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New Survey: Emerging GOP Divisions on President Trump Loom Over 2018 and 2020 Elections

Only 37 Percent of Registered Voters Say They Will Support a GOP Congressional Candidate in 2018, 31 Percent of Republicans Prefer Another Presidential Candidate in 2020

WASHINGTON – The eighth annual American Values Survey from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), released this morning at an event with The Brookings Institution, finds fractures in the Republican Party over the Trump Presidency. Approximately one in three Republicans surveyed (31 percent) say they would prefer the 2020 Republican nominee be someone other than Trump.

President Trump may face additional political challenges before 2020. If the 2018 midterm elections were held today, 44 percent of registered voters would support the Democratic candidate. Just 37 percent would vote Republican. Women make up much of the Democratic advantage: More than half of women (51 percent) express a preference for the Democratic candidate, while only 31 percent say they would vote Republican. Men are more likely to favor a Republican candidate than a Democratic candidate, but by a much narrower margin of 43 versus 36 percent.

“After a tumultuous first year in office, a significant minority of Republicans would prefer another candidate in 2020,” notes PRRI CEO Robert P. Jones. “But key Republican base groups such as white evangelical Protestants are maintaining their commitment to the President, with nearly a third saying there is nothing Trump can do to lose their support.”

President Trump retains significant support among rank-and-file Republicans and white evangelical Protestants. Eighty-four percent of Republicans, including more than nine in ten “strong” Republicans (91 percent), approve of the job Trump is doing as president. More than seven in ten white evangelicals (72 percent) approve of Trump’s job performance. Notably, nearly one-third of white evangelical Protestants (30 percent) say there is almost nothing Trump could do to lose their approval.

Americans remain sharply polarized in their views of the opposing party. Negative views of the other party among partisans are nearly identical. A majority of Republicans (52 percent) say the Democratic Party’s policies are so misguided they present a threat to the country, and 39 percent believe Democratic policies are misguided, but not dangerous. Democrats hold similarly negative attitudes toward Republicans: Most Democrats (54 percent) feel GOP policies pose a threat to the country, while 38 percent believe they are simply misguided.

“Partisans are equally likely to believe the policies of the other side represent a threat to the nation. But views of Trump are even more sharply polarized,” says PRRI Research Director Daniel Cox. “Republicans prefer Trump’s policies to those of the GOP, while Democrats say Trump’s proposals represent a more urgent national threat than those of the Republican Party.”

Partisan divisions are transcended in one area—by Americans’ widespread belief that recent stories of sexual harassment and assault are part of a larger pattern. Seventy percent of Americans say recent media stories about such abuse represent a broader pattern of how women are often treated, rather than being isolated incidents. There are modest but significant differences across lines of gender and party affiliation. Nearly eight in ten women (78 percent) and more than six in ten men (63 percent) see recent allegations of such behavior as part of a broader pattern of how women are treated. More than seven in ten Democrats (77 percent) and Independents (73 percent) and roughly six in ten Republicans (59 percent) agree as well.

At this point in Trump’s Presidency, Americans take a dim view of his overall job performance. Just over four in ten Americans (41 percent) approve of the job he is doing, while a majority (54 percent) disapprove.

Despite the negative marks Trump gets for his job performance, most Americans do not believe he should be impeached and removed from office. Four in ten Americans (40 percent) say President Trump should be impeached and removed from office, compared to 56 percent who disagree. But women are far more supportive of this action than men. Nearly half of women (48 percent) say Trump should be impeached, while just as many (48 percent) oppose it. Fewer than one in three men (31 percent) favor impeachment, and close to two-thirds of men (65 percent) say Trump should not be impeached.

The GOP’s policy agenda faces political headwinds, as Americans show little support for the President and Congressional Republicans’ healthcare and tax proposals.

Few Americans believe President Trump’s tax proposal will be a significant help to them. Nearly half of Americans (48 percent) believe Trump’s tax policy will not benefit them at all, while 30 percent of Americans say it will help them a little. Only 15 percent say it will help them “a lot.”

Ongoing efforts by Congressional Republicans to roll back the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate come as half of Americans (50 percent) say they are somewhat or very worried they or someone in their family will lose health insurance coverage in the next year.

The government’s role in healthcare in general remains politically polarizing, even as it garners support among the general public. Nearly six in ten Americans (59 percent) believe the government should guarantee health insurance for all of its citizens even if it means raising taxes. More than three-quarters of Democrats (78 percent) agree that the government should guarantee health insurance for all citizens, even if it means raising taxes. Only about one-third of Republicans (32 percent) share this view. However, Republican opposition to government-guaranteed health insurance has declined nine percentage points since 2013, from 75 percent to 66 percent.

Amidst Washington’s recent focus on the Affordable Care Act and tax reform, concerns about the budget deficit are declining. This trend is primarily due to a dramatic decline in the issue’s priority among Republicans. In 2013, more than seven in ten Republicans (71 percent) said this issue was their top priority. Only 37 percent feel this way today.

The survey was designed and conducted by PRRI. The survey was made possible by generous grants from The Nathan Cummings Foundation and The Carnegie Corporation of New York. Results of the survey were based on bilingual (Spanish and English) RDD telephone interviews conducted between October 18, 2017 and October 30, 2017 by professional interviewers under the direction of SSRS. Interviews were conducted among a random sample of 2,019 adults 18 years of age or older living in the United States (1,209 respondents were interviewed on a cell phone). The margin of error for the survey is +/- 2.6 percentage points at the 95% level of confidence. The design effect for the survey is 1.5.

PRRI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan organization specializing in research at the intersection of religion, values, and public life.