Politics

Both Parties' Favorable Ratings Near Record Lows

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Republicans' rating down from March, Democrats' appears to have stabilized

PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans' favorable ratings of the Democratic and Republican parties are near record lows for each. The current 36% favorable score for the Republican Party is five percentage points above the low established in December 1998 as the U.S. House of Representatives voted to impeach President Clinton. The Democratic Party's 43% is two points higher than its record low measured in March.

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Gallup has tracked favorable ratings of the major U.S. political parties since 1992. The latest updates are based on a May 24-25 USA Today/Gallup poll.

After showing improvement in recent months, Republican Party favorable ratings are down again. The current 36% rating represents a significant decline from the 42% measured in late March, and is nearly back to the 34% readings from late 2008 and early 2009.

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Favorable ratings of the Democratic Party are down from last year, but after a sharp 10-point drop in late March to a record-low 41% -- perhaps in response to the passage of healthcare reform-- its rating appears to have stabilized now at a still low 43%.

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The current poll marks the second successive sub-50% rating for the Democrats after the party had been consistently above that mark since July 2006.

With the decline in Republican favorable ratings and stabilization of Democratic ratings, the net result is that the Democratic Party once again has an advantage over the Republican Party on this measure, 43% to 36%, after the parties were essentially tied in late March.

The relatively low ratings for both parties simultaneously is somewhat unusual, typically when one party's ratings are down the other's are up, as in 1998, late 2002, and 2006-early 2009. The current poor ratings for both parties are likely an extension of the more general frustration with government institutions -- as evidenced by low approval ratings of Congress and widespread anti-incumbent sentiment -- as well as overall dissatisfaction with current conditions in the United States.

Even though Democrats currently maintain higher favorable ratings than Republicans, the Republicans still seem poised for a strong showing in the fall midterm elections. Registered voter preferences in Gallup's generic ballot are divided equally between the parties, which would generally indicate a stronger Republican year given the party's usual advantage in voter turnout.

Survey Methods

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews conducted May 24-25, 2010, with a random sample of 1,049 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., selected using a random-digit-dial sampling technique. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone only). Each sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone-only respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted on the basis of gender, age, race, education, region, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2009 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in continental U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

View methodology, full question results, and trend data.

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