Partisanship and Political Animosity in 2016
7. Partisan views of 2016 candidates, Barack and Michelle Obama, views of the election
Republicans and Democrats feel much more negatively toward the other’s party’s presumptive presidential nominees than they do toward members of the opposing party. (The surveys were conducted from early March through early May, before Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump effectively secured their party’s nominations.)
Republicans’ views of Clinton – and Democrats’ views of Trump – are extraordinarily negative. Republicans give Clinton a mean, or average, rating of just 12 on a “feeling thermometer” ranging from 0 to 100 (where 0 is coldest, 100 warmest). About three-quarters of Republicans (76%) give Clinton a very cold thermometer rating (lower than 25), including 59% who give Clinton a rating of zero.
The average rating for Trump among Democrats is 11. Fully 82% of Democrats give him a very cold rating, with 68% giving him a rating of zero on the 0-100 scale.
Republicans give Democrats an average thermometer rating of 29 – more than double the average rating they give Clinton (12). Nearly half of Republicans (46%) give Democrats a very cold rating, 30 percentage points less than the 76% who give Clinton a very cold rating.
The average rating Democrats give Republicans is 31, far higher than their average rating for Trump (11). And 41% of Democrats give Republicans a very cold rating, half the share that feels very coldly toward Trump (82%).
Democrats’ average thermometer rating for Clinton is 76, which is on par with the rating Democrats give their fellow partisans. But among Republicans, their average rating for Trump (60) is lower than their average rating for Republicans (68).
Political engagement and ratings of Clinton and Trump
Politically engaged Republicans express more negative views of Clinton than do those who are less politically engaged. By contrast, Democrats’ views of Trump vary little by political engagement.
Nearly nine-in-ten highly politically engaged Republicans (89%) – those who vote regularly and either volunteer or contribute to campaigns – give Clinton very cold thermometer ratings. That compares with 69% of those who are largely disengaged politically (those who do not vote regularly or are not registered to vote).
Among Democrats, views of Trump are consistent across levels of political engagement. Fully 88% of highly engaged Democrats give him a very cold rating, as do 83% of those who not politically engaged.
On the other hand, highly engaged Democrats are more likely than those with lower levels of engagement to give Clinton warm ratings. Among Republicans, views of Trump differ little by levels of political engagement.
Though Clinton is viewed more warmly by Democrats than Trump is by Republicans overall, the contrast is even more pronounced among partisans who are highly politically engaged: While 66% of highly engaged Democrats rate Clinton very warmly (and 85% rate her at least somewhat warmly), just 37% of highly engaged Republicans rate Trump warmly (64% rate him at least somewhat warmly).
Partisanship and feelings about the election
Party affiliation – and leaning – is strongly associated with intention to vote in presidential elections. Nearly all partisans, and in excess of 85% of partisan leaners, say they will definitely or probably vote for the candidate of the party they affiliate with or lean to, regardless of who the candidates are. (These surveys were conducted before Trump and Clinton effectively secured their party’s nominations.)
But those who feel more negatively about the opposing party (and more warmly toward their own) are more certain about their choice in November.
About three-quarters of Republicans who feel very coldly toward Democrats (76%) and almost nine-in-ten Democrats who feel very coldly toward Republicans (88%) say they will definitely remain loyal to their party’s nominee.
Those who feel less coldly toward the opposing party are less definitive in their intentions and more likely to say they will “probably” vote for the party’s nominee. Independent voters, even those who lean toward a party, are less likely than partisans to say they will “definitely” vote for a party’s candidate, though nearly all say they probably or definitely will. But, as with partisans, feelings toward members of the other party are linked to certainty among these voters.
Republican leaners with very cold feelings for Democrats are 26 points more certain they will support the Republican candidate than those who are neutral or warm (47% vs. 21%). Among Democratic-leaning independents, those with very cold feelings (44%) and somewhat cold feelings (46%) are more likely to say they will definitely support the Democrat than those who are not cold toward Republicans (28%).
Similarly, partisans with highly negative views of the other party are more likely than those who feel less negatively to say that it really matters who wins this fall’s presidential election.
Overall, two-thirds of both Republicans and Democrats (67%) say it really matters who wins the election. But among Republicans who give Democrats a very cold rating on the feeling thermometer, 74% say it really matters who wins the general election. This group of Republicans is more likely than those with a neutral or warm sentiment toward members of the other party to say it really matters (74% vs. 60%).
Likewise, Republicans who give members of their own party a very warm rating are more likely than those who are neutral or cold to Republicans to say it really matters who wins (73% vs. 60%).
The differences are similar among Democrats. Among all Democrats, 66% say the outcome of the election really matters. Among those who rate Republicans very coldly on the scale, 78% express this view. Fewer of those who are somewhat cold to Republicans (63%) and those who are neutral or warm toward members of the other party (54%) say the same.
And while just over half of Democrats with a neutral or cold rating (55%) or a somewhat warm rating (58%) toward Democrats say it really matters who wins, fully 74% of Democrats who rate members of their own party warmly say this.
Deeply polarized views of Barack and Michelle Obama
Republicans feel extremely negatively toward Barack Obama, but a majority also gives “very cold” thermometer ratings to Michelle Obama.
Fully 81% of Republicans feel very coldly toward Barack Obama, including 59% who give him a zero on the 0-100 scale; 5% rate him neutrally (50), while just 5% give him a warm rating.
Nearly six-in-ten Republicans (59%) give very cold ratings to Michelle Obama; 40% of Republicans give her a zero. About two-in-ten (21%) give her a neutral rating of 50; only 8% rate her warmly.
Republican views of Barack Obama do not vary substantially by political engagement, though the most politically engaged Republicans are 19 percentage points more likely than the less engaged to give Michelle Obama a cold rating (85% vs. 66%).
Democrats have highly positive views of both Barack and Michelle Obama. Fully 68% rate Barack Obama very warmly (a rating of 76 or more on the 100-points scale), while 67% give the same rating to Michelle Obama. Just 7% of Democrats give either of the Obamas cold ratings.