Summary of Findings

The overall image of the Democratic Party has improved over the past year, although the Democratic-led Congress remains widely unpopular. A majority of Americans (57%) say they have a favorable view of the Democratic Party, up six points since July 2007 and 10 points since July 2006.

In contrast, views of the Republican Party remain at historic lows. Currently, 53% of Americans express unfavorable views of the Republican Party while only 39% say they have a favorable opinion of the party. These ratings are unchanged from July 2007, and have changed little since April 2006.

Public attitudes toward Congress remain very negative. Currently, just 41% of the public expresses a favorable opinion of Congress, with 51% unfavorable; that is identical to opinions of Congress in July 2007. Views of Congress were more positive in January 2007, shortly after the Democrats won control of the House and Senate (53% favorable vs. 38% unfavorable).

In historical terms, positive opinions of Congress are about as low as they were in October 1995, during the standoff between former President Clinton and the GOP-led Congress that led to a government shutdown. In October 1995, 42% expressed favorable views compared with 55% who held unfavorable opinions.

Currently, majorities of Republicans (62%) and independents (58%) have unfavorable opinions of Congress. By contrast, a majority of Democrats express a favorable opinion of Congress (54%), compared with 40% who have an unfavorable view. There has been virtually no change in these partisan ratings of Congress since last year.

Fewer Republicans Rate Their Party Favorably

Although the overall favorability of the Republican Party has not changed since July 2007, Republicans’ views of their own party are down 10 points since last year; currently, 73% of Republicans have a favorable view of their party compared with 83% in July 2007. Virtually all of this decline has come among conservative Republicans. Currently, 74% of conservative Republicans have a favorable view of the party compared with 87% last July.

Independents express slightly more favorable opinions of the GOP than they did last summer. However, far more independents express positive opinions of the Democratic Party than of the Republican Party. A majority of independents (52%) express favorable views of the Democratic Party while only 38% of independents rate the Republican Party favorably, a gap of 14 percentage points. Positive ratings of the Democratic Party among independents have increased 11 points since July 2006 (from 41% to 52%).

The Democratic Party receives much higher ratings from Democrats than the GOP receives from Republicans. Nearly nine-in-ten Democrats (88%) express favorable opinions of the Democratic Party, compared with 73% of Republicans who view their party favorably. In addition, somewhat fewer Democrats than Republicans have a favorable opinion of the opposing party. Just 17% of Democrats express positive opinions of the Republican Party. By comparison, 24% of Republicans (24%) say they have a favorable view of the Democratic Party, up from 18% in July 2007.