October 27, 2016

As Election Nears, Voters Divided Over Democracy and ‘Respect’

6. Views of domestic issues: race, immigration, health care, abortion, Supreme Court

The issue of race has been a flashpoint in the 2016 presidential campaign and Clinton and Trump supporters are divided over whether the country pays too much – or not enough – attention to racial issues these days.

Overall, 39% of registered voters say too much attention is paid to racial issues, while an almost equal share (41%) says too little attention is paid to these issues. Just 18% say that about the right amount of attention is paid to racial issues.

Nearly two-thirds of Trump backers (65%) say too much attention is paid to racial issues in this country, while only 18% say these issues get too little attention. Among Clinton supporters, views are the reverse:  59% say too little attention is given to issues of race, compared with just 18%who say too much attention is paid to this topic.

By 66% to 17%, blacks are more likely to say there is not enough than too much attention paid to issues of race in this country. Among whites, 43% say racial issues get too much attention, while 35% say these issues get too little attention (20% say they get about the right amount of attention).

About half (52%) of Hispanics say there is too little attention paid to racial issues, compared with 30% who say too much attention is paid to these issues.

There are significant differences among whites on this question depending on which candidate they support in the upcoming election. A majority of white voters who support Clinton (57%) say there is not enough attention paid to racial issues. Among whites who back Trump, nearly two-thirds (65%) say there is too much attention paid to these issues.

On immigration, most back path to legal status

Nearly all Clinton supporters (95%) say there should be a way for undocumented immigrants currently in the country to stay here legally, if certain requirements are met. A smaller majority of Trump supporters (60%) also holds this view. There is somewhat more agreement between the two groups of supporters on this aspect of the immigration debate than on some others, including views on building a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico.

Voters who say undocumented immigrants should not be allowed to stay in the country legally were asked a follow-up question about deportation.

Nearly four-in-ten Trump supporters (37%) believe undocumented immigrants should not be permitted to stay in the country, and the vast majority of these (32% of Trump supporters overall) say there should be a national law enforcement effort to deport the immigrants now in the country illegally. By comparison, only 1% of Clinton backers overall say there should be a national deportation effort.

Republicans are internally divided on the approach the country should take with undocumented immigrants. About as many Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who supported Trump in the primary say undocumented immigrants should not be allowed to stay in the country legally (48%) as say they should be allowed to stay if they meet certain requirements (49%). By contrast, a large majority (77%) of Republicans who supported one of the other candidates in the Republican primary support a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants currently in the country.

Most voters say abortion should be legal in most cases

Clinton and Trump supporters take opposing views on the issue of abortion. A wide 82%-majority of those who support Clinton believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases; only 16% say it should be illegal in all or most cases. More Trump supporters say abortion should be illegal (60%) than legal (36%), though views are somewhat less one-sided than among Clinton supporters.

As in the past, there is no gender gap in views of abortion: Most men and (60%) and women (62%) think abortion should be legal in all or most cases. And there are no significant gender differences among supporters of the two candidates. Eight-in-ten or more Clinton supporters, regardless of gender, say abortion should be legal; about six-in-ten Trump backers of both genders say abortion should be illegal.

Little change in views on the health care law

More than six years after its passage, the Affordable Care Act remains a divisive issue for voters. Currently, more registered voters say they disapprove (53%) than approve (45%) of the 2010 health care law.

Clinton supporters overwhelmingly approve of the health care law (82% approve, 15% disapprove). When asked what, if anything, should be done with the law now, a large majority (69%) favors Congress taking steps to expand the law. Two-in-ten say Congress should leave the law as it is, while few (8%) say the law should be repealed.

Trump supporters, by contrast, are nearly unanimous in their opposition to the ACA: 94% disapprove of the health care law and nearly nine-in-ten (88%) say they want Congress to repeal the law.

For more on public attitudes on the health care law, and how they have changed over time, see Pew Research Center’s Fact Tank blog.

Views on the Supreme Court and ‘constitutional originalism’

When it comes to how the Supreme Court should interpret the Constitution, voters are divided: 48% say the Court should base its decisions on its understanding of what the Constitution “meant as it was originally written,” while about as many (47%) say decisions should be made on what the Constitution “means in current times.”

Nearly three-quarters of Clinton supporters (74%) say the Supreme Court should base its rulings on an understanding of what the Constitution means in current times, while 22% say that justices should base their decisions on what the Constitution meant as it was originally written.

Most Trump backers (80%) believe that the Supreme Court should decide cases based on an originalist interpretation of the Constitution. Only 15% say the Court should base its decisions on an interpretation of what the Constitution means in current times.

Opinions about increasing taxes on higher-income households

On the issue of tax rates for higher-income earners, a plurality of voters (42%) believe that tax rates on household incomes over $250,000 should be increased. About a third (33%) say these rates should be kept the same as they are now and just 19% think tax rates on household income over $250,000 should be lowered.

About six-in-ten Clinton backers (59%) say tax rates on those who earn more than $250,000 should be increased, compared with 26% who say they should stay the same and 11% who think they should be lowered.

A greater share of Trump supporters (40%) say tax rates on household income over $250,000 should be kept the same as they are now than either support lowering (29%) or raising (24%) these rates.

No shift in anger, frustration with the federal government

Voters’ feelings about the federal government are little changed over the last several years. Today, 21% of registered voters say they are angry with the federal government, while 57% say they are frustrated and 20% say they are basically content.

Though few voters express contentment with the federal government, anger toward it is no higher among voters today than it has been since February 2014; and it remains lower than it was during the October 2013 (32%) federal government shutdown.

Feelings about government remain highly partisan, with GOP voters more likely than Democrats to express anger at government, and  the divide is little changed in recent months.

Similarly, feelings about government distinguish Clinton and Trump supporters. Overall, nearly four-in-ten Trump backers (38%) say they feel angry about the federal government, while 58% say it makes them feel frustrated and just 2% feel content about the federal government. Among Clinton supporters, just 6% express anger about government while 53% say they are frustrated, and nearly four-in-ten (38%) are content.

These divides are even more pronounced by strength of support for the two candidates: Fully 51% of Trump’s strong supporters say they are angry at government (compared with 22% of those who back him less strongly). Among Clinton supporters, those who back her strongly are more likely to say they are content with government (44%) than those who do not back her strongly (31%).

Views of personal finances among Clinton and Trump supporters

While Clinton and Trump supporters hold opposing views on a range of policies and issues, their assessments of the current state of their personal finances are almost identical. Among Clinton supporters, 55% say they are in either excellent or good shape financially, while 45% say they are in only fair or poor shape. Among those who support Trump, 52% describe their personal finances as excellent or good, compared with 47% who say their finances are only fair or poor.

Personal financial outlook reflects political divide

While current financial assessments among Trump and Clinton supporters are very similar, there is a wide gap in expectations for personal finances over the next year, with those who support Trump much more pessimistic than those who support Clinton.

Nearly three-quarters (73%) of Clinton supporters think their personal financial situation will improve a lot or some over the course of the next year, compared with just 10% who think their own situation will get a lot or a little worse (14% expect their finances to stay about the same).

By contrast, fewer than half of Trump supporters (45%) think their own finances will improve over the next year; 27% think they will get worse, and 15% expect them to stay about the same.

Attitudes among Trump supporters have become more negative over the past four months. In June, 61% of Trump supporters believed their situation would improve compared with 45% in the current survey. Clinton supporters are about as optimistic today that their personal financial situation will improve over the next year as they were in June (73%).

Clinton supporters are more optimistic than Trump supporters about their personal financial outlook across all levels of household income. For example, among those with family incomes of less than $30,000 a year, 69% of Clinton supporters expect their own finances to improve over the course of the next year, compared with just 47% of Trump supporters. Similarly, in households earning $75,000 a year or more, 76% of those who support Clinton – compared with 49% of those who support Trump – think their own financial situation will improve over the next year.