November 11, 2010

Mixed Reactions to Republican Midterm Win

Section 2: Views of the Parties, Prospects for Compromise

In the wake of the election, Republicans are taking a more positive view of the job their party is doing in advocating its traditional positions. Currently, 40% of Republicans and Republican leaners say the GOP is doing an excellent or good job standing up for its traditional positions on issues like reducing the size of government, cutting taxes and promoting conservative social values; still, 52% say they are doing only a fair or poor job. In April 2009, just 21% of Republicans viewed the party’s performance positively, while 77% said it was doing only fair or poor.

Democrats, by contrast, offer somewhat less positive evaluations of their party’s performance than they did last year or earlier this year. Still, more Democrats (48%) than Republicans (40%) say their party does an excellent or good job advocating for its traditional positions. In April 2009 and February of this year, 55% of Democrats and Democratic leaners said the party was doing an excellent or good job standing up for traditional positions on such things as protecting the interests of minorities, helping the poor and needy, and representing working people.

Republicans Favor More Conservative Direction

When asked about the ideological direction of their party, Republicans want to see their party’s leaders move to the right, while Democrats think their leaders should become more moderate. A majority (56%) of Republicans and those who lean Republican would like the GOP leaders in Washington to move in a more conservative direction, while 38%would prefer a more moderate direction for the party.

By comparison, 34% of Democrats and those who lean to the Democratic Party want to see their party’s leaders move in a more liberal direction, while 54% favor a more moderate direction. Opinion among Republicans and Democrats has changed little since 2008.

These views are partly driven by the ideological composition of each party. Conservatives make up a far larger portion of the Republican Party’s supporters than liberals do of the Democratic Party (For more, see Voters Rate the Parties’ Ideologies, July 16, 2010).

However, there also continue to be substantial differences in the views of conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats regarding their parties’ ideological directions. Roughly three-quarters (76%) of Republicans and GOP leaners who describe their views as conservative want the party’s leaders to move in a more conservative direction. Liberal Democrats are more closely divided: 50% of liberal Democrats and Democratic leaners want their party’s leaders to move in a more liberal direction, while 41% favor a more moderate course. By contrast, comparable percentages of moderate and liberal Republicans (70%) and conservative and moderate Democrats (64%) favor a more moderate course for their parties.

Compromise a Divisive Goal

The public is divided about the value of political compromise. While 42% say that they most admire political leaders who make compromises, 45% say they most admire political leaders who stick to their positions without compromising.

There are partisan differences in views about whether political leaders should compromise. A majority of Republicans say they most admire politicians who stick to their positions, rather than make compromises (55% vs. 33%). These opinions are little changed from September.

Democrats are now evenly divided – 46% prefer political leaders who make compromises while 45% prefer leaders who stick to their positions. In September, more favored politicians who compromise over those who stick to their positions (by 54% to 39%).

About half (49%) of independents admire political leaders who make compromises with people they disagree with, while 40% admire politicians who stick to their positions without compromising. Two months ago, a majority of independents (53%) said they preferred politicians who stick to their positions over those who compromise (40%).

A majority of the public wants Republican leaders and Barack Obama to work together next year. More than half (55%) say Republican leaders in Washington should try as best they can to work with Barack Obama to accomplish things, even if it means disappointing some groups of Republican supporters, while 38% say they should stand up to Obama on issues that are important to Republican supporters, even if less gets done in Washi
ngton.

There is even more public support for Barack Obama to work with Republican leaders next year. By a 62% to 27% margin more would like to see Barack Obama work with Republican leaders in Washington, even if it means disappointing some Democratic supporters, than stand up to Republicans on issues that are important to Democrats. Independents, in particular, would like to see both sides working together: 57% say Republican leaders should try to work with Obama and 59% want Obama to try as best he can to work with Republican leaders.

Among Republicans, there is a clear preference for holding steadfast to their positions; 71% think their leaders should stand up to Obama even if less gets done. And 89% say Barack Obama should work with GOP leaders, even if it means disappointing some groups of Democratic supporters.

But Democrats are divided; 46% say Obama should work with Republican leaders while 43% say he should stand up to them. About three-quarters (77%) think Republicans should work with Obama, even if it means disappointing some GOP supporters.

The Tea Party and GOP’s Future

Republicans and Republican leaners who agree with the Tea Party movement are more likely than other Republicans to support a more conservative direction for the GOP, to admire politicians who stick to their positions, and to say that Republican leaders should stand up to Obama.

About seven-in-ten (71%) Tea Party Republicans would like to see GOP leaders move in a more conservative direction, compared with 40% of Republicans who disagree with the movement or have no opinion of it. There was a similar pattern in June with Tea Party Republicans more likely to prefer Republican leaders move to the right.

More Republicans who agree with the Tea Party also say they admire political leaders who stick to their positions rather than compromise. Similarly, 69% of Tea Party Republicans say GOP leaders should stand up to Obama, even if it means less gets done in Washington. This compares with a smaller majority (55%) of Republicans who disagree with the Tea Party or have no opinion of the movement.

There is no difference in the views of the GOP’s advocacy for its traditional positions among Republicans who agree with the Tea Party and those who do not. Slightly more than half in each group says GOP leaders are doing only fair or poor n standing up for the party’s traditional positions

Is Tea Party Separate from the Republican Party?

Overall, more people view the Tea Party movement as a separate movement from the Republican Party (47%), rather than as part of the Republican Party (38%); 16% are unsure.

A majority of Republicans (54%) say the Tea Party is separate and independent, while 36% say it is part of the Republican Party. By a 55% to 32% margin, more independents also see the Tea Party movement as separate and independent rather than part of the Republican Party. But more Democrats say it is part of the Republican Party (48%) than say it is a separate and independent movement (33%).

About six-in-ten (59%) of those who agree with the Tea Party movement say it is a separate and independent movement. A comparable percentage of those who disagree with the movement (61%) say it is part of the Republican Party.

The public expresses mixed views about whether the Republican Party is paying too much, too little or the right amount of attention to the ideas and positions of the Tea Party. A quarter (25%) says the GOP is paying the right amount of attention, 22% say too much and 28% too little.

About as many Republicans say their party is paying the right amount of attention (39%) to the Tea Party as say it is paying too little attention (31%); only 11% say too much. By contrast, more Democrats say the GOP is paying too much attention to the Tea Party’s ideas and positions (34%), than say too little (23%) or the right amount of attention (16%). More independents say too little attention is being paid to the Tea Party rather than too much (31% vs. 21%); 23% say the GOP is paying the right amount of attention.

Among those who agree with the Tea Party, 45% say the GOP is paying the movement too little attention, while 37% say its ideas and positions are getting the right amount of attention. About half (51%) of those who disagree with the movement say Republicans are paying too much attention to the ideas and positions of the Tea Party.

As has been the case all year, there are substantial partisan and ideological differences in views of the Tea Party. About half of Republicans (52%) agree with the movement, while few disagree. Fully 64% of conservative Republicans agree with the Tea Party movement, compared with just 28% of their moderate and liberal counterparts.

By a wide margin, more Democrats disagree with than agree with the Tea Party movement (43% vs. 5%); about half of Democrats (52%) have no opinion of the Tea Party movement or offer no response. Among liberal Democrats, 57% disagree with the Tea Party while just 4% agree.

Cite this publication: “Mixed Reactions to Republican Midterm Win.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (November 11, 2010) http://www.people-press.org/2010/11/11/mixed-reactions-to-republican-midterm-win/, accessed on July 23, 2014.