January 18, 2018

Public Sees Better Year Ahead; Democrats Sharpen Focus on Midterm Elections

3. Outlook for 2018, views of political compromise

The public’s expectations for 2018 are much more positive than they were for 2017. But as been the case for more than a decade, the outlook for the year ahead is divided along partisan lines.

Overall, 61% of the public thinks 2018 will be a better year than 2017; last January, 49% said 2017 would be a better year than 2016.

About twice as many Republicans and Republican-leaning independents as Democrats and Democratic leaners expect this year to be better than last year (88% vs. 42%). Still, the partisan gap was even wider last year, following the 2016 election; 83% of Republicans expected a better year in 2017, compared with just 24%of Democrats.

Among the 61% majority of Americans who expect a better year in 2018, 25% cite the economy and job situation as a reason they feel this way, while 18% describe a general sense of optimism. Many also mention political considerations: 15% say Trump is a reason they expect a better year in 2018, and 7% mention the upcoming midterm elections.

Republicans and Democrats who expect a better year ahead offer very different reasons for their views. Among Republicans and Republican leaners, 36% cite the economy and jobs, while 23% say Trump is a reason they think 2018 will be better than 2017.

Few Democrats and Democratic leaners say the economy (6%) or Trump (4%) are reasons they are optimistic about the year ahead. Instead, 26% of Democrats describe general optimism about the new year, and 18% say they think 2018 will be better than 2017 because of the midterm elections this fall. Fewer than 1% of Republicans cite the midterms as a reason they expect a better year in 2018.

About three-in-ten overall (29%) take a dim view of the new year, expecting it to be worse than 2017. Overall, 44% of Democrats expect 2018 to be worse than 2017; by contrast, very few Republicans say this (6%).

Among those who expect a worse year in 2018, an overwhelmingly Democratic group, Trump is the most frequently cited reason they feel this way. Almost half (46%) of those who expect a worse year in 2018 say Trump is a reason for this view. Far smaller shares cite other factors, such as the economy, debt and taxes (11%) or the Republican Party’s agenda (also 11%) as to why they think 2018 will be worse than 2017.

Should Trump and Democratic leadership work together in 2018?

Two-thirds of the public (66%) say Donald Trump should work with Democratic leaders to accomplish things this year, even if it means disappointing some groups of Republican supporters; 22% say he should stand up to Democrats on issues that are important to Republican supporters, even if it means less gets done in Washington.

About half of Americans (53%) say Democratic leaders should work with Trump, even if it means disappointing Democratic supporters, while 39% say they should stand up to Trump on issues important to Democrats, even if it means less gets done in Washington.

In November 2016, the pattern of opinion was similar among those who had voted in the presidential election.

Republicans and Republican leaners are roughly split over whether Trump should work with or stand up to Democrats this year. About half (49%) say he should work with Democrats to get things done while 40% say he should stand up to Democrats on issues important to Republicans. About eight-in-ten Democrats and Democratic leaners (81%) say he should work with Democrats.

About twice as many Democrats say that Democratic leaders in Washington should stand up to Trump on issues important to Democrats, than say they should work with Trump to get things done (63% vs. 30%). An overwhelming majority of Republicans (86%) say Democratic leaders should work with Trump to get things done.