By Jennifer Agiesta and Ariel Edwards-Levy, CNN
(CNN) — The public’s impressions of the Republican Party and its leaders in Congress have worsened amid a leadership crisis in the House of Representatives, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS, with Republican-aligned Americans divided over how the GOP should govern.
Even then – and with most Americans expressing anger at both parties’ handling of the country’s problems – the public continues to prefer the Republican Party’s leadership to that from the White House: 54% say they have more confidence in Republicans in Congress than in President Joe Biden to tackle the major issues facing the country, while 45% have more confidence in Biden’s leadership, unchanged since this summer.
Half of Americans approve of the removal of Kevin McCarthy as House speaker, 49% disapprove, according to the poll, which was conducted after last week’s vote to depose him from that role. Nearly half, 46%, have an unfavorable view of the now-former speaker, 21% have a favorable view of him and about a third express no opinion. Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, who brought the motion to vacate that led to McCarthy’s ouster, is also deeply underwater, with 44% holding an unfavorable view of the Republican, and 14% a favorable one and 42% unsure.
Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are about evenly split on McCarthy’s removal (49% approve to 50% disapprove), and show little consensus on whether McCarthy’s removal was a good thing (30%) or a bad thing (34%) for their party.
Republicans’ overall mixed reactions to the House leadership conflict mirrors a divide in the party’s presidential nomination contest. A 56% majority of Republican-aligned voters who back former President Donald Trump say they approve of McCarthy’s ouster, compared with just 37% of those not supporting Trump in the primary.
That division is evident across multiple measures of the Republican Party’s performance or of views on its path forward. Asked about Republican leaders in Congress, 51% of Trump supporters approve of their work, while just 35% of other Republican-aligned voters feel the same. On whether Republicans in Congress ought to compromise or stand firm on their beliefs, 52% of Trump backers say stand firm, while 77% of other Republicans say work across the aisle.
And even on topics on which these two factions of the party are largely in agreement, there is still a gap: Trump’s supporters are more likely to feel wholly unrepresented by the government (57% of Trump primary supporters say they’re not represented at all well in Washington vs. 47% of other GOP-aligned voters), less likely to consider continued Ukraine aid important (45% of non-Trump Republican voters say it’s very or somewhat important vs. 27% of Trump supporters), and more likely to think the government will reach an agreement to avoid a shutdown before the next November 17 deadline (67% of Trump supporters see that as likely vs. 57% of other Republicans).
Trump’s backers are a solid majority of the GOP base. Trump has widened his lead in the race for the party’s 2024 presidential nomination, according to the poll, with 58% of Republicans and Republican-leaning voters supporting him. As for the rest of the field, 17% back Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, 8% former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, 5% former Vice President Mike Pence, 4% tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and 2% or less supporting each of the remaining tested candidates.
Among the public generally, impressions of the Republican Party are deeply negative. Nearly three-quarters disapprove of the way the GOP’s leaders in Congress are handling their jobs (74%, up from 67% in January), and 52% have a negative impression of the Republican Party overall (up from 45% in December). Approval for GOP leadership in Congress has dropped sharply among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, from 58% approval in January to 44% now.
And Americans’ expectations have dimmed that the Republican majority in the House could bring positive changes on the federal budget (43% expected a mostly positive effect in December, 18% now say there has been a positive effect), oversight of the Biden administration (35% expected a positive effect, 23% say there has been one), immigration laws (32% expected a positive effect, 17% say there has been one) or the level of cooperation within the federal government (23% expected a positive effect, 16% say there has been one).
But the Republican Party’s challenges have not improved the public’s view of Democrats. Just 35% approve of the way Democratic leaders in Congress are handling their jobs, down from 40% in January, and half have an unfavorable opinion of the Democratic Party (50%), up from 44% in December.
The poll finds widespread anger at both parties, with 58% saying they are angry at how both parties are handling the country’s problems, another 15% only angry at Republicans and 13% only angry at Democrats. Just 14% say they’re not angry with either party. A scant 19% say they feel even somewhat well represented by the government in Washington, the lowest share to say so in CNN polling dating back to 2015, with 81% now saying they feel not too or not at all well represented by the federal government. And most, 69%, say that it is unlikely that attempts at bipartisanship on upcoming major legislation in Washington will be successful, despite broad preferences for leaders in Congress and the White House to compromise in order to get things done.
On the immediate major legislation looming – the need to fund the government by November 17 – most Americans think it is at least somewhat likely that a deal will get done (57% say so), though only 10% say it is “very likely” to happen. And 81% of Americans say it is not acceptable for members of Congress to threaten a government shutdown during budget negotiations in order to achieve their goals, including broad majorities of Democrats (89%), independents (81%) and Republicans (72%).
The CNN Poll was conducted by SSRS from October 4-9 among a random national sample of 1,255 adults drawn from a probability-based panel, including 428 Republican and Republican-leaning independent voters. Surveys were either conducted online or by telephone with a live interviewer. Results among the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.4 points; it is 5.7 points for results among Republican and Republican-leaning voters.
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