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Deep Divide Remains After Election

Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020

Public split on whether Trump has protected or undermined US Constitution

West Long Branch, NJ – Donald Trump is ending his presidential term with his job approval rating on the high end of the narrow band it has occupied over the last four years. However, the Monmouth (“Mon-muth”) University Poll also finds that most Americans think the country has become more divided since he took office. Still, a small but significant portion of the public gives Trump credit for “draining the swamp” and more than a third believes he has actually worked to protect, rather than undermine, the U.S. Constitution. Expectations that Washington will improve under Joe Biden are tempered to say the least.

Three-fourths (76%) of Americans believe that we are greatly divided when it comes to the nation’s most important values. Just 21% feel we are generally in agreement on these values. These findings have been fairly consistent over the past four years. Similar numbers of Republicans, Democrats, and independents are in agreement that the country is fundamentally divided. They don’t quite agree, though, on how much of this is due to President Trump.

More than two-thirds of Americans feel the country has become more divided since Trump took office. This number started out at 52% in March 2017, crept up to 62% the following year and then 66% this past summer, and has hit 70% in the current poll. Partisans differ on this opinion – 90% of Democrats say the country has become more divided under Trump while 49% of Republicans agree. Only 31% of the public believes the country will grow more united over the next year, while 25% expect us to become more divided and 35% expect to see little change. About half (49%) of Democrats expect the U.S. to become more united, but a similar number (48%) of Republicans expect that the divide will widen.

“We agree on the problem – the country is deeply divided at its core. However, we don’t quite agree whether compromise or principle will get us out of this political quagmire,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

When asked what they think is causing more problems in the federal government, 51% point to elected officials who are not willing to compromise. On the other hand, 42% say Washington’s problems actually stem from elected officials who are not willing to stand up for their principles. Looking ahead to the new administration, nearly twice as many Americans think it is more important for Congressional Republicans to find ways to work with Biden (62%) as say it is more important for them to keep the new president in check (34%). Half the country expresses confidence that Biden will be able to get Washington to be more cooperative, although only 13% are very confident about this while 38% are somewhat confident.

“If wishes were horses, as the saying goes. The public consistently expresses a preference for compromise and cooperation, but there is also a deep-seated distrust of the other side. If there’s one thing political leaders have learned over the past decades, playing up that distrust is a path to short-term political gain even if it may erode public faith in the system as a whole,” said Murray.

A majority of the public (56%) has 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 in place. Another 29% have some concern about this. These findings have been fairly consistent since Monmouth started asking this question four years ago. Majorities of Republicans (64%) and Democrats (55%) have a great deal of concern about the lasting damage that would be done if the other side had policymaking power.

Turning to the impact of the outgoing president on the political system, just 29% feel Trump has made progress on his promise to “drain the swamp” in Washington. Another 32% say he has actually made “the swamp” worse and 34% say nothing has really changed. These findings have been largely consistent across multiple polls since Trump took office. Just one-third (33%) feel that “the swamp” will get better under Biden, 34% say it will get worse, and 27% expect it will stay about the same.

Just under half (45%) of the American public believes Trump has done more to undermine the U.S. Constitution compared to past presidents. However, a very sizable 37% actually believes Trump has done more than his predecessors to protect the Constitution and another 15% believe he has been no different than other presidents when it comes to upholding the Constitution.

“This may be the most alarming finding in the poll. No one who truly appreciates our country’s founding document can see the last four years as a high-water mark for upholding Constitutional norms. This speaks to the success of Trump and his allies in completely reframing the terms of political engagement, a development that started long before the current administration,” said Murray.

President Trump’s current job rating stands at 46% approve and 51% disapprove. The approval number matches his prior high recorded in March this year, just as the coronavirus outbreak hit the country. Two months ago, though, Trump had a 41% approve to 53% disapprove rating.

The overall job rating for Congress stands at 23% approve and 64% disapprove. Congressional approval has generally ranged between 16% and 25% since Trump took office, although it did briefly hit 32% in two Monmouth polls this past spring. Currently, 26% of Americans say the country is headed in the right direction while 68% say it is on the wrong track. The “right direction” number’s low point during Trump’s tenure was 18% this past June, while the highest reading was 40% two years earlier.

It is worth noting that the self-reported partisan mix in the current poll shows Democratic identification lagging Republicans by 4 points, which is only the second time Democrats have not outnumbered Republicans in a national Monmouth poll since Trump took office. The other instance was one year ago in November 2019 when the two partisan groups were the same size.

“Self-reported partisan identity is a moving target and it always fluctuates from poll to poll. Sometimes these movements are just blips and sometimes they represent a reevaluation by some voters about where they fit in the political world. It will be interesting to see what happens with partisan affiliation under a new administration,” said Murray.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from November 12 to 16, 2020 with 810 adults in the United States.  The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points. 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.)

1.Do you approve or disapprove of the job Donald Trump is doing as president?

  TREND:
Nov.
2020
Early
Sept.
2020

Aug.
2020
Late
June
2020
Early
June
2020

May
2020

April
2020

March
2020

Feb.
2020

Jan.
2020
Approve46%41%41%41%42%43%44%46%44%43%
Disapprove51%53%53%53%54%51%49%48%50%52%
(VOL) No opinion3%5%7%7%4%6%6%6%5%5%
  (n)(810)(867)(868)(867)(807)(808)(857)(851)(902)(903)
  TREND: ContinuedDec.
2019
Nov.
2019
Sept.
2019
Aug.
2019
June
2019
May
2019
April 2019March 2019Jan.
2019
Nov.
2018
Aug.
2018
June
2018
April
2018
March
2018
Jan.
2018
Approve43%43%41%40%41%40%40%44%41%43%43%43%41%39%42%
Disapprove50%51%53%53%50%52%54%51%54%49%50%46%50%54%50%
(VOL) No opinion8%6%6%7%9%8%6%5%5%8%7%11%9%8%8%
  (n)(903)(908)(1,161)(800)(751)(802)(801)(802)(805)(802)(805)(806)(803)(803)(806)
  TREND: ContinuedDec.
2017
Sept.
2017
Aug.
2017
July
2017
May
2017
March
2017
Approve32%40%41%39%39%43%
Disapprove56%49%49%52%53%46%
(VOL) No opinion12%11%10%9%8%11%
  (n)(806)(1,009)(805)(800)(1,002)(801)

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

  TREND:
Nov.
2020
Early
June
2020

May
2020

April
2020

Feb.
2020

Jan.
2020

Dec.
2019

Nov.
2019

Sept.
2019

Aug.
2019

June
2019

May
2019

April
2019

March
2019

Jan.
2019
Approve23%22%32%32%20%24%22%23%21%17%19%20%24%23%18%
Disapprove64%69%55%55%69%62%65%64%68%71%69%71%62%68%72%
(VOL) No opinion13%9%13%13%11%14%13%13%11%13%12%9%14%9%10%
 (n)(810)(807)(808)(857)(902)(903)(903)(908)(1,161)(800)(751)(802)(801)(802)(805)
  TREND: ContinuedNov.
2018
Aug.
2018
June
2018
April
2018
March
2018
Jan.
2018
Dec.
2017
Sept.
2017
Aug.
2017
July
2017
May
2017
March
2017
Jan.
2017
Approve23%17%19%17%18%21%16%17%18%19%19%25%23%
Disapprove63%69%67%71%72%68%65%69%69%70%68%59%66%
(VOL) No opinion14%14%14%12%11%11%19%15%13%11%13%16%11%
 (n)(802)(805)(806)(803)(803)(806)(806)(1,009)(805)(800)(1,002)(801)(801)
  TREND: ContinuedSept.
2016*
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
Approve15%14%17%22%17%16%17%19%18%18%19%21%18%17%14%
Disapprove77%78%76%68%73%73%71%71%72%69%71%67%70%73%76%
(VOL) No opinion8%9%7%10%10%10%12%11%11%12%10%12%11%11%10%
 (n)(802)(803)(803)(1,008)(1,003)(1,006)(1,012)(1,009)(1,203)(1,001)(1,002)(1,005)(1,003)(1,008)(1,012)

        * Registered voters

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

  TREND:
Nov.
2020
Early
Sept.
2020

Aug.
2020
Late
June
2020
Early
June
2020

May
2020

April
2020

March
2020

Feb.
2020

Jan.
2020
Right direction26%27%22%18%21%33%30%39%37%37%
Wrong track68%66%72%74%74%60%61%54%57%56%
(VOL) Depends4%4%4%5%4%4%5%4%6%6%
(VOL) Don’t know2%3%2%3%1%3%5%3%1%1%
(n)(810)(867)(868)(867)(807)(808)(857)(851)(902)(903)
  TREND: ContinuedDec.
2019
Nov.
2019
Sept.
2019
Aug.
2019
June
2019
May
2019
April
2019
March
2019
Nov.
2018
Aug.
2018
June
2018
April
2018
March
2018
Jan.
2018
Right direction32%30%30%28%31%29%28%29%35%35%40%33%31%37%
Wrong track56%61%61%62%62%63%62%63%55%57%53%58%61%57%
(VOL) Depends8%7%6%8%6%4%7%6%7%6%3%5%6%3%
(VOL) Don’t know4%2%2%2%2%3%3%2%3%3%3%4%1%3%
(n)(903)(908)(1,161)(800)(751)(802)(801)(802)(802)(805)(806)(803)(803)(806)
  TREND: ContinuedDec.
2017
Aug.
2017
May
2017
March
2017
Jan.
2017
Aug.
2016*
Oct.
2015
July
2015
June
2015
April
2015
Dec.
2014
July
2013
Right direction24%32%31%35%29%30%24%28%23%27%23%28%
Wrong track66%58%61%56%65%65%66%63%68%66%69%63%
(VOL) Depends7%4%5%4%4%2%6%5%5%5%5%5%
(VOL) Don’t know3%5%3%5%2%3%4%3%3%2%3%4%
(n)(806)(805)(1,002)(801)(801)(803)(1,012)(1,001)(1,002)(1,005)(1,008)(1,012)

       * Registered voters

[Q4-17 previously released.]

18.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:Nov.
2020
Sept.
2019
Aug.
2016*
Jan.
2016
Jan.
2015
  Not willing to stand up for their principles42%41%36%40%36%
  Not willing to compromise51%45%55%50%54%
  (VOL) Depends4%9%8%6%7%
  (VOL) Don’t know3%5%2%5%2%
(n)(810)(1,161)(803)(1,003)(1,003)

        * Registered voters

19.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:
Nov.
2020
Late
June
2020

Sept.
2019

Nov.
2018

Dec.
2017

March
2017

Aug.
2016*
Americans are united21%18%27%20%23%22%27%
Americans are greatly divided76%78%68%77%72%75%70%
(VOL) Don’t know2%4%5%4%5%4%4%
 (n)(810)(867)(1,161)(802)(806)(801)(803)

      * Registered voters

20.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:Nov.
2020
Sept.
2019
Aug.
2016*
Jan.
2016
A great deal56%56%50%50%
Some29%28%34%33%
Not much8%7%9%9%
Not at all3%4%4%5%
(VOL) Don’t know3%4%3%4%
(n)(810)(1,161)(803)(1,003)

      * Registered voters

21.Has the country become more united, more divided, or not really changed since President Trump took office?

  TREND:
Nov.
2020
Late
June
2020

Nov.
2018

Dec.
2017

March
2017
More united12%13%11%9%11%
More divided70%66%62%63%52%
Not really changed16%17%25%26%34%
(VOL) Don’t know2%4%3%2%3%
 (n)(810)(867)(802)(806)(801)

22.Looking ahead to the next year, do you think the country will grow more united, more divided, or will not much change?

  TREND:Nov.
2020
Nov.
2018
More united31%21%
More divided25%34%
Not really changed35%40%
(VOL) Don’t know9%5%
 (n)(810)(802)

23.Putting aside any policy differences you may have, how confident are you that Joe Biden will be able to get Washington to be more cooperative – very confident, somewhat confident, not too confident, or not at all confident?

  Nov.
2020
Very confident13%
Somewhat confident38%
Not too confident19%
Not at all confident27%
(VOL) Don’t know2%
 (n)(810)

24.Do you think it is more important for Republicans in Congress to find ways to work together with Biden or more important for them to keep Biden in check?

  Nov.
2020
Find ways to work together with Biden62%
Keep Biden in check34%
(VOL) Don’t know4%
 (n)(810)

25.Compared to past presidents do you think Donald Trump has done more to protect the U.S. Constitution, done more to undermine the U.S. Constitution, or has he been no different than past presidents when it comes to upholding the U.S. Constitution?

  Nov.
2020
More to protect37%
More to undermine45%
No different15%
(VOL) Don’t know3%
 (n)(810)

26.Donald Trump promised to “drain the swamp” when he got to Washington. Would you say that he has made progress draining the swamp, that he has made the swamp worse, or that nothing has really changed?

 TREND:Nov.
2020
Feb.
2020
Nov.
2019
June
2019
Nov.
2018
April
2018
Dec.
2017
Aug.
2017
May
2017
Made progress draining the swamp29%33%30%23%30%25%20%25%24%
Made the swamp worse32%34%37%32%30%31%33%26%32%
Nothing has really changed34%28%25%35%33%37%38%39%35%
(VOL) Don’t know6%5%8%9%6%7%9%10%8%
(n)(810)(902)(908)(751)(802)(803)(806)(805)(1,002)

27.Do you think the swamp in Washington will get better, get worse, or stay about the same with Joe Biden as president?

  Nov.
2020
Get better33%
Get worse34%
Stay about the same27%
(VOL) Don’t know6%
 (n)(810)

[Q28-41 held for future release.]

METHODOLOGY

The Monmouth University Poll was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from November 12 to 16, 2020 with a national random sample of 810 adults age 18 and older. This includes 289 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 521 contacted by a live interviewer on a cell phone, in English. Telephone numbers were selected through random digit dialing and landline respondents were selected with a modified Troldahl-Carter youngest adult household screen. Monmouth is responsible for all aspects of the survey design, data weighting and analysis. The full sample is weighted for region, age, education, gender and race based on US Census information (ACS 2018 one-year survey). Data collection support provided by Braun Research (field) and Dynata (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)
Self-Reported
32% Republican
41% Independent
28% Democrat
 
48% Male
52% Female
 
31% 18-34
32% 35-54
37% 55+
 
63% White
13% Black
17% Hispanic
  8% Asian/Other
 
70% No degree
30% 4 year degree

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

Download this Poll Report with crosstabs