Views on the Republican Party’s Priorities, Leadership, and Future

About half of Republicans still want former President Donald Trump to have a major influence in their party.

July 27, 2021

Most Republicans want former President Donald Trump to have at least some influence on the direction of the Republican Party, though fewer than half are optimistic about the party’s future. Republicans are also sour on the direction of the country, the state of politics, and the state of democracy. Overall, 63% of Americans are pessimistic about the state of politics, including 78% of Republicans.

While most Americans think Trump should have no influence in the direction of the Republican Party, 47% of Republicans think that Trump should continue to wield a lot of influence on 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%). 

Overall, 44% of Americans think the country is heading in the right direction and 55% think it’s heading in the wrong direction.  While 67% of Democrats say the country is heading in the right direction, only 16% of Republicans agree. 

Eighty-four percent of Republicans disapprove of how President Joe Biden is handling his job; 91% of Democrats give him positive marks. 

Most Americans do not believe American democracy is doing very well. Only 15% of adults believe that democracy is in extremely or very good shape, while 44% think that it is faltering. Republicans are especially pessimistic.

In addition, 63% of Americans are pessimistic about the state of politics in the United States. The pessimism crosses party lines. 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.

Despite pessimism about the state of American democracy and politics, 41% of Republicans are optimistic about the future of their party, 33% are pessimistic and 25% are neither optimistic nor pessimistic. 

Most Americans have unfavorable views about current leaders in the Republican Party, particularly Trump and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.  Republicans have an overwhelmingly favorable view of Trump, Democrats hold an even more unfavorable opinion of him. 

U.S. Representative Liz Cheney is the only Republican asked about in the survey who enjoys more support than opposition. While nearly half of Democrats have a favorable opinion of Cheney, she is viewed positively by only a fifth of Republicans.

Republicans are closely divided on whether or not they should compromise with Democrats in Congress.  Younger Republicans and women are more inclined to compromise, while men and older Republicans are more likely to say congressional Republicans should stick to their positions. 

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. 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 60% of Americans 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.

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.

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