November 15, 2012

Low Marks for the 2012 Election

Section 2: Expectations for Washington, Obama’s Post-Election Image

Most voters want President Obama and Republican leaders in Congress to work together in the coming year. Two-thirds (67%) say that GOP leaders in Washington should try as best they can to work with Obama to accomplish things, even if it means disappointing some groups of Republican supporters. Just 26% say they should stand up to Obama on issues that are important to Republican supporters, even if it means less gets done in Washington.

Similarly, 72% say Barack Obama should work with Republican leaders, even if it means disappointing some Democrats; only 21% say he should stand up to GOP leaders on issues that are important to Democrats, even if it means less gets done in Washington. In both 2008 and 2010, a majority also wanted President Obama and Republican leaders to work together.

Support for compromise is most pronounced among independents – majorities of independents say that Obama should work with GOP leaders (74%) and that GOP leaders should work with Obama (64%). By contrast, Republicans and Democrats take a more one-sided approach to partisan cooperation. Large majorities want the opposition to work with their side; far fewer want the reverse.

While voters want to see compromise in Washington, 52% say they expect partisan relations to stay about the same in the coming year. Of those who expect change, more think that relations between Republicans and Democrats will get better (31%) than worse (14%).

These views are similar to 2008, although somewhat more voters expect partisan relations to stay the same (52% up from 42%). And there is more optimism than after the 2010 midterm election, when the Republicans won a majority in the House. After that election, 22% of voters said relations between Republicans and Democrats would get better and 28% said they would get worse; 48% said they would stay the same.

Democrats are more optimistic about improved partisan relations than are Republicans and independents. Nearly half (47%) of Democrats say that relations between Republicans and Democrats in Washington will get better, compared with just 16% of Republicans and 29% of independents.

However, Democrats are not as optimistic as they were in 2008, when 57% said relations between Republicans and Democrats would get better.

Most Republicans (60%) expect partisan relations in Washington to stay the same. Just 16% think relations between the parties will get better in the coming year while 21% think they will get worse. Republicans are not quite as negative as they were in 2008 when 31% thought partisan relations would get worse.

Half of independents foresee no change in the level of partisan conflict in the coming year. But, as in 2008, independents are more likely to say that things in Washington will get better than say they will get worse (29% vs. 18%).

Republicans continue to want the GOP to move in a more conservative direction: 60% say Republican leaders should move in a more conservative direction while just 31% want to see them move in a more moderate direction. Democrats, however, want their party to move in a more moderate – rather than a more liberal – direction by a 55% to 35% margin.

Although these views partly reflect the fact that conservatives make up a larger share of Republicans than liberals do of Democrats, this difference is evident even among the ideological wings of each party. Fully 70% of conservative Republicans want the GOP to move in a more conservative direction. Liberal Democrats are divided; 46% want the party to move in a more liberal direction while 45% prefer a more moderate move by the Democratic Party.

Most Say Obama’s Second Term Will be Successful

A majority of voters (56%) say that Obama will have a successful second term while 37% say his second term will be unsuccessful. Expectations are lower today than for his first term: In 2008, 67% thought he would be successful and just 22% said he would be unsuccessful. But these ratings are similar to those for George W. Bush’s and Bill Clinton’s second terms.

Republicans take a particularly negative view of Obama’s second term. Just 20% think he will be successful over the next four years, down from 41% in 2008. Republicans’ ratings are more negative than they were for Clinton’s second term, when 32% said he would be successful. And they are more negative than Democrats’ view of Bush’s second term; 30% thought Bush’s second term would be successful and 55% thought it would be unsuccessful.

A majority of independents think Obama’s second term will be successful (54% successful vs. 38% unsuccessful). But that is a smaller margin than in 2008 when 67% of independents thought Obama’s first term would be successful and only 20% said it would be unsuccessful. Independent views are similar to those for Bush’s and Clinton’s second terms.

Nearly all Democrats (91%) say Obama’s second term will be successful, which is little changed from 2008. These ratings are also similar to Democrats’ view of Clinton’s second term in 1996 and Republicans’ view of Bush’s second term in 2004.

How Does Obama Make You Feel?

Overall, Obama still elicits more positive than negative feelings among voters but these reactions are less positive than they were in 2008. A 54% majority says the president makes them feel hopeful, down from 69% in 2008. A similar percentage (53%) says Obama makes them feel proud, down 12 points from four years ago.

Currently, 41% say Obama makes them feel uneasy, up from 35% in 2008. And the percentage saying the president makes them feel angry has roughly doubled, from 9% four years ago to 21% today.

Fully 45% of Republicans say Obama makes them feel angry, up sharply from 17% in 2008. Feelings of unease with Obama also have increased among Republicans, from 68% in 2008 to 81% today. Just 10% of Republicans say Obama makes them feel hopeful and 13% say he makes them feel proud, which also are much lower than in 2008.

Independents, too, have grown more negative. About half say Obama makes them feel hopeful (51%) and proud (48%), down 17 and 12 points, respectively, from four years ago. And 19% say the president makes them feel angry, up from just 8% in 2008.

Democrats continue to have overwhelmingly positive reactions to the president. Nearly all Democrats say he makes them feel hopeful (95%) and proud (92%). Very few say he makes them feel uneasy (5%) or angry (1%). Democrats are as positive about Obama as they were in 2008.

Views of Election Outcomes

By a slim 52% to 45% margin more say they are happy than unhappy that Barack Obama was reelected president. This reaction is not as positive as in 2008 when more said they were happy than unhappy by a 58% to 35% margin. However, these views are on par with reactions to Bush’s reelection in 2004 and Clinton’s in 1996.

Voters also are more likely to say they are happy than unhappy that Democrats maintained control of the U.S. Senate and that Republicans maintained control of the U.S. House.

Independents express mixed views of Obama’s reelection; 49% are happy while 46% are unhappy. Independents seem happy about the prospect of a divided Congress; 54% are happy that Democrats maintained control of the Senate, while 53% say the same about the Republicans maintaining control of the House.

Views of the election outcomes are divided along partisan lines. Democrats are overwhelmingly happy that Obama won reelection (95%) and that Democrats maintained control of the Senate (97%). Among Republicans, 91% are unhappy that Obama won reelection and 84% are unhappy that Democrats maintained control of the Senate. By contrast, 93% of Republicans are happy that the GOP maintained control of the House while 78% of Democrats are unhappy.

Obama Voters ‘Relieved’; Romney Voters ‘Disappointed’

When voters are asked for a single word that describes their reaction to Obama’s victory, the top word among Obama voters is “relieved,” far more than expressed this in 2008. Far fewer say they are hopeful than did so four years ago (when that was the second most common reaction among Obama voters). Similar to 2008, a substantial number expressed their positive reaction with words like ‘”happy,” “excited” and “elated.”

Romney voters responded to Obama’s win much like McCain voters did in 2008. The overwhelming response among Republican voters in both elections was disappointment. Romney voters also said they were “disgusted,” “shocked,” “surprised,” “fearful” and “sad.”