Producers, editors and reporters have highlighted a "divided Republican Party" motif in their coverage of the presidential race in recent days.
A lot of this came after last Tuesday's Indiana primary and Ted Cruz's and John Kasich's subsequent exit from the race -- and the indisputable fact that some GOP leaders have publicly announced they will either not endorse Donald Trump or will not vote for him.
The Washington Post headlined "Trump Takes the Reins of a Divided GOP," while The Wall Street Journal summarized their "Journal Editorial Report" broadcast as "A Divided GOP" and MSNBC asked: "Can a Party Divided Against Itself Still Stand?"
But what of the rank-and-file Republicans -- those across the country who are not famous leaders of the GOP, but either identify with or lean to the Republican Party?
Here we find a less divided GOP than the headlines and commentary might suggest. Take a look at the accompanying table, summarizing Gallup's latest weekly data on Trump and Hillary Clinton.
|Donald Trump Among Republicans/Republican leaners%||Hillary Clinton Among Democrats/Democratic leaners%|
|May 2-8, 2016|
|Gallup Daily Tracking|
Republicans have a 64% favorable/31% unfavorable opinion of Trump, which is better than a 2-to-1 favorable-to-unfavorable ratio. By comparison, Clinton's image among Democrats is slightly better, at 70% favorable/26% unfavorable. In other words, both Trump and Clinton engender some divided feelings among their partisans, with 31% and 26% unfavorable opinions.
I looked back at 2012. A May 10-13, 2012, Gallup poll showed the presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney with 82% favorable/13% unfavorable image among Republicans -- certainly better than Trump or Clinton today. (Obama, in that same poll, had an even better 88% favorable/11% unfavorable image among Democrats). But by July 2012, a survey showed Romney's image among Republicans was more negative, at 69% favorable/21% unfavorable -- still better than Trump's or Clinton's today, but it shows that things can change and that nominees can divide their party -- and have done so in the past.
We also have interesting data collected this past weekend on vote intentions. Seventy-one percent of Republicans said they would be likely to vote for Trump, with 21% ruling it out. Clinton? Among Democrats, 73% said they would be likely to vote for her, with 21% ruling it out. So, in terms of vote projection at this point, Trump is no more dividing the Republican Party than Clinton is dividing the Democratic Party. The same percent of partisans say they will not vote for their party's front-runner.
This suggests that Trump is not in as unusual a position as some might think. We need to be somewhat cautious in assuming that Republicans across the nation are riven by a devastating rift because of divided emotions about Trump. The significant majority of Republicans, in fact, apparently like Trump and say they are likely to vote for him, and Trump's image is only marginally more divisive among Republicans than Clinton's is among Democrats.