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Monmouth University Polling Institute

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The Divided State of America

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Voters concerned about threats to way of life

West Long Branch, NJ  - The vast majority of voters say the country is greatly divided and many are also concerned that the country could suffer lasting damage if people who did not share their own principles came into power.  Paradoxically, most voters claim to have a fair amount of confidence in their fellow Americans' political judgment, although this sentiment has been on the decline recently.  The latest Monmouth University Poll  also found that many Americans feel their personal way of life is under threat from a variety of sources, with Islamic terrorists and Donald Trump prompting greater concern than illegal Mexican immigrants and Hillary Clinton.

Seven-in-ten registered voters nationwide (70%) say that America is greatly divided when it comes to the most important values.  Just 27% say Americans are united and in agreement on these values.  The sense that the country is divided is similar among Republicans (73%), independents (70%), and Democrats (67%).  Only 30% of voters say the country is heading in the right direction while 65% say it is on the wrong track - but this opinion has a more partisan bent to it, with 89% of Republicans and 73% of independents saying the country is on the wrong track compared to just 39% of Democrats who feel the same.

Half of the American electorate (50%) express a great deal of concern that the country would suffer lasting damage if people who hold core political principles different from their own were able to put their policies into place.  Another 34% have some concern about potential damage to the country if this happened.  Majorities of Democrats (54%) and Republicans (51%) have a great deal of concern about this, while just under half of independents (46%) feel the same.

Still, the poll found that a majority of voters have either a great deal (13%) or a fair amount (47%) of trust and confidence in the American people as a whole when it comes to making judgments under our democratic system about issues facing the country.  However, this 60% trust level is lower than it has been in the past according to polls conducted by the Gallup organization.  Gallup found public trust in the America people at 86% in 1976, at 75% in 2004, and at 64% in 2012.  Today, Democrats (70%) are more likely than independents (57%) and Republicans (56%) to say they have confidence in the American people.

"We are seeing a mixed bag of results here. Voters claim they trust the American people to make political decisions, but it seems that may only apply if they actually agree with those decisions.  And the conflict they see among their political leaders doesn't boost confidence," said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

A majority of voters (54%) say that the current government in Washington has a negative impact on most people's lives - including 71% of Republicans, 62% of independents, and just 34% of Democrats.  Only 19% of voters overall feel the federal government has a positive impact and 21% say it doesn't have much impact on people's day to day lives either way.

It's also worth noting that the rating of how Congress is doing remains abysmally low at 14% approve and 78% disapprove.  On the other hand, Pres. Barack Obama's job rating has taken a significant upturn in the past month, now standing at 56% approve and 40% disapprove.  It was 49% approve and 46% disapprove in July.

Most voters (55%) see an unwillingness to compromise among elected officials as causing more problems in DC as opposed to having leaders who are unwilling to stand up for their principles (36% say this causes more problems).  Democrats (69%) and independents (53%) say a lack of compromise is the bigger problem while most Republicans (52%) say a lack of backbone on principles is the bigger problem in Washington.

Two-thirds of voters (67%) feel the harsh language used in politics today is unjustified, which is up from 54% who felt this way in January.  Just 27% of the electorate are okay with the type of harsh language used in current political discourse given the current state of the country.  More Donald Trump supporters are fine with abrasive rhetoric (49%) than are turned off by it (45%).  Among all self-identified Republicans, though, more say this type of language is unjustified (51%) rather than justified (43%).  On the other hand, 8-in-10 Hillary Clinton supporters (82%) and self-identified Democrats (81%) alike say this language is unjustified.

The Monmouth University Poll  also asked American voters if they feel the American way of life is under threat right now.  Nearly half (47%) feel it is under a great deal of threat and 31% sense some threat, while only 1-in-5 say the threat level is either not much (13%) or not at all (7%).  Republicans (65%) are most likely to feel the American way of life is under a great deal of threat, followed by independents (48%), and Democrats (35%).

"It seems that voters' confidence in the American system of government is based more on which party they think will be elected to power rather than an underlying belief in the strength of our democracy," said Murray.

The poll specifically asked whether voters feel that their own personal way of life is under threat from six different sources.  Among these sources, majorities of the electorate say they personally feel threatened by Islamic terrorists (61%) and by the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency (54%).  About 4-in-10 feel their way of life is threatened by the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency (42%), by the policies of the Republican Party (43%), or by the policies of the Democratic Party (39%).  Just 28% say their personal way of life is under threat from illegal immigrants from Mexico.

Independents are about as likely to sense a threat to their way of life from having either Trump (50%) or Clinton (51%) in the Oval Office.  However, Republicans are less likely to see Clinton as a threat (77%) than Democrats are to say the same about Trump (85%).  Conversely, Republicans are more likely to feel Trump poses a threat to their way of life (18%) than Democrats who feel the same about Clinton (6%).

Interestingly, voters under the age of 35 tend to feel less of a threat from all of these sources than voters age 35 and older, with the exception of Trump, who 61% of those under 35 feel could be a threat to their way of life as president compared to 52% of those age 35 and older.  Younger voters are also less likely to trust the American people's political judgment (45% of those under age 35 compared to 66% of those age 35 and older), less likely to have a great deal of concern if people who don't share their political views get into power (39% compared to 53%), and a little more likely to be okay with the harsh rhetoric used in politics today (34% compared to 25%).

The Monmouth University Poll  was conducted by telephone from August 4 to 7, 2016 with 803 registered voters in the United States.   The results in this release have a margin of error of +  3.5 percent.  The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.

 

QUESTIONS AND RESULTS                                                               

(* Some columns may not add to 100% due to rounding.)         

 

[ Q1-15 previously released ]

16.    Do you approve or disapprove of the job Barack Obama is doing as president?

TREND: Registered voters  

Aug. 2016  

July 2016

June 2016

March 2016

Jan. 2016

Dec. 2015

Oct. 2015

Sept. 2015

Aug. 2015

July 2015

June 2015

April 2015

Jan. 2015

Dec. 2014

July 2013

Approve

56%  

49%

49%

48%

45%

40%

44%

45%

43%

47%

44%

43%

43%

42%

41%

Disapprove

40%  

46%

46%

45%

48%

54%

48%

51%

53%

49%

48%

50%

49%

50%

54%

(VOL) No opinion

4%  

6%

5%

6%

7%

5%

8%

5%

4%

4%

8%

7%

8%

8%

5%

Unwtd N  

803  

805  

803  

848  

872  

856  

836  

847  

1,033  

840  

829  

825  

863  

887  

850  

17.    Do you approve or disapprove of the job the U.S. Congress is doing?

TREND: Registered voters  

Aug. 2016  

June 2016

March 2016

Jan. 2016

Dec. 2015

Oct. 2015

Sept.

2015

Aug. 2015

July 2015

June 2015

April 2015

Jan. 2015

Dec. 2014

July 2013

Approve

14%  

17%

19%

15%

16%

13%

17%

16%

18%

15%

21%

16%

15%

14%

Disapprove

78%  

76%

72%

78%

77%

77%

74%

77%

73%

77%

70%

74%

75%

78%

(VOL) No opinion

9%  

7%

9%

7%

8%

10%

9%

7%

9%

8%

9%

9%

9%

8%

Unwtd N  

803  

803  

848  

872  

856  

836  

847  

1,033  

840  

829  

825  

863  

887  

850  

18.    Would you say things in the country are going in the right direction, or have they gotten off on the wrong track?

TREND: Registered voters  

August 2016  

October 2015

July 2015

June 2015

April 2015

December 2014

July 2013

Right direction

30%  

21%

27%

22%

26%

21%

27%

Wrong track

65%  

68%

66%

71%

69%

71%

66%

(VOL) Depends

2%  

7%

4%

5%

4%

5%

5%

(VOL) Don't know

3%  

4%

3%

2%

1%

3%

2%

Unwtd N  

803  

836  

840  

829  

825  

887  

850  

19.    Overall, do you think the current government in Washington has more of a positive impact or more of a negative impact on most people's lives, or does it have little impact either way?

TREND: Registered voters  

August 2016  

June 2015

Positive impact

19%  

18%

Negative impact

54%  

55%

Little impact either way

21%  

21%

(VOL) Mixed/ depends

4%  

3%

(VOL) Don't know

3%  

3%

Unwtd N  

803  

829  

 [ The following question was asked of those who said NEGATIVE IMPACT: moe=+/-4.6% ]

20.    Do you think it is possible to improve Washington to have a positive impact on people's lives or do you think it is unlikely that anything can be done to improve Washington?

TREND: Registered voters  

August 2016  

June 2015

Possible to improve

75%  

71%

Unlikely that anything can be done

23%  

27%

(VOL) Don't know

2%  

1%

Unwtd N  

451  

482  

21.    What causes more problems in the federal government - elected officials who are not willing to stand up for their principles OR elected officials who are not willing to compromise? [ CHOICES WERE ROTATED ]

TREND: Registered voters  

August 2016  

January 2016

January 2015

Not willing to stand up for principles

36%  

40%

37%

Not willing to compromise

55%  

50%

54%

(VOL) Depends

8%  

6%

7%

(VOL) Don't know

2%  

4%

2%

Unwtd N  

803  

872  

863  

22.    Which statement comes closer to your view: Americans are united and in agreement about the most important values or Americans are greatly divided when it comes to the most important values?   [CHOICES WERE ROTATED]  

TREND: Registered voters  

August 2016  

Americans are united

27%  

Americans are greatly divided

70%  

(VOL) Don't know

4%  

Unwtd N  

803  

23.    More generally, how much trust and confidence do you have in the American people as a whole when it comes to making judgments under our democratic system about the issues facing our country - a great deal, a fair amount, not very much, or none at all?

TREND: Registered voters  

August 2016  

A great deal

13%  

A fair amount

47%  

Not very much

29%  

None at all

9%  

(VOL) Don't know

2%  

Unwtd N  

803  

24.    Thinking about people who hold core political principles that are different from yours, how much does it concern you that our country would suffer lasting damage if their policies were put into place - would you say a great deal, some, not much, or not at all?

TREND: Registered voters  

August 2016  

January 2016

A great deal

50%  

53%

Some

34%  

30%

Not much

9%  

8%

Not at all

4%  

5%

(VOL) Don't know

3%  

3%

Unwtd N  

803  

872  

25.    Do you feel that the harsh language used in politics today is justified or unjustified given the current state of the country?

TREND: Registered voters  

August 2016  

January 2016

Justified

27%  

37%

Unjustified

67%  

54%

(VOL) Do not feel the rhetoric is harsh

1%  

3%

(VOL) Don't know

4%  

6%

Unwtd N  

803  

872  

26.    How much do you feel the American way of life is under threat right now - a great deal, some, not much, or not at all?

TREND: Registered voters  

August 2016  

A great deal

47%  

Some

31%  

Not much

13%  

Not at all

7%  

(VOL) Don't know

2%  

Unwtd N  

803  

27.    Do you feel your own personal way of life is or is not under threat from - [ITEMS WERE ROTATED]  

Islamic terrorists

TREND: Registered voters  

August 2016  

Is

61%  

Is not

34%  

(VOL) Depends

2%  

(VOL) Don't know

3%  

Unwtd N  

803  

Illegal immigrants from Mexico

TREND: Registered voters  

August 2016  

Is

28%  

Is not

69%  

(VOL) Depends

1%  

(VOL) Don't know

1%  

Unwtd N  

803  

The policies of the Democratic Party

TREND: Registered voters  

August 2016  

Is

39%  

Is not

56%  

(VOL) Depends

2%  

(VOL) Don't know

3%  

Unwtd N  

803  

The policies of the Republican Party

TREND: Registered voters  

August 2016  

Is

43%  

Is not

50%  

(VOL) Depends

4%  

(VOL) Don't know

3%  

Unwtd N  

803  

The prospect of Hillary Clinton becoming president

TREND: Registered voters  

August 2016  

Is

42%  

Is not

55%  

(VOL) Depends

1%  

(VOL) Don't know

2%  

Unwtd N  

803  

The prospect of Donald Trump becoming president

TREND: Registered voters  

August 2016  

Is

54%  

Is not

42%  

(VOL) Depends

2%  

(VOL) Don't know

2%  

Unwtd N  

803  

28.    Recent indicators have shown that the U.S. economy has been growing, including lower unemployment, higher productivity, and a record high Dow Jones average.  How much has your family benefitted from this economic upturn - a great deal, some, not much, or not at all?

TREND: Registered voters  

August 2016  

January 2015

Great deal

11%  

8%

Some

32%  

32%

Not much

26%  

31%

Not at all

28%  

29%

(VOL) Don't know

3%  

0%

Unwtd N  

803  

863  

 

METHODOLOGY  

The Monmouth University Poll  was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from August 4 to 7, 2016 with a national random sample of 803 registered voters.  Interviews were conducted by a live caller in English, including 402 drawn from a list of registered voters (200 landline / 202 cell phone) and 401 using random digit dial (200 landline / 201 cell phone). Monmouth is responsible for all aspects of the survey design, data weighting and analysis. The final sample is weighted for age, gender, race and partisanship based on voter list and U.S. Census information.  Data collection support provided by Braun Research (field), Aristotle (voter list sample), and SSI (RDD sample).  For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points (unadjusted for sample design).  Sampling error can be larger for sub-groups (see table below).  In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.

 

DEMOGRAPHICS (weighted)  

26% Republican  

39% Independent  

35% Democrat  

   

47% Male  

53% Female  

   

25% 18-34  

25% 35-49  

28% 50-64  

22% 65+  

   

71% White  

13% Black  

11% Hispanic  

  5% Asian/Other  

   

Click on pdf file link below for full methodology and results by key demographic groups.

 

Download this Poll Report with all tables

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Monmouth University Poll

West Long Branch, NJ 07764
www.monmouth.edu/polling
Follow on Twitter: @MonmouthPoll

Patrick Murray

732-263-5858 (office)
pdmurray@monmouth.edu
Follow on Twitter: @PollsterPatrick

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