PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans' favorable rating of the Democratic Party dropped to 41% in a late March USA Today/Gallup poll, the lowest point in the 18-year history of this measure. Favorable impressions of the Republican Party are now at 42%, thus closing the gap between the two parties' images that has prevailed for the past four years.
Gallup last measured party images in late August/early September of last year. At that point, the Democratic Party enjoyed an 11-point favorable image advantage over the Republican Party. Now, the favorable ratings of the two parties are essentially tied.
The images of the two major parties have particular significance in a midterm election year. For example, the favorable rating of the Democratic Party exceeded that of the Republican Party by 52% to 37% just prior to the 2006 midterm elections, in which the Democrats gained 30 House seats.
Americans' current 41% favorable rating of the Democratic Party is five points lower than the party's previous low, recorded twice in 2005.
By contrast, the Republican Party's image reached its all-time low of 31% in December 1998 -- just after the House of Representatives voted to impeach President Bill Clinton. The Republicans' current rating is improved from a pair of 34% ratings Gallup measured in late 2008 and in May 2009.
The Democratic Party's favorable image has dropped among all three partisan groups compared to August/early September 2009.
There has been little change by party in the Republican Party's favorable image compared to the late summer 2009 measure, although the percentage of Republicans with a favorable image of their party remains significantly higher than it was in May 2009.
Full trends on these favorable measures for both parties are included on page 2 of this report.
Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,033 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted March 26-28, 2010. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone only).
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.