- 57% of Democrats/leaners want their leaders to stick to principles
- Most of the rest of Democrats are neutral; few want compromise
- Overall, Americans split between principles and compromise, 36% vs. 38%
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The majority of Democrats nationally believe it is more important for their party's leaders in Congress to stick to their beliefs even if little gets done, rather than compromise with the Trump administration to get things done. More than two-thirds of Republicans, in sharp if not unexpected contrast, believe it is more important for Democratic leaders to compromise with the administration.
|(5) More important to stick to beliefs||24||38||7|
|(1) More important to compromise||27||9||51|
|GALLUP, MARCH 9-29, 2017|
These results are based on a Gallup survey conducted March 9-29, a period during which the Senate was holding hearings on the confirmation of President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, while the House conducted hearings on Russia's possible involvement in the 2016 U.S. election, and debated and ultimately failed to pass a new healthcare law replacing the Affordable Care Act.
The question asks Americans to indicate on a five-point scale their preference for how Democrats should work with Trump. On this scale, "1" represents the belief that it is important for Democratic leaders to compromise to get things done and "5" represents the belief that it is important for leaders to stick to their principles even if little gets done.
Taken as a whole, Americans are about evenly split on the issue -- with 38% putting themselves at the end of the scale favoring Democratic compromise ("2" or "1") and 36% putting themselves at the other, sticking-to-principles end of the scale ("4" or "5").
This split at the national level masks strong partisan differences, with 57% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents saying their congressional leaders should stick to principles even if little gets done, and another 27% adopting the neutral, middle position -- leaving 15% who favor compromise. On the other hand, 69% of Republicans and Republican leaners say Democratic leaders should compromise, with 12% saying these leaders should stick to their beliefs.
Comparisons to More General Attitudes Measured Last September
Gallup has asked a similar question in the past using generic phrasing that does not mention any specific party or administration, but instead asks about "the best approach for political leaders to follow in Washington."
The September update using this generic wording found Americans as a whole favoring the compromise position, 53% to 21% -- in comparison to the 38% to 36% split now. Republicans and Democrats were both more likely to favor compromise than strict principle in response to the wording used in September.
The pattern of responses appears to support the idea that while Americans may find it easy to endorse the general concept of compromise, they may be less inclined to favor compromise in specific situations involving leaders of their own party.
|Generic question about "Political leaders in Washington," September 2016||Question about "Democratic leaders and Trump administration," March 2017|
|(4, 5) Beliefs||20||57|
|(1, 2) Compromise||56||15|
|(4, 5) Beliefs||22||12|
|(1, 2) Compromise||48||69|
Democratic leaders in Congress now find themselves having to deal with a Republican in the White House, while at the same time occupying the minority position in both the House and the Senate. This means Democrats have to choose between playing a spoiler role in holding back what Trump and the Republicans would like to do -- much like Republicans did under Obama -- and compromising and attempting to work with Trump and the Republicans to get things done. Rank-and-file Democrats' clear direction to their leaders in Congress is to adopt more of the former role, sticking to principles even at the risk of stalling new legislation.
The ultimately unsuccessful effort to pass new healthcare legislation last week highlighted the division within the ranks of the Republicans between conservative "Freedom Caucus" Republicans and the rest of the party. Trump in recent days has gone so far as to criticize the conservative wing of his own party. What Trump and Republicans in Congress are able to do going forward thus may depend not just on the level of cooperation from Democratic leaders, but the unification of factions within the Republican Party itself.
House Speaker Paul Ryan this week said he did not want Trump to work with Democrats to pass new healthcare legislation, casting further doubt on just what Democrats would be able to do even if they did want to cooperate in order to get things done. If Democratic leaders adopt more hardline, noncooperative positions on such issues as the confirmation of Trump's Supreme Court nominee Gorsuch or new legislation on healthcare or tax reform, that would seem to fit well with the general desires of a majority of Democrats across the country.
Historical data are available in Gallup Analytics.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted March 9-29, 2017, with a random sample of 1,526 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 ±3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. For results based on the total sample of 632 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. For results based on the total sample of 710 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, 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.
Learn more about how the Gallup U.S. Daily works.