Public Dissatisfaction With Washington Weighs on the GOP
3. Views of Congress
The public continues to hold negative views of Congress. Today, about six-in-ten (62%) say they have a very (24%) or mostly (38%) unfavorable opinion of Congress, compared with about a third (34%) who give a favorable rating.
Majorities of Republicans and Democrats alike have given Congress poor ratings in recent years, but the views among Republicans have grown more positive over the last year, following Trump’s election. Overall, 44% of Republicans and Republicans leaners have a favorable opinion of Congress, up from 31% last June.
By contrast, only about a quarter (27%) of Democrats and Democratic leaners express a positive view of Congress – down slightly from 32% last June — while 69% say they have an unfavorable view.
Ryan’s approval rating of 29% is lower than the approval ratings for John Boehner (36%), Nancy Pelosi (35%) and Newt Gingrich (43%), measured shortly after each of their terms as Speaker of the House began.
The share of the public that offers an opinion of Ryan’s job performance (83%) is greater than the shares that could assess Boehner’s performance in April 2011 (71%) or Pelosi’s performance in April 2007 (65%). In April 1995, about as many were able to rate the job Gingrich was doing as speaker (85%).
About half of Republicans and Republican leaners (51%) say they approve of the job Ryan is doing, while 31% say they disapprove. A greater share of Republicans currently disapprove of the job Ryan is doing than disapproved of Boehner in 2011 (19%) or Gingrich in 1995 (23%).
And while Democrats have consistently rated a Republican Speaker of the House more negatively than positively, attitudes toward Ryan are overwhelmingly negative. Fully three-quarters of Democrats disapprove of Ryan’s performance today; about half of Democrats said this of Boehner in 2011 (49%) and about six-in-ten (61%) disapproved of Gingrich in 1995.
Many say Trump and Hill Democrats are doing too little to work with opposition
About half of Americans (53%) say that the Trump administration is doing too little to work with congressional Democrats; just 7% say it has done too much, while 36% say the administration is doing about the right amount. And overall public views about how congressional Democrats are working with the Trump administration are nearly identical: 57% say they are doing too little to work with the Trump White House, only 5% say they are doing too much; 34% think they have done about the right amount.
On one level, Republicans and Democrats take similar views of efforts at cooperation with the political opposition: 84% of Democrats and Democratic leaners say the Trump administration is doing too little to work with congressional Democrats; an identical share of Republicans say Democrats are doing too little to work with the administration.
But for the most part, Republicans are not inclined to fault the Trump administration for doing too little to work with Democrats: 64% say the administration has handled this about right, while 20% say they have done too little (and 12% say they have done too much to work with Democrats).
Democrats are more critical of their party’s approach: 52% say congressional Democrats’ efforts to work with Trump have been about right, while 38% say they have done too little – almost double the share of Republicans who say the Trump administration has not done enough to work with Democrats in Congress. Only 6% of Democrats say congressional Democrats are doing too much to work with the administration.
Most Republicans say GOP lawmakers are not obliged to back Trump if they disagree with him
About four-in-ten Republicans and Republican leaners (43%) say that Republicans in Congress have an obligation to support Donald Trump’s politics and programs because he is a Republican president, while a narrow majority (55%) say they do not have such an obligation if they disagree with him.
Conservative Republicans are roughly evenly divided on this question. However, by roughly two-to-one (66% vs. 32%), more moderate and liberal Republicans say GOP members of Congress do not have an obligation to back Trump if they disagree with him.
Younger Republicans are more likely than older Republicans to say congressional Republicans do not have an obligation to back the president: Just 31% of Republicans and Republican leaners younger than 50 say there is an obligation to back Trump because he is a GOP president. By contrast, 49% of Republicans 50-64 say this, along with fully 61% of Republicans 65 and older.
Views of whether GOP representatives have an obligation to back Trump are not associated with opinion about the House Freedom Caucus.
Views of the Freedom Caucus
Despite its high-profile role in unsuccessful efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, many Americans say they have not heard about the Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives.
Republicans and Democrats have similar levels of awareness of the Freedom Caucus. Overall, 42% of Republicans and Republican leaners have heard nothing at all about them, while 39% have heard a little and 19% have heard a lot. Among Democrats and Democratic leaners, 40% have heard nothing at all about the Freedom Caucus compared with 39% who have heard a little and 20% who have heard a lot.
Conservative Republicans are more likely than moderate and liberal Republicans to have heard of the Freedom Caucus. Overall, 64% of conservative Republicans have heard either a lot (22%) or a little (41%) about the group, while 36% have heard nothing at all. Among moderate and liberal Republicans, about as many have heard a lot or a little about the Freedom Caucus (48%) as nothing at all (52%).
There is a similar divide by ideology among Democrats. About seven-in-ten (69%) liberal Democrats have heard a lot (29%) or a little (40%) about the Freedom Caucus; 30% say they have heard nothing at all. Conservative and moderate Democrats are less familiar with the group: 52% have heard a lot or a little, while 47% have heard nothing at all.
Across age groups, young adults ages 18-29 are the least familiar with the Freedom Caucus: 53% have heard nothing at all about the group, while 46% have heard at least a little. Among all older age cohorts, most have heard at least something about the Freedom Caucus. For example, 61% of those ages 65 and older have heard a lot or a little about the group.
Among those who have heard of the Freedom Caucus, 36% view it favorably, compared with a greater share (48%) who view it unfavorably; 16% have heard of the group but cannot offer a rating of it.
Republicans and Republican leaners who have heard of the Freedom Caucus hold a broadly positive view of it. About six-in-ten (59%) Republicans view it favorably, while 25% hold an unfavorable view. Views among Democrats and Democratic leaners who are aware of the group are the reverse: 66% view it unfavorably and just 19% view it favorably.
Conservative Republicans have a much more positive view of the Freedom Caucus than their moderate and liberal counterparts. Two-thirds of conservative Republicans who have heard of the group view it favorably; just 21% take an unfavorable view. Among moderate and liberal Republicans, about as many view the Freedom Caucus favorably (40%) as unfavorably (36%).
Almost three-quarters (74%) of liberal Democrats who are familiar with the Freedom Caucus hold an unfavorable view of the group. A somewhat smaller majority of moderate and conservative Democrats (59%) view the Freedom Caucus unfavorably.
Though Trump has been critical of some members of the Freedom Caucus, Republicans who have a favorable view of the group are significantly more likely than Republicans with an unfavorable view to approve of his job performance.
Overall, 94% of Republicans and Republican leaners who view the Freedom Caucus favorably say they approve of the job Trump is doing as president. By comparison, a somewhat smaller majority (75%) of Republicans who hold an unfavorable view of the Freedom Caucus approve of Trump.
Republicans who have a favorable view of the Freedom Caucus are more likely than those with an unfavorable view to describe their own political views as conservative (81% vs. 57%). (Conservative Republicans express more widespread and intense approval of Trump than do moderate and liberal Republicans).
Views of Speaker Paul Ryan are not significantly different between Republicans who view the Freedom Caucus favorably and those who view it unfavorably.