Democrats Have Advantage on Party Ratings, Affiliation, and Issues

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Poll finds parties rated about evenly on terrorism

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- The favorable environment for the Democratic Party heading into this fall's midterm elections is underscored by the results from several questions included in Gallup's annual Governance poll. Americans continue to hold a net positive view of the Democratic Party while their view of the Republican Party is on balance negative. The Republicans' former perceptual advantage on the terrorism issues has dwindled compared to last year at this time, while Democrats have gained in the perception that they are better than the Republicans at keeping the country prosperous. Democrats have also made significant gains in national party identification since the beginning of 2005.

Overall Party Images


The Sept. 7-10 poll updated Gallup's trend question on whether Americans have a favorable or an unfavorable view of the two major political parties. Fifty-four percent of Americans view the Democratic Party favorably, while 40% view it unfavorably. Americans have been more positive than negative toward the Democratic Party throughout the year, and before that extending back to Feb. 2005. The current 54% favorable rating is also the best for the Democrats since August 2004.

In contrast, Americans continue to hold a net-negative view of the Republican Party - 42% say they have a favorable opinion and 53% an unfavorable one. Americans have been more negative than positive in their evaluations of the Republican Party for the past year. Last September, the public was evenly divided between positive and negative views of the party. The current 42% favorable rating is an improvement from the 36% rating in April, which is one of the lowest Gallup ever measured for the GOP.

Parties on the Major Issues


Since the 1950s, Gallup has asked Americans which party they think will "do a better job of keeping the country prosperous." Historically, the Democratic Party has fared better on this measure than Republican Party, and that remains the case today. Fifty-three percent of Americans say the Democratic Party will do a better job in this regard, while 36% say the Republican Party will. In last year's survey, the Democrats' advantage was much smaller, just 46% to 41%. Until now, the average Democratic advantage since 2000 has been just 4 percentage points.

The question about maintaining prosperity has historically been paired with a question asking about the parties on international affairs. Prior to the Sept. 11th, 2001, terrorist attacks, the question asked which party would do a better job of keeping the United States out of war. Since then, however, Gallup has modified the question to better fit the times and asked Americans which party would do "a better job of protecting the country from international terrorism and military threats."

The terrorism issue has been a Republican strength since it emerged as a national concern five years ago, but the poll now finds Americans rating the parties about equally on the issue; 44% say the Republican Party would do a better job and 42% say the Democratic Party. Prior to this year, Republicans had averaged a 15-point advantage over Democrats on this issue.

In June, a USA Today/Gallup poll asked Americans whether the Republicans in Congress or Democrats in Congress would better handle each of several issues, including terrorism. In that poll that used a different question wording, Republicans had a 46% to 35% advantage on the terrorism issue. It is not clear if the difference between the June poll results and the current results indicate that the Republican advantage has eroded in the last few months, or if the differences are due to the way the questions were worded.

Democrats Gain in Party Identification



Given these changes in the ratings of the two parties, the political momentum heading into the November elections is clearly on the Democrats' side. That is also evident in the gains Democrats have made in party identification since the beginning of 2005. In all Gallup polls conducted in the first quarter of 2005, an average of 35.3% of Americans identified as Republicans and 32.8% as Democrats, a net advantage of 2.5 percentage points for the Republicans. In the last full quarter, the second quarter of 2006, Republican identification dropped to 30.1% while Democratic identification increased to 34.7%, a net advantage of 4.6 points for the Democrats. In the third quarter to date, the gap has held fairly steady at 3.9 points.

Average Party Identification in Gallup Polls,
2005-2006, by Quarter

Quarter

Percentage of Americans
Identifying as Democrats

Percentage
of Americans
Identifying as
Independents

Percentage
of Americans
Identifying as
Republicans

Democratic
Advantage in Party
Identification

%

%

%

%

2005-I

32.8

30.6

35.3

-2.5

2005-II

33.4

32.2

33.1

0.3

2005-III

33.8

33.6

31.1

2.7

2005-IV

32.8

33.7

31.9

0.9

2006-I

32.5

34.0

31.9

0.6

2006-II

34.7

34.1

30.1

4.6

2006-III to date

35.0

32.5

31.1

3.9

The change is even more evident when looking at leaned party identification -- which combines Republican and Democratic identifiers with independents who express a leaning to a party. In the first quarter of 2005, the parties were even on this measure, with 46% of Americans identifying or leaning to both the Democratic and Republican parties. Since then, Republican strength has dropped to around 40% of Americans while Democratic strength has increased to about 50%.

Average Party Identification in Gallup Polls,
2005-2006, by Quarter

Quarter

Percentage of Americans
Identifying as Democrats or leaning Democratic

Percentage
of Americans
Identifying as
Republicans or leaning Republican

Democratic Advantage in Leaned Party Identification

%

%

%

2005-I

46.1

45.9

0.2

2005-II

47.4

43.2

4.2

2005-III

48.7

41.8

6.9

2005-IV

48.5

42.0

6.5

2006-I

48.6

42.1

6.5

2006-II

50.8

40.0

10.8

2006-III to date

50.0

40.2

9.8

Taken together, these indicators show the uphill battle Republicans face this fall, as they try to maintain their majority party status in the House of Representatives and Senate. As we would expect, voting preferences in the fall elections are in the Democrats' favor and have been for most of the year. Gallup's most recent generic ballot test of the vote for the House of Representatives finds the Democrats with a 53% to 41% lead over the Republicans among registered voters.

Republicans' successes in the 2002 and 2004 elections are often attributed to their ability to capitalize on the terrorism issue. However, if Americans do not view the Republicans as being superior on that issue, trying to make the threat of terror the defining election issue likely would not have the same success in 2006.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,002 adults, 18 years and older, conducted Sept. 7-10. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±3 percentage points. 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.

16. Next, please tell me whether you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of each of the following parties. How about -- [ITEMS ROTATED]?

A. The Republican Party

Favorable

Unfavorable

No
opinion

%

%

%

2006 Sep 7-10

42

53

4

2006 Jul 28-30

43

50

8

2006 Apr 28-30

36

58

5

2005 Dec 16-18

45

48

7

2005 Oct 13-16

40

50

10

2005 Sep 8-11

45

45

10

2005 Jul 22-24

46

45

9

2005 Apr 1-2

50

44

6

2005 Feb 25-27

51

42

7

2005 Feb 4-6

56

39

5

2004 Sep 13-15

55

41

4

2004 Sep 3-5

53

40

7

2004 Aug 23-25 ^

50

41

9

2004 Jul 30-Aug 1

47

45

8

2004 Jul 19-21 ^

50

43

7

2004 Jan 29-Feb 1

48

45

7

2004 Jan 2-5

52

40

8

2003 Sep 8-10

50

44

6

2003 Mar 29-30

56

33

11

2003 Jan 3-5

51

38

11

2002 Dec 16-17

51

38

11

2002 Nov 8-10

54

38

8

2002 Oct 21-22

53

35

12

Favorable

Unfavorable

No
opinion

%

%

%

2002 Sep 5-8

54

40

6

2002 Jul 26-28

55

36

9

2002 Jan 11-14

61

30

9

2001 Sep 7-10

47

48

5

2000 Nov 13-15

49

43

8

2000 Aug 4-5

54

37

9

2000 Jul 25-26

49

39

12

2000 Jan 7-10

53

41

6

1999 Nov 18-21

50

44

6

1999 Apr 30-May 2

47

44

9

1999 Feb 19-21

45

46

9

1999 Feb 12-13

40

54

6

1999 Feb 4-8

45

47

8

1999 Jan 8-10

40

52

8

1998 Dec 19-20

31

57

12

1998 Dec 15-16

43

47

10

1997 Oct 27-29

50

42

8

1996 Aug 30-Sep 1 †

50

45

5

1996 Aug 16-18 †

55

41

3

1996 Aug 5-7 †

51

44

5

1996 Apr 9-10

52

41

7

1995 Apr 17-19

52

42

6

1992 Jul 6-8 †

53

39

8

^ Asked of a half sample

† Based on registered voters

B. The Democratic Party

Favorable

Unfavorable

No
opinion

%

%

%

2006 Sep 7-10

54

40

5

2006 Jul 28-30

52

40

8

2006 Apr 28-30

48

45

8

2005 Dec 16-18

46

45

9

2005 Oct 13-16

52

36

12

2005 Sep 8-11

47

41

12

2005 Jul 22-24

52

38

10

2005 Apr 1-2

50

42

8

2005 Feb 25-27

52

41

7

2005 Feb 4-6

46

47

7

2004 Sep 13-15

49

45

6

2004 Sep 3-5

50

41

9

2004 Aug 23-25 ^

54

36

10

2004 Jul 30-Aug 1

55

37

8

2004 Jul 19-21 ^

48

41

11

2004 Jan 29-Feb 1

59

34

7

2004 Jan 2-5

47

44

9

2003 Sep 8-10

49

45

6

2003 Mar 29-30

49

39

12

2003 Jan 3-5

52

36

12

2002 Dec 16-17

52

37

11

2002 Nov 8-10

48

42

10

2002 Oct 21-22

58

30

12

Favorable

Unfavorable

No
opinion

%

%

%

2002 Sep 5-8

56

38

6

2002 Jul 26-28

55

34

11

2002 Jan 11-14

55

33

12

2001 Sep 7-10

56

38

6

2000 Nov 13-15

53

38

9

2000 Aug 4-5

53

38

9

2000 Jul 25-26

56

35

9

2000 Jan 7-10

61

33

6

1999 Nov 18-21

51

41

8

1999 Apr 30-May 2

53

37

10

1999 Feb 19-21

55

37

8

1999 Feb 12-13

56

38

6

1999 Feb 4-8

57

37

6

1999 Jan 8-10

57

35

8

1998 Dec 19-20

57

30

13

1998 Dec 15-16

58

32

10

1997 Oct 27-29

54

39

7

1996 Aug 30-Sep 1 †

60

36

4

1996 Aug 16-18 †

55

41

4

1996 Aug 5-7 †

57

38

5

1996 Apr 9-10

55

38

7

1995 Apr 17-19

51

43

6

1992 Jul 6-8 †

54

38

8

^ Asked of a half sample

† Based on registered voters

Q.17-18 ROTATED

17. Looking ahead for the next few years, which political party do you think will do a better job of protecting the country from international terrorism and military threats -- [ROTATED: the Republican Party or the Democratic Party]?


Republican


Democratic

NO
DIFFERENCE
(vol.)/
No opinion

%

%

%

2006 Sep 7-10

44

42

13

2005 Sep 12-15

48

37

15

2003 Sep 8-10

51

36

13

2002 Sep 5-8

50

31

19

(vol.) = Volunteered response

18. Looking ahead for the next few years, which political party do you think will do a better job of keeping the country prosperous -- [ROTATED: the Republican Party or the Democratic Party]?

Republican

Democrat

NO
DIFFERENCE
(vol.)/
No opinion

%

%

%

2006 Sep 7-10

36

53

11

2005 Sep 12-15

41

46

13

2003 Sep 8-10

42

46

12

2002 Sep 5-8

42

42

16

2001 Sep 7-10

41

45

14

2000 Oct 6-9

40

47

13

1999 Oct 8-10

45

46

9

1998 Oct 29-Nov 1

37

46

17

1998 Apr 17-19

43

42

15

1997 Oct 27-29

42

44

14

1996 Jul 25-28

41

42

17

1994 Sep 23-25

48

38

14

1994 Aug 15-16

42

36

22

1994 Aug 8-9

41

36

23

1994 May 20-22

40

42

18

1993 Aug 8-10

36

39

25

1993 Mar 22-24

38

46

16

1992 Oct 23-25

37

45

18

1992 Sep 11-15

39

48

13

1992 Jul 17-18

32

53

15

1992 Jul 6-8

42

38

20

1992 Mar 20-22

43

42

15

1992 Feb 6-9

41

43

16

1991 Jul 18-21

49

32

19

1991 Oct 24-27

44

41

15

1991 Mar 21-24

46

31

23

1990 Aug 9-12

45

30

25

1990 Oct 25-28

37

35

28

1989 Jul 18-21

51

30

19

1988 Sep 9-11

52

34

14

1988 May 13-15

39

41

20

1988 Jan 22-24

42

35

23

1987 Dec 4-6

41

38

21

1987 Oct 23-26

40

33

27

1987 Jul 10-13

34

36

30

1987 Jan 16-19

38

37

25

1986 Mar 7-10

51

33

16

1985 Jun 7-10

44

35

21

1985 Mar 8-11

48

32

20

1984 Sep 7-10

49

33

18

1984 Aug 10-13

48

36

24

1984 Apr 6-9

44

36

20

1983 Sep 6-9

33

40

27

1982 Oct 15-18

34

43

23

1982 Jun 25-28

43

33

24

1982 Feb 5-8

32

42

26


Republican


Democrat

NO
DIFFERENCE
(vol.)/
No opinion

%

%

%

1981 Oct 2-5

41

31

28

1981 Apr 10-13

41

28

31

1980 Oct 10-13

35

36

29

1980 Sep 12-15

35

36

29

1980 Jun 27-30

31

37

32

1978 Oct 27-30

27

38

35

1978 Jul 21-24

26

40

34

1978 Mar 3-6

23

42

35

1976 Aug 27-30

23

47

30

1974 Sep 27-30

17

47

36

1972 Oct 13-16

38

33

29

1972 Sep 22-25

38

35

27

1972 Aug 4-7

33

39

28

1972 Apr 21-24

25

44

31

1971 Aug 27-30

21

46

33

1971 Jul 15-18

22

46

32

1970 Aug 25-Sep 1

26

40

34

1970 Jun 18-23

29

44

27

1968 Oct 17-22

34

37

29

1968 Sep 1-6

32

34

34

1967 Jun 2-7

30

41

29

1966 Oct 1-6

24

39

37

1966 Sep 8-13

24

41

35

1966 Jun 16-21

26

38

36

1965 Dec 21-Jan 5

19

48

33

1965 Oct 8-13

18

46

36

1965 May 13-18

18

52

30

1965 Feb 19-24

16

51

33

1964 Oct 8-13

21

53

26

1964 Sep 18-23

19

52

29

1964 Aug 27-Sep 1

18

59

23

1964 Aug 6-11

21

54

25

1964 Jan 30-Feb 5

20

48

32

1963 Nov 23-26

17

55

28

1963 Apr 4-9

24

45

31

1963 Jan 11-16

21

49

30

1962 Aug 23-28

22

45

33

1962 May 31-Jun 5

25

48

27

1961 Dec 7-12

19

56

25

1961 Sep 21-26

18

55

27

1961 May 17-22

20

55

25

1960 Oct 18-23

31

46

23

1960 Jun 16-21

26

47

27

1960 Feb 4-9

29

44

27

1958 Sep 10-15

23

45

32

1958 Aug 20-25

23

45

32

Republican

Democrat

NO
DIFFERENCE
(vol.)/
No opinion

%

%

%

1958 Feb 14-19

22

47

31

1957 Sep 19-24

31

42

27

1957 May 17-22

36

38

26

1956 Oct 18-23

39

39

22

1956 Sep 20-25

38

37

25

1956 Sep 9-14

34

39

27

1956 May 10-15

36

39

25

1955 Dec 8-13

37

34

29

1955 Oct 6-11

36

38

26

1955 Aug 25-30

39

37

24

1952 Jul 25-30

25

52

23

1952 Jan 20-25

31

35

34

1951 Oct 14-19

31

37

32

1951 Aug 3-8

32

36

32

(vol.) = Volunteered response

COMBINED RESPONSES (Q.17-18)

Repub.
better on
both

Repub.
better on
economy,
Dem.
better on
defense

Dem.
better on
economy,
Repub.
better on
defense

Dem.
better on
both

No
opin-
ion/
Un-
desig-
nated

%

%

%

%

%

2006 Sep 7-10

32

3

10

39

17

2005 Sep 12-15

37

2

8

34

19

2003 Sep 8-10

36

4

12

31

17

2002 Sep 5-8

36

3

10

27

24

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