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Americans: Inauguration More About Politics Than Patriotism

Americans: Inauguration More About Politics Than Patriotism

by Jim Norman
Chart: data points are described in article

Story Highlights

  • Most see Trump's inauguration as a celebration by his supporters
  • Eight years ago, most saw Obama's inauguration as a celebration for all
  • Americans more likely to be OK with protests than in the past

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Most Americans embraced Barack Obama's historic inauguration eight years ago as a celebration by all Americans, but a majority this year has returned to the view that the ceremony is a more partisan affair. Fifty-five percent now say Donald Trump's inauguration this week is more of a political celebration by his supporters than "a celebration by all Americans of democracy in action."

Do you see this week's inauguration more as a celebration by all Americans of democracy in action or a political celebration by the supporters of the candidate who won the presidential election?
Celebration by all Celebration by supporters
% %
2017 Jan 14-15 37 55
2009 Jan 9-11 55 42
2005 Jan 14-16 29 69
2001 Jan 15-16 26 72
Question was not asked prior to 2013 inauguration

Trump will take office with a majority of Americans having an unfavorable view of him and with his opponents planning widespread protests through the weekend. This political landscape is far different from eight years ago, when 55% of Americans felt Obama's inauguration as the first black president was a time for all to celebrate and more than three-quarters viewed his inauguration as one of the most historic in the nation's history. When Obama took office, the few protests surrounding his swearing-in were directed mainly at outgoing President George W. Bush.

Losing Parties See Inaugurations as Victory Parties for Their Opponents

More than three-fourths (77%) of Democrats and those who lean Democratic view this year's inauguration as a celebration by Trump's supporters rather than a celebration by all. A smaller majority of Republicans and leaners viewed Obama's first swearing-in ceremony as a Democratic victory party. And more than four in five Democrats saw the Bush inauguration celebrations of 2001 and 2005 as a celebration by his supporters.

Percent Who Say the Inauguration Is a Political Celebration by the Supporters of the Candidate Who Won the Presidential Election
Democrats + leaners Republicans + leaners
% %
2017 77 34
2009 24 64
2005 85 51
2001 86 56
Question was not asked prior to 2013 inauguration

Though the overall percentage who now see the inauguration as a time for all to celebrate has dropped since 2009, it is higher than prior to either of the times George W. Bush was sworn in -- driven almost entirely by changes in attitudes among Republicans and leaners. More Republicans now say it is a celebration by all, even though Republicans are less likely to have a favorable view of Trump now (82%) than they were to view Bush favorably prior to his inaugurations (97% both times).

Americans More Likely to Condone Inauguration Protests Than in Past

Americans are split on whether protests are appropriate during the inauguration ceremonies -- 46% say they are while 51% say they are inappropriate. The public was less willing to view the protests as appropriate in the days prior to George W. Bush's inauguration ceremonies in 2001 (28%) and 2005 (38%). Gallup did not ask this question prior to Obama's inaugurations in 2009 and 2013.

Regardless of whether you think people have a right to protest during the presidential inaugural ceremonies, do you think it is appropriate or inappropriate for them to do so?
Appropriate Inappropriate No opinion
% % %
2017 Jan 14-15 46 51 3
2005 Jan 14-16 38 61 1
2001 Jan 15-16 28 71 1
Question was not asked prior to 2009 and 2013 inaugurations

The increase in the percentage of Americans deeming inauguration protests appropriate is based mainly on the shifting attitudes of Democrats and leaners -- from 37% in 2001, to 49% in 2005 and 67% now. Views of Republicans and those who lean Republican have changed little. Nineteen percent in 2001 found them appropriate, 25% in 2005 and 23% now.

Bottom Line

Presidential inaugurations are ceremonies at which presidents have celebrated the principles and beliefs that unite Americans. But in an era of ever-growing partisan differences, the gulf between Republicans and Democrats has widened even on the subject of the inauguration itself. Republicans and leaners are more likely now than they were eight, 12 or 16 years ago to see the inauguration as a time for all to celebrate. Democrats and leaners are now more likely than in 2001 or 2005 to think it is appropriate to protest the ceremonies.

With the incoming president facing major protests, a historical inauguration boycott by Democrats in the House of Representatives and a doubting public, the nation is in a far different place than eight years ago, when four in five Americans saw the nation's first black president as a uniter, and an overwhelming majority looked ahead to better times.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Jan. 14-15, 2017, on the Gallup U.S. Daily survey, with a random sample of 1,017 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 70% cellphone respondents and 30% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View survey methodology, complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup U.S. Daily works.

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