Survey: From Impeachment to Issue Priorities, Democrats and Republicans Inhabiting Increasingly Different Worlds
WASHINGTON – Amidst the backdrop of an impeachment inquiry and the Democratic Presidential primary race, a landmark survey of 2,527 Americans released today by PRRI finds Democrats and Republicans increasingly divided on issues including immigration, health care, and impeachment heading into the 2020 election cycle.
PRRI’s 10th annual 2019 American Values Survey explores this partisan polarization across a broad range of issues, examining staunch support among President Trump’s base such as white evangelical Protestants. Despite this increasing polarization, the survey also finds one-third of voters reporting that their vote choice in the 2020 presidential election depends on the Democratic nominee.
Democrats and Republicans Hold Divergent Views on What’s Important for the Nation
Among 12 issues, health care (65%) and terrorism (54%) are the only two issues a majority of Americans agree on as critical issues. This lack of consensus is primarily due to the radically different opinions of partisans: There is no overlap in the top three critical issues cited by Democrats and Republicans.
Democrats most frequently rate health care (77%), climate change (72%), and foreign interference in presidential elections (63%) as critical issues, while Republicans most often rate terrorism (63%), immigration (60%), and crime (50%) as critical issues. Jobs and employment are rated as less important to Americans, with only 45% identifying it as a critical issue.
“Republicans and Democrats are increasingly inhabiting different cultural worlds,” notes PRRI CEO Robert P. Jones. “They see different problems, prioritize radically different issue agendas, and tend to see the worst in the opposite party.”
The survey reveals just how negative partisan perceptions have become: 82% of Republicans believe the Democratic Party has been taken over by socialists. A similar percentage of Democrats (80%) say the Republican Party has been taken over by racists.
One-Third of Americans Report Their 2020 Vote for President Hinges on the Democratic Nominee
Despite this increasing partisan polarization, one-third of Americans (33%), including similar numbers of registered voters, report that their choice for president in 2020 depends on who the Democratic Party puts forward to run against President Trump. The profile of this uncommitted group is complex. They are more likely to identify as Democrat than Republican (21% vs. 15%), but they are also more likely to be conservative than liberal (24% vs. 14%); majorities of this group identify as independent (54%) or moderate (61%). Notably, turnout is unpredictable among this group: Nearly one in four say they did not vote in 2016 (25%) or were not eligible to vote (14%) in the 2016 presidential election.
Among those still uncommitted, 43% say the factor most important to them is the candidate’s position on key issues. The issues most often rated as critical by this group of uncommitted Americans—health care (59%) and terrorism (51%)—are each on the list of top concerns among Democrats and Republicans, respectively. However, uncommitted Americans’ third-highest priority issue, jobs and employment (46%), was not a top three issue for either party.
Trump’s Base, Including White Evangelicals and the White Working Class, Solidify Their Support
Even after the announcement of impeachment proceedings, key groups in the Republican base remain firmly behind President Trump.
Although Trump’s job approval rating among all Americans is underwater at 43% (compared to 56% disapproval), an overwhelming 89% of Republicans approve of his performance. A large majority of white evangelical Protestants approve of his job performance (76%), including 37% who strongly approve. Among those who approve of Trump’s job performance, 41% of Republicans and 30% of white evangelicals say there is virtually nothing Trump could do to lose their support. Notably, these numbers among Republican base groups are unchanged compared to support levels before the announcement of impeachment proceedings.
A majority (51%) of Americans now favor impeaching President Trump and removing him from office, compared to 47% in mid-September before the impeachment proceedings were announced. Republicans remain strongly opposed to impeachment (93% vs. 94% in mid-September), but support for impeachment has jumped 10 percentage points among Democrats (88% vs. 78% in mid-September). Independents remain divided (49% favor vs. 47% favor in mid-September).
Notably, opposition to impeaching President Trump and removing him from office is nearly unanimous among important Republican subgroups. Nearly all (98%) Republican white evangelical Protestants oppose impeachment. And there is no education divide among Republican whites; both 93% of Republican whites without a college degree and 94% of Republican whites with a college degree oppose impeachment.
Despite this solid support within the Republican ranks, there are signs of potential trouble for the president. Among the general population, nearly four in ten (37%) whites without a college degree support impeaching Trump and removing him from office, up from 31% in mid-September. This change is driven by white women without a college degree, 40% of whom favor impeachment, up from 29% in mid-September. White men without a college degree (35%) have not changed their support level since mid-September (32%). Similarly, support for impeachment is up seven percentage points among college-educated whites over the last month (from 46% to 53%). And among those uncommitted Americans who say their vote depends on who the Democratic nominee is, half (50%) say Trump should be impeached and removed from office, up from 41% in mid-September.
A full copy of the 2019 American Values Survey report, which contains additional analysis on immigration, climate change, tariffs, the Democratic presidential primary, and the unique opinions of Republicans who rely on Fox News as their primary news source can be accessed at PRRI.org.
The survey was designed and conducted by PRRI. The survey was made possible by The Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock, and The New World Foundation. Interviews were conducted among a random sample of 2,527 adults (age 18 and up) living in the United States, including all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Interviews were conducted both online using a self-administered design and by telephone using live interviewers. All interviews were conducted among participants in AmeriSpeak, a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the national U.S. adult population run by NORC at the University of Chicago. Panel participants without internet access, which included 213 respondents, were interviewed via telephone by professional interviewers under the direction of NORC. Interviewing was conducted in both Spanish and English between August 22 and September 15, 2019. The margin of error, including the design effect, for the survey is +/- 2.8 percentage points at the 95% level of confidence. A supplemental survey of 1,032 adults using the same methodology was conducted October 10-13, 2019. The margin of error, including the design effect, for that survey is +/- 4.1 percentage points at the 95% level of confidence.
PRRI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to conducting independent research at the intersection of religion, culture, and public policy.