PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans' opinions of the Republican Party have improved to the point where now more have a favorable than unfavorable opinion of the party. The last time more Americans viewed the GOP more positively than negatively was in 2005.
These results are based on a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted Jan. 14-16.
For the early part of the 2000s, Americans had a net-positive image of the Republican Party. That changed in 2005, as Americans soured on the Bush administration over the ongoing Iraq war, the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina, and rising gas prices, among other issues. After the 2006 midterm elections, which saw Americans remove the Republicans as the majority party in Congress, the Republicans' ratings were 35% favorable and 58% unfavorable.
The Republican Party's image remained negative over the next two years as the economy worsened, except for a 47%-47% reading after the party's well-received national convention in 2008, which ended days before the financial crisis intensified. Just after Americans elected Barack Obama to replace Bush later that year, the Republicans' net-favorable score was -27 (34% favorable, 61% unfavorable) -- the worst Gallup has measured in this trend dating to 1992.
Americans' opinions of the Republican Party improved in late 2009 and early 2010 before falling back in a May 2010 poll, but have steadily improved since then.
Democratic Party Image Divided, but Improved
Americans' current 46% favorable and 47% unfavorable rating of the Democratic Party is among the worst for Democrats since 1992, but is an improvement from last year.
In March, just after President Obama signed the healthcare reform bill into law, 41% of Americans had a favorable view and 54% an unfavorable view of the Democratic Party, the worst Gallup has ever measured. Three other 2010 measurements showed similar scores.
Those ratings are a significant departure from what Gallup has historically measured for the Democratic Party, with generally more than 50% of Americans holding a favorable opinion, and ratings more positive than negative in all but a few polls.
After a rancorous election year in 2010, Americans' opinions of both political parties are improving in early 2011. If the Republican Party is able to sustain its net positive image, this will indicate the party has completely recovered from the downturn it took beginning in 2005.
The Democratic Party's image, though improved, remains low for the party from a historical perspective.
The two parties' ratings are now generally similar, suggesting they are starting off on relatively equal footing as a Democratic president and Senate, and a Republican House of Representatives attempt to govern the nation over the next two years. The parties made a show of bipartisanship at Tuesday's State of the Union by having their members sit together rather than in separate sections. Such attempts at working together likely would have a positive impact on how Americans view the two parties.
Results for this USA Today/Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Jan. 14-16, 2011, with a random sample of 1,032 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., selected using random-digit-dial sampling.
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). Each sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone-only respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, education, region, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2010 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in continental U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.
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.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.