Most Republicans want former President Donald Trump to remain their party’s leader, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS. But differing views about Trump’s role in the party – and his strength as a future presidential nominee – highlight divides within the GOP.
Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say, 63% to 37%, that Trump should be the leader of the Republican Party. But they are about evenly split over whether having the defeated former President back on the ticket in 2024 would be an advantage: 51% say that Republicans have a better chance of retaking the presidency if Trump is the nominee, with 49% saying the party would be better off with a different nominee. That’s a very different landscape from 2019, when more than three-quarters of Republicans said their party had a better shot in 2020 with Trump as their nominee than they would with a different candidate.
Trump’s support isn’t equally distributed throughout the party: 69% of Republicans without a college degree think Trump should head the party, compared with 49% of those who hold a college degree. A 72% majority of conservatives say Trump should head the party, compared to 49% among the smaller bloc of moderates in the party. And 71% of self-identified Republicans want Trump to lead the party, compared with 51% of Republican-leaning independents who say the same.
Most Republicans also consider support for Trump – and his false claim to have won the 2020 election – to be an important part of their own partisan identity alongside support for conservative principles. About six in 10 say that supporting Trump, and that believing that he won in 2020, are at least a somewhat important part of what being a Republican means to them. More, though, point to more traditional partisan markers, with 69% saying it’s at least somewhat important to oppose Democratic policies, 81% to support the Republicans in Congress, 85% to hold conservative values and positions and 86% to believe the federal government should have less power.
Democratic partisan identity
Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are most likely to tie their identity as Democrats to support for progressive policies and more government aid, the most recent poll finds. Perhaps reflecting their status as the party currently in power, they’re less likely than Republicans to place emphasis on opposing the other party: 58% say that, as Democrats, it’s at least somewhat important to oppose GOP policies, 77% to support Biden, 81% to support Democrats in Congress, 84% to hold progressive positions and 93% to believe that the federal government should do more to help people.
On the Democratic side, the sharpest divisions come along generational and racial lines. Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents over age 45, for instance, are 28 percentage points likelier than their younger counterparts to call supporting Biden very important, and 22 points likelier to say supporting congressional Democrats is very important. Black Democrats are 14 points likelier than White Democrats to say supporting Biden is very important. And Democrats of color are 12 points likelier than White Democrats to say it’s very important that the federal government should do more to help people.
Liberal Democrats are likelier than moderates to place high importance on holding progressive policies (by 32 points), opposing the GOP (14 points), favoring an expanded role for the federal government (14 points), and backing congressional Democrats (12 points), but show far less of a divide over the importance of standing behind Biden (3 points).
Both Democrats and Republicans are currently satisfied with the ideological positions their own parties are staking out. The vast majority of Republicans, 86%, call the GOP mainstream; on the flip side, 92% of Democrats see their party as mainstream, and 96% say the same of Biden.
Americans are closely split in their views of the Republican Party, with 51% calling it too extreme and 49% saying it’s generally mainstream. They say, 54% to 45%, that the Democratic Party is generally mainstream. Just 14% of Americans view both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party as too extreme. Another 31% say only the Democrats are too extreme, with 37% saying only the Republicans are, and 17% seeing both parties as generally mainstream. Biden is seen as more mainstream than his party as a whole: 61% say he is generally mainstream, compared to 39% who call him too extreme.
Between 2010 and 2013, the share of the public that called Democrats too extreme in CNN/ORC polling stood around four in 10, while the share that said the same about the GOP generally rose over that time to a high of 56%.
2022 midterms and Congress
Looking ahead to next year’s congressional elections, the poll finds early preferences on a generic ballot are about evenly split, with 45% of registered voters saying they’d vote for the Democratic Party’s candidate, and 44% that they’d vote for the Republican Party’s candidate.
Overall, 28% of voters say they’re extremely enthusiastic about voting for Congress next year, higher than the 18% who reported similar excitement in September 2017, one year ahead of the last midterm elections.
Republican-leaning voters are slightly more enthusiastic about casting ballots in next year’s contest than are Democratic-leaning voters (30% on the Republican side, 26% on the Democratic side), and within both parties, those with the strongest ideological leanings are most enthusiastic (38% of very liberal Democratic voters and 44% of very conservative Republican voters say they are extremely enthusiastic).
But where Democrats are broadly happy with their current leadership in Congress, Republicans – especially those with weak ties to the party – are less satisfied. Most self-identified Republicans, 58%, approve of their party’s congressional leadership. But among independents who lean toward the Republican Party, that number falls sharply to 29%. By contrast, 83% of Democrats approve of their party’s congressional leadership, as do 69% of Democratic-leaning independents.
Overall, Americans disapprove of Democratic congressional leaders by a 10-percentage point margin, 55% to 45%, and disapprove of the Republican leaders by a wider 38-point margin, 69% to 31%. That’s a shift from 2019, when CNN polling found both parties’ congressional leaders with identically low ratings.
The new CNN poll was conducted by SSRS August 3 through September 7 online and by telephone among a random sample of 2,119 adults recruited from an address-based sample.