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CNN Poll: Negative outlook dominates views of Congress, government

A month after a blue wave swept Democrats to control of the US House of Representatives, Americans are mostl...

Posted: Dec 13, 2018 5:43 PM
Updated: Dec 13, 2018 5:43 PM

A month after a blue wave swept Democrats to control of the US House of Representatives, Americans are mostly pessimistic about the way the government will work over the next few years, and few see progress in the cards on a number of top issues, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS.

More Americans have confidence in congressional Democrats than in President Donald Trump on the major issues facing the country today: 48% say they have more faith in the Democrats, 39% in Trump. Another 9% say they don't trust either. That 9-point Democratic advantage is smaller than the one Democrats had over then-president George W. Bush just after taking back the House in 2006 (21 points) and smaller than the edge congressional Republicans had over Bill Clinton on the same question in December of 1994 (16 points).

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Related: Full poll results

Among political independents, there's a near even split on this question; 40% say they have more confidence in Trump, 37% the Democrats in Congress, with a sizable 15% saying they don't have confidence in either side to handle the nation's most pressing problems.

That finding comes as neither Congress nor the president earns the approval of a majority of the public. Just 21% in the new poll approve of the way the current Congress is doing its job, while findings released earlier this week from the same poll showed that 39% approve of Trump's job performance.

Opposition to border wall

The current Congress will need to work out a spending bill with Trump if they are to avoid a government shutdown on December 21, when funding expires for several agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security. Trump wants expanded funding for a wall along the border with Mexico as part of the deal, a prospect Democrats oppose. The public largely takes the Democratic side on this one, with 57% against a wall compared with 38% in favor. Those numbers are similar to where they were just after Trump took office in 2017. Most who favor the wall say they would continue to do so even if all the funding for the wall came from the US rather than from Mexico.

Overall, 52% say they are pessimistic about the way the government in Washington will work over the next few years, just 36% say they are optimistic. There's a more positive outlook on the direction the country is headed: 48% are optimistic about that while 43% are pessimistic.

Pessimism about government

Although November's elections led to Democratic control of the US House and gains in governorships and state legislatures, Democrats themselves remain largely pessimistic about both the direction of the country (68% pessimistic) and the way the government in Washington will work (57%) in the coming years. Republicans are mostly optimistic on both scores, but express stronger optimism about the direction of the country (79% optimistic) than about the government (51%).

The pessimism about government extends to the prospects for government progress on a number of top issues. On immigration and health care, both top priorities for voters in the recent midterm elections, just 44% say they are optimistic that the government will make progress on those issues in the next few years. Optimism drops further on gun policy (34%), the federal budget deficit (33%), climate change (28%) and reducing gridlock in Congress (25%).

Opposition to impeachment

With Democrats set to take control of the House in January, speculation abounds about whether the new majority would impeach the President. Americans break against that idea, according to the poll. Half, 50%, say they don't feel that Trump ought to be impeached and removed from office, while 43% say he should be. Support for impeachment has dipped some since September, when 47% favored it, and is about the same as in a June poll (42% favored it then). Support for impeachment of Trump remains higher than it was for each of the last three presidents at any time it was asked.

The shift on impeachment comes mostly from political independents. In September, they were evenly split on the question, with 48% behind impeachment and 47% opposed. Now, 36% favor impeachment and 55% are opposed.

Unpopular leaders

The incoming party leaders in Congress aren't exactly beloved, according to the poll, with all four holding favorability ratings that are underwater. Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi earns the highest marks of the bunch, with 34% holding a favorable view and 46% a negative view. Her GOP counterpart, Kevin McCarthy, is largely unknown (57% are unsure how they feel about him), but those with an opinion tilt a bit negative, 24% unfavorable to 19% favorable. On the Senate side, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell earns a 27% favorable to 42% unfavorable mark, and Democrat Chuck Schumer holds a 29% favorable to 32% unfavorable rating.

The parties themselves generally fare better than their congressional leaders, with 46% holding a favorable view of the Democrats, 43% have an unfavorable opinion, and 38% seeing the Republican Party favorably vs. 51% who see it unfavorably.

The CNN Poll was conducted by SSRS December 6 through 9 among a random national sample of 1,015 adults reached on landlines or cellphones by a live interviewer. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points, it is larger for subgroups.

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