December 20, 2016

In Election’s Wake, Partisans Assess the State of Their Parties

2. Trump, Congress and prospects for bipartisanship

A large majority of the public wants the new president to work closely with members of the opposing party in Congress (76%), while just 22% say they want the new president to advance their own programs and not worry about working with the opposing party in Congress. Overall views on this question are about the same as they were in November and July, when the question was asked about the “next” president. But views among partisans have shifted somewhat in the wake of the presidential election. (For more on question wording, see the note at the end of this section.)

The share of Republicans who say the new president should not worry about working with the other party has increased by 12 percentage points since this question was asked in a survey in the days leading up to the election. Today 37% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say this, compared with 25% who said this just before the election. Nonetheless, most Republicans (62%) still favor cooperation with the opposing party.

Democrats and Democratic leaners are now even more likely to say the new president should work closely with the opposing party in Congress than they were prior to the election. In the current survey, 88% say this, up from 77% in early November.

While the public wants the new president to work with members of the opposing party in Congress, they are uncertain that this is likely to happen. Overall, 50% say it is either very (10%) or somewhat (41%) likely that Donald Trump will work with Democrats in Washington on important issues, while about as many (49%) say they think this is very (20%) or somewhat (29%) unlikely.

Most Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (73%) say Trump is at least somewhat likely to work with Democrats – though only 17% say this is very likely. By comparison, most Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are skeptical Trump will work with Democrats in Washington: 69% say this is either very (33%) or somewhat (36%) unlikely. Democratic skepticism has decreased since just before the election, when 79% said they thought Trump would be unlikely to work with Democrats, if elected.

The public is far more confident that Trump will be able to work with Republicans in Washington: 86% say this is very or fairly likely. Overall, 94% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say it is very or somewhat likely that Trump will work with Republicans; a somewhat smaller majority of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (80%) agree.

Before the election, Democrats were less likely to think Trump would work with Republicans if he were elected. At that time, only about half (52%) said it was very or somewhat likely Trump would work with members of his own party.

The public also has doubts that Democrats in Washington will work with Trump on important issues. About half (47%) say this is very or somewhat likely to happen, compared with 52% who say this is very or fairly unlikely.

Most Republicans (61%) think it is unlikely that Democrats in Washington will work with Trump; fewer (39%) say this is likely. By contrast, 56% of Democrats consider it likely that members of their party in Washington will work with Trump on important issues, while 44% say this is unlikely.

Among Republicans, differing views of bipartisan cooperation depending how question is asked

A random half of respondents to the current survey were asked whether the “next president” should work with the “opposing party in Congress,” a question that had been asked in surveys throughout the campaign.

The other half of respondents received a version of the same question that explicitly mentioned “Donald Trump” working with the “Democratic Party in Congress.” The overall results of the two questions are similar, with no significant differences in the shares who want to see “the next president” or “Trump” work closely with members of “the opposing party” or “the Democratic Party” and the shares who want the next president/Trump to advance their own programs and not worry about the opposing party/Democrats.

However, when given the wording with “Donald Trump” and the “Democratic Party in Congress,” 46% of Republicans say Trump should not worry about working with Democrats, a larger margin than the 37% who say this when the wording asks about the “new president” working with the “opposing party in Congress.” There are no significant differences in views among Democrats.