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Americans Not Optimistic About Trump, Democrats Cooperating

Americans Not Optimistic About Trump, Democrats Cooperating

Story Highlights

  • 33% expect Donald Trump will cooperate with Dems at least a fair amount
  • 28% believe Democrats will cooperate with Trump
  • Significantly fewer Americans expect cooperation than did so in 2006

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans are largely pessimistic that President Donald Trump and the Democrats in Congress will cooperate much over the next two years once Democrats assume control of the House of Representatives in January. Thirty-three percent believe Trump will cooperate a great deal or fair amount with the Democrats, while 28% think the Democrats will do the same with Trump. Both percentages are well below what Gallup measured in 2006, the last time Democrats took control of the House and prepared to govern with a Republican president, George W. Bush.

Americans Less Likely to Expect Cooperation Between the President and Democratic Congress Than After Last Time Democrats Won Control of the House
How much do you think [Donald Trump / George W. Bush] will cooperate with the Democratic leaders in Congress over the next two years -- a great deal, a fair amount, not much or not at all? How much do you think the Democrats in Congress will cooperate with [Donald Trump / George W. Bush] over the next two years -- a great deal, a fair amount, not much or not at all?
A great deal/Fair amount Not much/Not at all
% %
Trump cooperate with Democrats 33 64
Democrats cooperate with Trump 28 70
Bush cooperate with Democrats 52 47
Democrats cooperate with Bush 48 51

The latest results are from a Nov. 13-18 Gallup poll, conducted the week after Democrats gained a net of nearly 40 U.S. House seats in the 2018 midterm election, more than enough to make them the majority party in the next Congress. The Democrats' victory was fueled in large part by opposition to Trump. As such, they must find a balance between working with Trump, and the Republican Senate majority, to keep the government functioning while trying to keep his power in check.

Democrats faced the same challenges after the 2006 elections, when they shared a new power arrangement with Bush, who was deeply unpopular because of the Iraq War and other issues. But Americans were more optimistic about the two sides being able to work together in 2006 -- roughly half thought both Bush (52%) and the Democrats (48%) would cooperate a great deal or fair amount with the other side.

As might be expected, Americans who identify as Republicans are much more optimistic than Democratic identifiers that Trump will cooperate with congressional Democrats, 61% to 11%. Likewise, Democratic partisans are more optimistic than Republican partisans about congressional Democrats' willingness to cooperate, 42% to 14%. Independents make no distinction between the major actors -- 29% think Trump will cooperate a great deal or fair amount and 27% think congressional Democrats will.

All three major party groups were much more likely to think Bush and the Democrats in Congress would work together in 2006 than those same groups are now to believe Trump and congressional Democrats will cooperate. For example, 73% of Republicans thought Bush would cooperate with the Democrats in 2006, but 61% of Republicans now believe the same about Trump. There are more than 20-point gaps in Democrats' and independents' expectations for Trump cooperating with congressional Democrats as compared with Bush in 2006.

The differences in expectations for congressional Democrats' cooperation with the Republican president between 2006 and 2018 are 16 points among Republicans (30% to 14%), 17 points among Democrats (59% to 42%) and 21 points among independents (48% to 27%).

Expectations for Cooperation Between President and Congressional Democrats, 2006 and 2018, by Political Party
Figures are the percentage expecting a great deal or fair amount of cooperation from each side
Democrats Independents Republicans
% % %
Trump cooperate with Democrats 11 29 61
Democrats cooperate with Trump 42 27 14
Bush cooperate with Democrats 38 52 73
Democrats cooperate with Bush 59 48 30


Like Barack Obama and Bill Clinton before him, Trump enjoyed his first two years in office with both houses of Congress controlled by his own party, but will begin his third year with a divided government. That will undoubtedly make it harder for him to accomplish his agenda, while also facing the likelihood of increased congressional oversight of his administration's actions.

Perhaps because he did not need to rely on Democratic votes to advance his favored policies, Trump has made little effort to work with Democrats the past two years. One notable exception came in the fall of 2017 when he agreed with a short-term Democratic plan to raise the U.S. debt limit to avoid a government shutdown and fund hurricane relief. A subsequent budget agreement, passed in February, that raised spending levels, also received support from both sides of the aisle. Trump, who prides himself on being a dealmaker, must utilize those skills to work with Democrats to address the key issues facing the country. Some of these issues, such as infrastructure, are supported by Democrats and Republicans alike.

View complete question responses and trends.

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