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Monmouth University Polling Institute

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]

  1. 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

 

  1. 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

 

  1. 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
Aug.
2016
Oct.
2015
July
2015
June
2015
April
2015
Dec.
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

 

  1. 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
Aug.
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%]

  1. 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
Aug.
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

 

  1. 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
Aug.
2016
Jan.
2016
Jan.
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

 

  1. 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]
Registered voters Aug.
2016
Americans are united 27%
Americans are greatly divided 70%
(VOL) Don’t know 4%
Unwtd N

803

 

  1. 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?
Registered voters Aug.
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

 

  1. 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
Aug.
2016
Jan.
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

 

  1. 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
Aug.
2016
Jan.
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

 

  1. 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?
Registered voters Aug.
2016
A great deal 47%
Some 31%
Not much 13%
Not at all 7%
(VOL) Don’t know 2%
Unwtd N

803

 

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

 

Islamic terrorists

Registered voters Aug.
2016
Is 61%
Is not 34%
(VOL) Depends 2%
(VOL) Don’t know 3%
Unwtd N

803

 

Illegal immigrants from Mexico

Registered voters Aug.
2016
Is 28%
Is not 69%
(VOL) Depends 1%
(VOL) Don’t know 1%
Unwtd N

803

 

The policies of the Democratic Party

Registered voters Aug.
2016
Is 39%
Is not 56%
(VOL) Depends 2%
(VOL) Don’t know 3%
Unwtd N

803

 

The policies of the Republican Party

Registered voters Aug.
2016
Is 43%
Is not 50%
(VOL) Depends 4%
(VOL) Don’t know 3%
Unwtd N

803

 

The prospect of Hillary Clinton becoming president

Registered voters Aug.
2016
Is 42%
Is not 55%
(VOL) Depends 1%
(VOL) Don’t know 2%
Unwtd N

803

 

The prospect of Donald Trump becoming president

Registered voters Aug.
2016
Is 54%
Is not 42%
(VOL) Depends 2%
(VOL) Don’t know 2%
Unwtd N

803

  1. 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
Aug.
2016
Jan.
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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