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Republicans surge ahead of Democrats as party viewed best for prosperity, poll finds

The Democratic Party, however, has a higher overall favorability rating, the poll found.
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(Photo by Louis Velazquez | Unsplash)

More Americans in a new poll favor the Republican Party when it comes to prosperity, security and important issues.

The Gallup poll found more Americans “by significant margins” think the GOP is better than the Democratic Party at protecting the country from international threats and ensuring prosperity in the country. But respondents were more narrowly divided on which is better at handling the problem they believe is the most important.

Additionally, Gallup found that when it comes to overall favorability, the Democratic Party ranks higher.

The poll was conducted Sept. 1-17, included 1,005 adults and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. Gallup notes that it was conducted shortly after the country’s withdrawal from Afghanistan and amid a continuing surge in COVID-19 cases and an “uneven economic recovery.”

Security and prosperity

Fifty-four percent of respondents said they think the Republican Party will do a better job of “protecting the country from international terrorism and military threats,​” while 39% said they think the Democratic Party will do a better job.

“Americans typically see the Republican Party as more capable on national security matters, but the 15-point gap in favor of the GOP this year is the largest since a 16-point advantage in 2015,” Gallup said.

The gap largely hinges on a decline in favorable views on the Democratic Party rather than an increase in favorable views on the Republican Party on security. The GOP saw a 4-point increase in the percentage of Americans who said it will be better on the issue, from 50% last year, while the Democratic Party saw a 7-point decrease, from 46%.

As Gallup noted, the poll closely followed what it called a “chaotic” withdrawal from Afghanistan. Two weeks ahead of President Joe Biden’s Aug. 31 deadline to pull all U.S. troops from the country and nearly two decades after a U.S.-led invasion ousted the Taliban from power, the Afghan government collapsed and the Taliban regained control.

On Aug. 28, 13 U.S. service member were killed in an attack on the airport in Kabul, which NPR reported was one of the deadliest days for the country’s military in the past decade.

Biden has defended his plan to withdraw U.S. forces, saying there was never a good time to do it and that he would not launch the country into a third decade of conflict.

When it came to which party is viewed best on prosperity, the poll found Republicans pulled ahead of Democrats.

Last year, the parties were essentially tied, with 48% who said they thought the Democratic Party would “do a better job of keeping the country prosperous” and​ 47% who said the same of the GOP, Gallup said.

Now, 50% said the GOP is better and 41% said the Democratic Party is better. Similar to views on security, the shift was driven largely by a decrease in Democratic favorability rather than an increase in Republican favorability.

The shift comes​ as the country is​ grappling with a surge in coronavirus cases driven by the highly contagious delta variant and as the economy in August added 235,000 new jobs instead of the expected 720,000, CNBC reported.

Handling important problems

Forty-one percent of respondents said the Republican Party is better at handling the problem they consider the most important, which they named in a open-ended format, while 38% said the same of the Democratic Party.

Last year — when the pandemic, the government and race relations were the most common issues named — 47% of respondents said the Democratic Party and 39% said the Republican Party was better on them.

This year, the pandemic and the government remained the top two issues. But while 57% said Democrats can handle the pandemic better, compared to 28% who said the same of Republicans, those who named the government as the top issue were much more likely to say Republicans could handle it better, 60% to 19%.

Last year, during former President Donald Trump’s time in office, more favored the Democratic Party on handling the government, 51% to 44%, Gallup said.

“To a large degree, this shift reflects wide party differences this year in perceptions that the government is the most important problem, with 31% of Republicans but only 9% of Democrats naming it,” Gallup said. “Last year, 29% of both Democrats and Republicans said the government was the most important problem.”

Additionally, Gallup noted that Republican and Democratic respondents “overwhelmingly” view the party they align with as the better on security, prosperity and their most important issue, meaning changes in overall perception on which party is better on those issues is mostly driven by independents.

Overall favorability

Despite their views on specific issues, ​respondents still view the Democratic more favorably than the Republican Party — though both are viewed negatively​, Gallup found.

Forty-three percent of respondents have a favorable view of the Democratic Party while 40% have a favorable view of the GOP. Meanwhile, 55% and 56% have unfavorable views of the parties, respectively.

The favorability gap between the parties, however, is down from 11 points earlier this year, which Gallup said was shortly after Biden took office and when the Senate was about to try Trump on impeachment charges related to the Jan. 6 riot. Gallup noted that the decline could be driven by a decrease in Biden’s approval rating, which it said is down mostly among independents.
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