In the last post, analyses of presidential approval ratings revealed two Republican factions. A large group that strongly approved of President Trump and a smaller group that offered moderate support.
What about the Democratic Party. Are they united? Or, are there divisions that Republicans could exploit?
Disapproval of Trump
Recall the presidential approval question: “Do you approve or disapprove of the way Donald Trump is handling his job as President? Response options are “strongly approve, somewhat approve, somewhat disapprove, strongly disapprove.”
The figure below compares Democrat’s disapproval to Republican’s approval. The percentages are nearly identical. Since November 2019, average Republican approval is 87.8% and Democratic disapproval 87.5%. Therefore, Democrats are as united in their disapproval of Trump as Republicans are in their approval.[i]
A vivid illustration of partisan polarization.
Disaggregate the data
Separating Democrats by their degree of disapproval – strong and somewhat disapprove – shows the extent of party solidarity. Three out of 4 Democrats strongly disapproved of Trump. Only 12% somewhat disapproved. This is solid evidence of unity.
Democrats more united than Republicans
Now let’s compare Democrats and Republicans across all response categories (see graph below). Very few Democrats approved of Trump. Most strongly disapproved. By contrast, a significant share of Republicans (about a third) opted for the middle portion of the scale. And compared to Democrat’s strong disapproval, nearly 15% less Republicans strongly approve.
Dividing the data by the general approval/disapproval categories shows a polarized political climate. And both parties appear unified, nearly 90% of Republicans approve of Trump and an equal percentage of Democrats’ disapprove.
However, that’s not the story.
Analyses of the full range of approval/disapproval categories shows a much larger percentage of Democrats that strongly disapprove of the President compared to Republicans that strongly approve. Intense preferences are foundational to political action. The imbalance demonstrated here in fact signals an electoral advantage for Democrats.
Undoubtedly, impeachment, the twin medical and economic crises, and now racial unrest, solidified Democrats while dividing Republicans.
A united party can build a formidable political campaign. With noteworthy coordination, it can strike directly and repeatedly at the opposition. On the other hand, a divided party must attend to internal rifts and repair old alliances. Dissent is common, defeat likely.
But, not inevitable.
The unpredictable events that define 2020 suggest anything is possible. Right now, however, the vultures are circling and Republicans appear vulnerable.