar enough with the Senate leader to rate him. Allen gets an identical positive rating among Republicans (71%), but is not familiar to enough Democrats and independents to produce a reliable est
imate of favorability.
In contrast to major Republican figures, no leading Democrat attracts favorable ratings from a majority of Republicans. More than eight-in-ten Democratic voters (83%) and 56% of independents express a positive opinion of Sen. Hillary Clinton, but just 20% of Republicans agree. A similar pattern is evident in views of Sen. John Kerry. Former Sen. John Edwards and Sen. Joe Biden have greater crossover appeal; more than six-in-ten independents (63%) and nearly half of Republicans (45%) view Edwards favorably, while Biden gets comparable ratings.
Who Leads the Democrats?
Hillary Clinton continues to be named more often than anyone else as the leader of the Democratic Party these days, though the plurality response offered by three-in-ten Americans is that “nobody” leads the party. Roughly half as many (16%) name Sen. Clinton, followed by 7% who name Sen. Ted Kennedy and 4% who name former President Bill Clinton.
By comparison, the party’s official leaders are rarely mentioned by Americans. Just 1% each cite Sen. Harry Reid or Rep. Nancy Pelosi as the party’s overall leader, and 3% name Democratic Party Chair Howard Dean as the party’s leader. Republicans, Democrats and independents give similar answers to this question.
Iraq Interest, Awareness High
Now in its fourth year, the war in Iraq continues to engage the American public. News about the situation in Iraq was the month’s most closely followed story; 43% paid very close attention to news about Iraq, which is unchanged from recent months.
Most Americans are aware of the U.S. casualty toll in Iraq; 53% correctly answered that around 2,500 U.S. soldiers have been killed in the conflict. Awareness of the casualty level varies considerably by gender and age, with men over age 50 (71%) particularly likely to know the correct figure. College graduates (60%) are also more likely to respond accurately.
Roughly four-in-ten (37%) say the people they know are becoming less emotionally involved in Iraq news than they once were, but that is down somewhat from June 2005 (44%). A solid majority (59%) says the people they know are about as emotionally involved (38%) or more involved (21%) in Iraq news than they were (up from 51% last June).
Democrats, in particular, say the people they know are becoming more engaged by news about the war. Roughly a quarter of Democrats say that now (27%), compared with 17% last June. By contrast, 13% of Republicans say the people they know are more emotionally involved in Iraq news, no change from last June.
The public’s divisions over the war continue to be reflected in perceptions of press coverage of the conflict. About four-in-ten (37%) think that news reports are making the situation in Iraq seem worse than it really is, while 17% believe the news is making the situation seem better than it is, and 35% say reports are accurately reflecting the reality in Iraq. Opinion on this issue shows little change from December 2005, when 39% said news reports were making things seem worse, 19% said they were making the situation seem better, and 35% said reports were accurate.
Most Republicans (61%) feel that news reports present an excessively negative picture of events in Iraq, while half of Democrats say the reports are generally accurate. About a third of independents (34%) say news coverage of Iraq is making things seem worse than they really are, while about the same number (32%) believes reports are mostly accurate.
Opinions on Iraq Largely Unchanged
Overall public opinion about the war remains relatively stable. Roughly half of Americans (47%) believe the war was the right decision and the same number (47%) believes that the military effort is going very well (13%) or fairly well (34%). Attitudes on both of these measures have changed little since the start of the year.
A solid majority of Americans (59%) believes the U.S. is “losing ground” in its efforts to prevent a civil war in Iraq, though that is less than in March (66%), after the bombing of a major Shiite mosque in Samarra triggered sectarian violence. The percentage of Americans who believe the U.S. is losing ground in defeating the insurgents (46%) has also decreased slightly since March (51%). Other perceptions of progress in Iraq remain largely unchanged from March.
The public is evenly divided over whether to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq; 48% say the U.S. should bring its troops home as soon as possible, while an identical number (48%) says it should keep its troops in Iraq until the situation has stabilized. This is a slight change from last month, when 50% preferred to bring the troops home as soon as possible, and 44% said to keep troops there until the situation was stable.
By a 53%-40% margin, the public continues to favor a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. There is a significant gender gap on this issue, as 62% of women favor a timetable, compared to only 44% of men. There are sharp partisan differences as well, with two-thirds (67%) of Democrats supporting a timetable, compared with 55% of independents and 38% of Republicans.
A plurality of Americans (37%) believe the war in Iraq has increased the chances of terrorist attacks in the U.S., down somewhat from July 2005 (45%), in a survey conducted shortly after the July 7 bombings in London. Roughly a quarter (27%) currently thinks the war has lessened the chances of a terrorist strike, and 33% say it has made no difference.
Iraq Another Vietnam?
Americans are divided over whether the war in Iraq will ultimately resemble the American experience in Vietnam; 41% say Iraq will turn out to be another Vietnam, while 43% say the U.S. will accomplish its goals there. The public has grown more pessimistic in this view since September of last year, when 39% said Iraq would be another Vietnam and 48% believed the U.S. would accomplish its objectives.
As is the case with nearly every issue related to Iraq, there is a sizable partisan divide in views of whether the U.S. military operation in Iraq will end up as another Vietnam. Republicans by greater than four-to-one (73%-15%) say the U.S. will accomplish its goals in Iraq, while Democrats by 62%-24% believe that Iraq will become another Vietnam.
However, there is one issue concerning Iraq on which there is widespread agreement: overwhelmingly, Americans agree (78%) that the people of Iraq will be better off in the long run because Saddam Hussein has been removed from power. This is down slightly from 84% in February 2004, but the belief that Iraqis will be better off remains high across the board, including 94% of Republicans, 74% of independents, and 69% of Democrats.
Bush Faulted on Leak Case
About a third of Americans (32%) say they have heard a lot about news reports that President Bush may have authorized his staff to leak pre-war intelligence about Iraq to undermine war critics; another 46% say they have heard a little about the case.
Among those who have heard at least a little about the leak reports, 57% believe President Bush acted improperly, while 34% disagree. Large majorities of Democrats (82%) and independents (67%) feel Bush acted improperly; two-thirds of Republicans (67%) say he did nothing wrong.
Strong Interest in Immigration
The massive immigration protests in several U.S. cities and the congressional debate over immigration have raised the issue’s profile with the public. About four-in-ten Americans (39%) say they have been following the immigration issue very closely. Among news stories tested, only Iraq drew slightly more public interest (43% very closely).
Public opinion toward immigration policy continues to divide the public, though the partisan differences are smaller than on Iraq and other issues. A solid majority (58%) favors a proposal to allow undocumented immigrants who have been in the U.S. for several years to gain legal working status and the possibility of future citizenship.
More divisive is a proposal to make it a criminal offense to assist an undocumented immigrant to remain in the U.S.; 45% favor such a proposal, while 47% are opposed. There is more partisanship on this issue than on whether illegal immigrants should be provided a path to citizenship. A majority of Republicans (57%) favor making it a crime to assist an undocumented immigrant to stay in the U.S., while just 36% of Democrats agree.
By 43%-27%, more Americans say the Democratic Party can better handle immigration. Roughly one-in-seven Republicans (15%) believe Democrats can do a better job on this issue, compared with 7% of Democrats who favor the GOP on immigration. Independents by 37%-21% think the Democratic Party can better handle immigration.