March 3, 2011

Fewer Are Angry at Government, But Discontent Remains High

Section 2: Views of Political Leaders and Compromise

In the new survey, Barack Obama’s job approval stands at 51%; 39% disapprove of the way Obama is handling his job as president. That is little changed from early February (49% approve vs. 42% disapprove). Nonetheless, the balance of opinion regarding Obama’s job performance remains more positive than it was in the fall, when about as many disapproved as approved.

Obama’s job ratings are much higher than those of either GOP congressional leaders or Democratic congressional leaders. Slightly more than a third (36%) say they approve of the GOP leaders’ job performance while 45% disapprove. Ratings for Democratic leaders are comparable (33% approve, 48% disapprove).

Approval of Republican leaders rose sharply between October and November, shortly after the GOP’s election victory. In early November, 41% approved of Republican leaders’ job performance, up 17 points from just a month earlier. Their job ratings have changed little since November. Job ratings for Democratic leaders have been stable in recent months, but are far lower than they were in February 2009 (48% approve), shortly after Obama took office.

Opinions about the political parties also have shown little change recently. Currently, 42% say they have a favorable opinion of the Republican Party; 51% have an unfavorable opinion. About as many say they have a favorable opinion (48%) of the Democratic Party as an unfavorable one (45%). (For recent trends in party favorability, see Pew Research’s Feb. 10 report).

Disagreements over Value of Political Compromise

A majority of the public (53%) says they like elected officials who stick to their positions rather than elected officials who make compromises with people they disagree with (40%). That is little changed from last fall.

By about a two-to one margin Republicans prefer elected officials who stick to their positions (63%) over elected officials who compromise with people they disagree with (32%).

Republicans are divided along ideological lines in opinions about compromise: Just a quarter of conservatives (25%) like elected officials to compromise, compared with 47% of moderate and liberal Republicans. There are similar divisions between Republicans and Republican leaners who agree with the Tea Party (20% prefer compromise) and those who do not (39%).

Democrats also are divided; overall, 46% favor elected officials who make compromises while 48% like elected officials who stick to their positions. Nearly six-in-ten liberal Democrats (57%) prefer elected officials who compromise, compared with 41% of conservative and moderate Democrats.

Views of independents overall largely mirror those of the general public’s. But far more Republican-leaning independents than Democratic-leaning independents say they like elected officials who stick to their positions (64% vs. 48%).