July 30, 2021
Sixty-three percent of Americans are pessimistic about the state of politics in the United States. The pessimism crosses party lines including 78% of Republicans, 56% of independents, and 53% of Democrats who feel pessimistic. Yet Democrats are slightly more optimistic about the future of their party, the strength of its leadership, and its ability to tackle issues like climate change, health care, and the coronavirus pandemic.
Opinions about the political mechanisms used to choose leaders are split: about a third are optimistic compared to 40% who are pessimistic. Partisan differences arise with Republicans being more likely than Democrats to have pessimistic views of the way leaders are chosen through the political system.
When it comes to the future of the Democratic Party, most Democrats (60%) feel hopeful compared to 14% who are pessimistic, and 24% who are indifferent. Although young Democrats are mostly optimistic about the party’s future, they are less enthusiastic than older Democrats.
While a majority of Americans have a positive impression of President Biden and Vice President Harris, views of other leaders within the Democratic Party are more nuanced. Most Americans have an unfavorable opinion of other leaders including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senator Joe Manchin, and U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Among Democrats, Biden and Harris enjoy the highest support followed by Pelosi and Ocasio-Cortez. About half or fewer Democrats have a positive view of Schumer and Manchin. Less than half of Republicans have a favorable view of any Democratic Congressional leader.
Democrats age 40 and older are more likely than younger Democrats to hold positive opinions of Pelosi, Schumer, and Manchin. The opposite is true when it comes to perceptions on Ocasio-Cortez. There is widespread support for Biden and Harris regardless of age.
Democrats are split between compromise and conviction when it comes to the way Democrats in Congress should handle key issues. Fifty percent of Democrats think the party should stick to their positions no matter what, even if this means they need to pass laws without bipartisan support, while 48% prefer compromising with Republicans even if it means giving up some ground on their priorities. Younger Democrats are more likely than those age 60 or older to prefer conviction over compromise.
Americans give Democrats a clear edge over Republicans on their ability to handle issues like climate change, health care, the coronavirus pandemic, and race relations. For example, Democrats enjoy a 31 percentage point advantage over Republicans in Americans’ assessments of whom they trust more to handle climate change, 47% to 16%. The public is more evenly divided over which party would better handle other major areas.
Perceptions on the legitimacy of Biden’s election in 2020 remain basically unchanged since February 2021. Overall, 68% said Biden was legitimately elected. There has been no significant movement in the partisan divisions; most Republicans still doubt the validity of the November 2020 election.
While most Americans (60%) say it is important that investigations continue into what occurred during the breach of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, only 35% consider it important to continue investigations to assess if there was widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election. Democrats are more likely than independents and Republicans to support the investigations into the incidents in the U.S. Capitol. The opposite is true when it comes to the investigations into extensive voter fraud in the November election that has been claimed by some without evidence.
Most Americans think former President Trump should have no influence in the direction of the Republican Party.
As might be expected, Democrats (81%) are more likely to say Trump should not have any influence in the direction of the Republican Party than independents (53%) and Republicans (18%).
The nationwide poll was conducted July 15-19, 2021 using the AmeriSpeak® Panel, the probability-based panel of NORC at the University of Chicago. Online and telephone interviews using landlines and cell phones were conducted with 1,308 adults. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3.7 percentage points.
- Suggested Citation: AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. (July, 2021). https://apnorc.org/projects/views-on-the-democratic-partys-priorities-leadership-and-future/