As David Leonhardt noted in his latest New York Times column, polling from the Pew Research Center shows that the Democratic party’s relative advantage in popularity among the American public has vanished over the course of the last year.
Pew data from last September showed that most Americans had a favorable opinion of the Democratic party. Fifty-three percent of respondents said that they viewed the Democratic party favorably, compared to 42 percent who said they viewed it unfavorably. The Republican party didn’t fare nearly as well last September in the same survey: Forty-three percent of respondents had a favorable view of the GOP compared to 52 percent who said they had an unfavorable view.
Leonhardt hypothesizes that the disparity was due to Democratic politicians having run “a populist campaign in the 2018 midterms, focused on pocketbook issues that dominate many people’s lives, like wages and medical costs.” But one year later, that edge has worn off entirely.
This September’s Pew data show that most Americans view both the Democratic and Republican parties with disfavor, and in exactly equal proportions. Just 45 percent of Americans have a favorable view of the Democratic party compared to 52 percent with a negative view; the same is true for the GOP, with 45 percent of respondents saying they view it favorably compared to 52 percent who view it unfavorably.
Leonhardt observes, too, that “slightly more voters say the ‘ideas being offered by the Democratic candidates’ would hurt the country than say would help, according to the NPR poll.” He suggests that Democratic politicians revert to the populist messaging that found success last year, rather than “talking about border decriminalization and mandatory Medicare,” he writes, concluding that the latter would be a boon to Trump.
His analysis likely is correct, and the changes in the Pew survey over the last year seem to prove the point. And it doesn’t bode well for Democrats in next year’s elections. Democratic presidential candidates in particular have, for the most part, responded to Trump’s lack of popularity by shifting aggressively to the left. While this is to some extent a natural tendency during a primary race, most candidates other than Biden will have a difficult time racing back to the center when it comes time to contest the sitting president.