Just 32 percent of Americans view the Republican Party favorably as it prepares to formally nominate Donald Trump for president, the latest Bloomberg Politics national poll shows, the lowest level recorded since the poll’s inception in September 2009.
The Democratic Party, by contrast, is seen favorably by 49 percent. Congress is viewed favorably by just 24 percent, the lowest since March 2010 and a response that found near bipartisan agreement in the poll.
Those views will not only shape the presidential race between Trump and Hillary Clinton, they could spill over into down-ballot contests that that will determine control of Congress and governorships after November.
“This is obviously related to perceptions of Trump,” said pollster J. Ann Selzer, who oversaw the survey. “This bleeds out into perceptions of the party and to other GOP politicians.”
Almost one in three Republicans say they feel unfavorably toward Trump, while just 17 percent of Democrats are unfavorable toward Clinton.
The survey, conducted Friday through Monday, shows a high level of upheaval within the GOP as Trump trails Clinton by 12 percentage points in the horse race. Among self-described Republicans, 28 percent say they feel unfavorably about their party. Just 4 percent of Democrats say they feel that way.
“You typically see near-universal approval of the party by party members,” Selzer said. “As recently as December of 2014, just 9 percent of Republicans said they were unfavorable toward the Republican Party.”
Sixty percent of likely voters say nominating Trump next month at the party's national convention in Cleveland is bad for the Republican Party. Among likely Republican voters, 27 percent hold that view, while 69 percent say he'll prove good for the party.
The polling traced some jarring contrasts in an election year with Americans feeling better off thanks to a protracted recovery, yet still gripped by an overall unease about the economy and the future. For one, just 23 percent of Americans say the country is going in the right direction, among the lowest shares recorded in a Bloomberg national poll. Yet at the same time, a majority, 55 percent, say they're personally better off than at the start of 2009, when President Barack Obama took office. That's the highest level for that metric since the poll first asked the question in December 2010.
Forty-nine percent of Americans say today's children will have a lower standard of living than their parents, up from 45 percent when asked in the poll four years ago. Here, too, there's more pessimism among Republicans than Democrats, 62 percent to 33 percent.
There was virtually no difference between members of the two parties when asked about their mood ahead of the coming election. Given five choices, 30 percent of likely voters picked “optimistic.” That was followed by 18 percent each for “pessimistic” and “disillusioned,” 19 percent for “afraid,” and 12 percent for “enthusiastic.”
Unemployment and jobs was selected as the top issue facing the nation, with 20 percent of Americans choosing it from a list of 10 options. Other top picks included a decline in real income for workers (14 percent), terrorism (13 percent), health care (11 percent), and threats from the Islamic State (10 percent).
In his race with Clinton, Trump continues to score best among likely voters seeking a strong leader. That was one of four candidate qualities tested in the poll, along with someone who “shares your values,” someone who “cares about people like you,” and someone who has a “vision for the future.”
The real-estate developer and TV personality wins 53 percent of likely voters who pick strong leadership as their single most important trait for deciding their vote. Clinton, meanwhile, wins half or more among those who select one of the other three traits as their top factor.
Clinton doesn’t have a lot to gain by emphasizing that she’d be the first woman elected U.S. president, the poll shows. Her gender, which played a more central role in her unsuccessful 2008 White House bid, is a non-issue to most.
Two out of three likely voters who are women say Clinton’s status as the first woman to be the presumptive nominee of a major party doesn’t matter. A majority of every demographic group agrees, with the highest support for wanting to see her play up the historic nature of her candidacy found among women Democrats, at 30 percent.
“In 2008, Hillary Clinton put millions of cracks in the glass ceiling, paving the way for the next woman who sought the presidency,” Selzer said. “As it turned out, she paved the way for herself. It is now considered a non-event.”
Among other descriptions of presidents tested with likely voters, Clinton beats Trump on the majority of them. She's perceived as stronger on fighting for the middle class, having the right temperament, being ready to lead on day one in office, getting things done in Washington, being a good role model for children, and possessing the skills needed to conduct foreign policy.
Trump is viewed stronger at knowing what it takes to create jobs, reining in the power of Wall Street, changing the way Washington does business, and combating terrorist threats at home and abroad.
Clinton is viewed as a better home guest than Trump, 52 percent to 34 percent. She's also viewed as more trustworthy, 43 percent to 37 percent.
Trump is viewed favorably by 31 percent of Americans, roughly in the same range where he's scored in the poll since June of 2012.
Clinton is viewed favorably by 43 percent of Americans, almost identical to the scores she recorded in the past two Bloomberg national polls, in March and November. Her husband, former President Bill Clinton, remains more popular, with 56 percent seeing him in a positive light.
That's one percentage point above Obama’s favorability. The president's overall job approval is at 53 percent, while 49 percent of Americans approve the way he's handling the economy.
If some in the Republican Party are yearning for their 2012 nominee to somehow challenge Trump for the nomination at the convention, they may want to think again about that long-shot idea.
A majority of likely voters, 55 percent, say they could never support Mitt Romney, the same share who say that of Trump. Among the larger group of all Americans, the former Massachusetts governor is viewed favorably by just 37 percent.
When likely Republican and independent voters were asked whether they think Trump or Romney best represents their political views, 34 percent said Trump, 30 percent said Romney and the largest share, 35 percent, said neither.
Asked that same question with Paul Ryan compared to Trump, the U.S. House speaker is the top choice at 35 percent of likely Republican and independent voters, followed by “neither” at 33 percent and Trump at 31 percent.
The unhappiness with Republican leaders among members of the party extends to Romney, with 43 percent of Republicans holding an unfavorable view of him. Just 20 percent of Republicans feel that way about Ryan.
The same cannot be said for other Democrats tested in the poll. Just 6 percent of Democrats view Obama unfavorably, while 8 percent feel that way about Bill Clinton.
Likely Republican and independent voters are split on whether endorsements of Trump matter to them, with 38 percent saying that if additional prominent Republicans choose not to support Trump it would actually make them more likely to support the billionaire. Thirty-one percent said it would make them less likely to back him and 29 percent said it doesn't matter in their decision-making.
There's a fairly evenly split among likely voters on whether inexperience with governing or picking someone who reflects the past traditions of the presidency is a bigger risk to the nation's future. A plurality of 47 percent say there's greater risk in electing someone who hasn't held office, while 43 percent say electing the same sort of person who has served as president for many decades carries greater danger.
There’s a party divide on this question, with Republicans more likely to see electing the same sort as the greater risk and Democrats more likely to see electing someone who hasn’t had government experience as riskier.
The poll interviewed 1,000 adults, including 750 who said they're likely to vote in November’s general election. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points for the full sample, 3.6 percentage points for the likely voter subsample and 4.5 percentage points for the likely Republican and independent voter subsample. The survey was conducted by Selzer & Co. of West Des Moines, Iowa.