Republican Favorability Inexplicably Jumps, Higher than Democrats’

A new Gallup poll gives the GOP its highest favorability in years.

A new Gallup report, titled “Republican Party Favorability Highest in Seven Years,” is getting wide coverage. From the reports lede, by Jim Norman:

Forty-five percent of Americans now have a favorable view of the Republican Party, a nine-point gain from last September’s 36%. It is the party’s most positive image since it registered 47% in January 2011, shortly after taking control of the House in the 2010 midterm elections. Forty-four percent give the Democratic Party a favorable rating.

The parity in Republicans’ and Democrats’ favorable ratings marks a change from what has generally been the case since Barack Obama’s election as president in November 2008. Republicans have usually been rated less positively than Democrats over this time, with the Republican Party’s favorability rating for the last decade averaging 39%, compared with the Democratic Party’s 44%.

Here’s their graphic showing the trendlines:

The result certainly seems like an outlier but, alas, I’m not finding other polling on party favorability per se. Still, President Trump’s approval ratings are awful, sitting at minus 8.7% in the RealClearPolitics average and, interestingly, at minus 16% in the same Gallup poll that has GOP favorability up! Similarly, Democrats have a 7.5 point advantage in the RealClearPolitics average generic Congressional vote (Gallup doesn’t poll on that question). It defies logic that the Republican Party has a favorability advantage over the Democrats when their President and Congressional delegation are so unpopular.

Beyond that, I can think of nothing happening in recent news reports that would have generated a bounce for the party. While the base may well be fired up about the Kavanaugh fight, the sheer sordidness of it would seem to reflect badly on the GOP for independents.

A CNN report on the poll observes,

Some could interpret this as a good sign for the Republican Party, that if their success in 2010 was predicted by higher ratings, it could forecast their holding of Congress in November.

But favorability doesn’t always foretell success in non-Presidential elections. In October 2002, during President George W. Bush’s first term, Democrats had a favorability rating of 58%, one of their highest ever and Republicans had a favorability of 53%, also relatively high. Despite this, Republicans gained a net of 10 seats in Congress. In-power parties usually lose seats during midterms.

But favorability only loosely translates into electoral success, especially in midterms. For one thing, all things being equal, the wealthier and older voters that make up the Republican base are more likely to vote than younger and minority voters that are the key Democratic constituencies. Perhaps more importantly, relatively few House districts are competitive and the apportionment gives Republicans an outsized advantage. The Senate, too, heavily favors the GOP in terms of representation versus national polling.

FILED UNDER: Public Opinion Polls, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. A one percent difference between the two parties is hardly impressive.

    The only thing this poll tells me is that Republicans are rallying around their party and Democrats are rallying around their party. It also tells me that the xenophobic, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rhetoric of this President is now the official platform of the Republican Party. I hope those self-identified Republicans can sleep at night knowing that they are enabling a man who embodies the worst aspects of the past 120 years of American politics.

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  2. From the poll’s write-up:

    The overall increase in the favorable image of the Republican Party is a result of a jump in the positive views of Republicans, including independents who lean toward the party. The percentage of Republicans and leaners with favorable views of their party grew from 67% last September to 85% now.

  3. James Joyner says:

    @Doug Mataconis: @Steven L. Taylor: I get why Republicans would be happy with the agenda. But I don’t think Republicans and leaners are 45% of the population, either. Democrats have been the majority party nationally for decades, even though it’s not always reflected in voting outcomes.

  4. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @TM01:

    Maybe try getting out of your Never-Trumper Bubble.

    In Germany at one time, Nazi’s polled well. Through the roof.

    They talked of peace with other countries (without actually planning for peace). No war talk at all publicly. Just a strong defense.

    They had a strong economy. Unemployment was way down. Joblessness was way down. Wages rose.

    They had a strong anti-immigration policy and locked up those without documentations, separating families.

    I think it was the snazzy uniforms.

    https://commdiginews-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/hitTrump.jpg

    Umfragen machen richtig?

    Nein.

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  5. Franklin says:

    It’s not particularly difficult to temporarily boost your favorability ratings. Tax cuts and new programs are great for it, and the repercussions for resulting deficits are way down the road.

    Also, you can lie. For example, you can say your adversary, a secretive regime, has agreed to disarm. Who’s going to disagree?

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  6. Hal_10000 says:

    It’s not that complicated. Economy is doing well, Republicans are in charge. The only time there’s even been a huge difference between the two parties was in 2008, when Republicans were in charge and the economy went to hell.

  7. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    This poll is strange. Democrats were massacred in 2014, and this poll says that had lots of “favorability” during that time.

  8. @Andre Kenji de Sousa:

    Democrats were massacred in 2014, and this poll says that had lots of “favorability” during that time.

    Which goes a long way toward telling you how worthless a measurement party favorability is.

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  9. Kathy says:

    I wonder how the ratings will be affected after next Thursday’s massacre.

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  10. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner:

    But I don’t think Republicans and leaners are 45% of the population, either

    According to Pew Research the percentage of people who say they are Repub or Lean Repub was 42% in March 2018.

  11. @James Joyner: But based on the way they are counting Reps and leaners, 45% is not unreasonable (look at presidential election outcomes from a popular vote POV).

    But more importantly: the pollsters themselves are saying where the surge has come from–so this is about polarization and intensity.

  12. Blue Galangal says:

    Someone forgot to reverse code the negatively-worded questions before they ran the analysis.

  13. mattbernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    The overall increase in the favorable image of the Republican Party is a result of a jump in the positive views of Republicans, including independents who lean toward the party.

    If you accept the premise that Trump is the Tea Party president, what the poll suggests is all those “non-partisan” Tea Partiers are finally openly coming back home (not that they ever really left).

  14. @mattbernius:

    I think you get it mostly right, Matt.

    As I’ve said before, the GOP is Trump’s party now.

  15. James Joyner says:

    @MarkedMan: @Steven L. Taylor: That makes sense. I can see where hard-core Republicans would be happy with the current state of affairs. But “leaners,” not so much. Granting that my social circle, including the larger online circle, is skewed elite, I know an awful lot of former Republicans and disgusted Republicans right now.

  16. Ben Wolf says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Ought to be a big warning that Dems can’t count on support from Republican women. It didn’t work in 2016 and probably won”t work now.

  17. SKI says:

    Something to keep in mind: One of the Nates ( I think it was Cohn but it may have been Silver) posted yesterday that pollsters expect that 1 out of 20 polls with appropriate samples will be off by more than the margin of error. That is why trends and aggregation are so important. I’d want to see more/other polling on this question rather than a single outlier response.

  18. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    With the exception of Donnelly and McCaskill (and I’m sure some suburban representative nominees—too many to pay attention to), to my eyes it looks like Democrats are focusing on base activation more than swing votes.

  19. Neil Hudelson says:

    @tm01:

    Maybe stop calling everyone you disagree with a Nazi.

    He’s not calling everyone he disagrees with a Nazi. Some, I assume, are good people.

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  20. george says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    The only thing this poll tells me is that Republicans are rallying around their party and Democrats are rallying around their party.

    You could have stopped right there. Its a team sport, and people are supporting their team. Your team’s quarterback might be an asshole who couldn’t hit the side of a barn from the inside – but you’re still going to back him, because you cheer for the team. 90% of people vote for the same party in every election throughout their life. And I doubt even a quarter of them could tell you a single team policy.

    For 90% of those who bother voting (and 40% of potential voters don’t even bother), elections are almost never about issues or even who’s running – they’re about cheering for their team. And they chose their team the first time they voted.

    So of course the GOP is close to the Dem’s in popularity – that’s the base team vote. Of course Trump hasn’t hurt them much, 90% have no idea of his policies, and wouldn’t care if they did, because they’re voting for the team.

    The only hope is that people someday see the team as America rather than their political party. I’m not holding my breath.

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  21. george says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:

    In Germany at one time, Nazi’s polled well. Through the roof.

    Actually they only got 37% of the popular vote. Which interestingly enough is pretty close to what Trump’s polling is now.

  22. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner: One of the things I often struggle to wrap my head around is just how little attention the majority of people pay to politics. I think there is pretty good data to show that most people who are undecided are actually going to go in and pull the lever for the same party year after year. And they will know very little about the candidate. Fox News is the largest cable news network and it gets, what, 2% of the country watching at peak? Most of the time it is significantly less than that. Significantly more people watch broadcast network news but that’s, what, 22 minutes of “news” of which 80% is weather and sports and the various traffic accidents and fires and the person that has a porcupine as a pet. So, while people that read and comment on this blog know that we are in a time like no other, a truly unique event in American history, for probably 60% of the population it is all background noise, like the adult voices in a Charlie Brown cartoon.

  23. MarkedMan says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    He’s not calling everyone he disagrees with a Nazi. Some, I assume, are good people.

    Neil Hudelson wins the internet today.

  24. george says:

    @MarkedMan:

    One of the things I often struggle to wrap my head around is just how little attention the majority of people pay to politics.

    I find it interesting that the same applies to the attention most people pay to science, which is equally important. There’s probably some clever quote about the more important a topic is, the less people will want to pay attention to id.

  25. Kathy says:

    @george:

    People don’t pay that much attention to science.

    It doesn’t help that the general media tends to get scientific news way wrong. Meaning most newspapers, magazines, and TV news. The best info comes from outfits like Scientific American (semi-free online) and other specialized science popularization websites and magazines.

    Still, they tend to focus overmuch on possible practical applications of discoveries and observations. I’m still waiting for carbon nanotube composite cars with buckyball ball bearings powered with graphene batteries and with synthetic diamond windows, and that’s just carbon over the past thirty years or so. And let’s not get into ceramic superconductors, nuclear fusion(*), revolutionary medical therapies like stem cells, etc.

    It’s exciting to read about such things, and disappointing when a decade or two later nothing’s come off it. Meantime lithium ion batteries replace Ni-Cad ones, solar cells grow in efficiency with all the speed of grass, and while computers keep getting smaller and faster, they always did.

    No doubt there have been improvements in technology, but these tend to be incremental; and when new tech is used, it tends to be relatively old (like composites in airliners).

    (*)Nuclear fusion is 20 years away, as it has always been.

  26. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @Neil Hudelson:
    Damn… I don’t care who you are, that is some seriously funny scheisse !

    @tm01:
    And TM01 – I didn’t call anyone a Nazi. However, if you seem offended by the commentary as somehow a personal attack, then maybe… just maybe… there may be something that you want to look at in your belief system.

    @george:

    Yes, they didn’t win the majority either. but somehow their numbers went up later. Funny how that is when you can’t deviate from the leader’s position. Which follows a pattern as well.

    I have a feeling that in the future, here in the USA, years from now, there will be many folks that will state that they, too, voted for Hillary.

    At least, we can hope.

  27. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    “It also tells me that the xenophobic, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rhetoric of this President is now the official platform of the Republican Party.”

    Always was. Trump only matches the persona to the message, he became what Republican wanted to vote for and did it better than Cruz and the others.

  28. Gustopher says:

    The poll was taken September 4-12th, and during that time, it looked likely that Republicans were going to get a nominee onto the Supreme Court without disgracing themselves.

    I would expect a bump in enthusiasm for that.

  29. DrDaveT says:

    @James Joyner:

    Granting that my social circle, including the larger online circle, is skewed elite, I know an awful lot of former Republicans and disgusted Republicans right now.

    When those former Republicans and disgusted Republicans actually start campaigning for Democrats in order to minimize the damage, let us know. In the meantime, they’re just enablers.

  30. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @tm01: A hit dog hollers… n’est ce pas?

  31. mattbernius says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    Ought to be a big warning that Dems can’t count on support from Republican women.

    I think, as we saw in the Moore election, about the only things the Dems can hope for from Republican women is depressed turnout. That, in itself, can be enough.

    Which gets to:

    @James Joyner:

    Granting that my social circle, including the larger online circle, is skewed elite, I know an awful lot of former Republicans and disgusted Republicans right now.

    The question is “disgust” enough to keep them from voting (or pulling the lever for a third party). I know a number of Republicans who are express verbal dissatisfaction with the party. But when November comes, I strongly suspect they are still going to show up and vote more or less party-line. And chances are, even in NY where they know their vote won’t count, in 2020, they will probably still pull the lever for Trump (“for the sake of my 401k if nothing else.”).