Monmouth Poll: State of the Union Weakens

Congressmen Bill Pascrell Jr. and Josh Gottheimer meet with Fort Lee Mayor Mayor Mark Sokolich of Bridgegate fame and reporters to publicly discuss their opposition to a new fee New York will charge drivers for driving into Manhattan's congestion zone.

Barely 4 in 10 Americans say the state of the union is strong, which is down from a majority who felt that way five years ago. The Monmouth University Poll also finds most of the public feels the federal government has a negative impact on people’s lives. More tend to say Washington’s problems are due to a lack of compromise among elected officials rather than them sticking to principles. At the same time, a majority fear the country would suffer significant damage if politicians at the opposite end of the political spectrum were able to control policymaking.

About 4 in 10 Americans say the state of the union is strong – although just 7% call it very strong while 32% say it is somewhat strong. Another 32% say the union is not too strong and 26% deem it not at all strong. The number who feel the state of the union is at least somewhat strong has steadily declined over the past five years, from 55% in 2018 to 39% in the current poll.

There is a clear partisan divide on the strength of the union, with Republicans being more optimistic when Donald Trump was president and Democrats being more optimistic now that Joe Biden is in office. Most Republicans gave the union a “strong” rating in 2018 (76%) and 2019 (71%), but turned more negative last year (24%) and in the current poll (29%). By comparison, Democrats were slightly more positive about the union under Trump (42% in 2018 and 34% in 2019) than Republicans are now under Biden. Still, Democrats’ optimism about the state of the union has ebbed slightly over the past year (from 68% in 2022 to 58% now). Independents’ opinion of the strength of the union has dropped more steadily from 52% in 2018, briefly plateauing at 44% in 2019 and 46% in 2022, and then dropping to 33% in the current poll.

“Fundamental faith in the American system continues to erode, even when taking into account the fact that partisan views shift depending on who occupies the White House,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Most Americans (59%) say the current government in Washington has a negative impact on most people’s lives. Overall, just 16% of the public says Washington has more of a positive impact and 22% say it has little impact either way. The negative impact number has ticked up from 50% in June 2015. In the current poll, this view includes 78% of Republicans and 65% of independents, but just 38% of Democrats. However, very few Democrats (26%) say the government’s impact is actually positive. Among those who say the impact is negative, more than 2 in 3 (69%) feel that Washington could be turned around, including similar numbers of Republicans and Democrats.

“Washington is not seen as a force for good, but it doesn’t have to be this way according to most Americans. The question is whether Washington specifically and the country more generally can overcome the lack of trust that permeates our current political climate,” said Murray.

A majority of Americans (58%) say the country would suffer a great deal of lasting damage if people who hold core political principles different from their own are able to enact their preferred policies. This opinion has hovered at a similar 50% to 56% level in Monmouth polls conducted between 2016 and 2021. When partisan identifiers are combined with independents who lean toward either party, the poll shows this sense that the other side’s policies would cause lasting damage is shared equally by Republicans (61%) and Democrats (60%).

About half the public (51%) says the federal government’s problems stem from elected officials who are not willing to compromise, but a sizable 4 in 10 (42%) say officials who are not willing to stand up for their principles is the bigger problem. These results have been fairly consistent, with a slight variation, since Monmouth first asked this question in 2015. In general, Republicans have been more likely to put the blame on officials who won’t stand by their principles (57% in the current poll), while Democrats point the finger at an unwillingness to compromise (67%). That attitude was slightly different, though, at a point in the middle of Trump’s term when both Republicans (41% principles and 47% compromise) and Democrats (44% principles and 42% compromise) were more evenly divided (September 2019).

In the current poll, among those who say a lack of principle is a bigger problem in Washington, 69% feel the other side having control over policy would cause a great deal of lasting damage. However, even among those who desire more compromise, half (49%) are similarly worried about the negative consequences of policies implemented by those with whom they fundamentally disagree.

“Americans are not entirely in agreement whether Washington needs more compromise. There is a deep-seated distrust of folks at the other end of the political spectrum. That’s not a good situation for a functioning democracy to be in. You need a critical mass of the public to feel the world won’t fall apart if the other side has the upper hand from time to time. We just don’t have that right now,” said Murray.

The poll also finds just 24% of Americans feel the country is headed in the right direction while 73% say things have gotten off on the wrong track. The right direction number has ranged between 10% and 28% over the past year. It briefly hit 46% in April 2021 near the start of Biden’s term, before declining to 30% at the end of 2021. Currently, 41% of Democrats, 22% of independents, and just 6% of Republicans say the country in headed in the right direction.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from January 26 to 30, 2023 with 805 adults in the United States.  The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 5.7 percentage points for the full sample. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.

 

QUESTIONS AND RESULTS     

(* Some columns may not add to 100% due to rounding.)

 

[Q1-14 previously released.]

 

  1. Would you say the state of the union is very strong, somewhat strong, not too strong, or not at all strong?
  TREND: Jan.
2023
March
2022
Jan.
2019
Jan.
2018
Very strong 7% 8% 13% 13%
Somewhat strong 32% 38% 35% 42%
Not too strong 32% 27% 27% 24%
Not at all strong 26% 24% 22% 14%
(VOL) Don’t know 2% 3% 3% 6%
(n) (805) (809) (805) (806)

 

  1. Would you say things in the country are going in the right direction, or have they gotten off on the wrong track?
  TREND: Jan.
2023
Dec.
2022
Sept.
2022
Aug.
2022
June
2022
May
2022
March
2022
Jan.
2022
Dec.
2021
Nov.
2021
Sept.
2021
July
2021
June
2021
April
2021
March
2021
Jan.
2021
Right direction 24% 28% 23% 15% 10% 18% 24% 24% 30% 31% 29% 38% 37% 46% 34% 42%
Wrong track 73% 68% 74% 82% 88% 79% 73% 71% 66% 64% 65% 56% 57% 50% 61% 51%
(VOL) Depends 1% 2% 2% 1% 1% 2% 1% 3% 1% 2% 4% 3% 3% 2% 4% 3%
(VOL) Don’t know 2% 3% 2% 2% 1% 2% 2% 2% 3% 3% 2% 4% 3% 2% 2% 4%
(n) (805) (805) (806) (808) (978) (807) (809) (794) (808) (811) (802) (804) (810) (800) (802) (809)

 

  TREND:
Continued
Nov.
2020
Early Sept.
2020
Aug.
2020
Late June
2020
Early June
2020
May
2020
April
2020
March
2020
Feb.
2020
Jan.
2020
Right direction 26% 27% 22% 18% 21% 33% 30% 39% 37% 37%
Wrong track 68% 66% 72% 74% 74% 60% 61% 54% 57% 56%
(VOL) Depends 4% 4% 4% 5% 4% 4% 5% 4% 6% 6%
(VOL) Don’t know 2% 3% 2% 3% 1% 3% 5% 3% 1% 1%
(n) (810) (867) (868) (867) (807) (808) (857) (851) (902) (903)

 

  TREND:
Continued
Dec.
2019
Nov.
2019
Sept.
2019
Aug.
2019
June
2019
May
2019
April
2019
March
2019
Nov.
2018
Aug.
2018
June
2018
April
2018
March
2018
Jan.
2018
Right direction 32% 30% 30% 28% 31% 29% 28% 29% 35% 35% 40% 33% 31% 37%
Wrong track 56% 61% 61% 62% 62% 63% 62% 63% 55% 57% 53% 58% 61% 57%
(VOL) Depends 8% 7% 6% 8% 6% 4% 7% 6% 7% 6% 3% 5% 6% 3%
(VOL) Don’t know 4% 2% 2% 2% 2% 3% 3% 2% 3% 3% 3% 4% 1% 3%
(n) (903) (908) (1,161) (800) (751) (802) (801) (802) (802) (805) (806) (803) (803) (806)

 

  TREND:
Continued
Dec.
2017
Aug.
2017
May
2017
March
2017
Jan.
2017
Aug.
2016*
Oct.
2015
July
2015
June
2015
April
2015
Dec.
2014
July
2013
Right direction 24% 32% 31% 35% 29% 30% 24% 28% 23% 27% 23% 28%
Wrong track 66% 58% 61% 56% 65% 65% 66% 63% 68% 66% 69% 63%
(VOL) Depends 7% 4% 5% 4% 4% 2% 6% 5% 5% 5% 5% 5%
(VOL) Don’t know 3% 5% 3% 5% 2% 3% 4% 3% 3% 2% 3% 4%
(n) (806) (805) (1,002) (801) (801) (803) (1,012) (1,001) (1,002) (1,005) (1,008) (1,012)

        * Registered voters

 

  1. As you may know, the Republicans took control of the House of Representatives this month. Do you think they are starting off better than you expected, worse than you expected, or about the same as you expected?
Jan.
2023
Better 11%
Worse 23%
About the same 60%
(VOL) Don’t know 6%
(n) (805)

 

  1. What causes more problems in the federal government – elected officials who are not willing to stand up for their principles OR elected officials who are not willing to compromise?

[CHOICES WERE ROTATED]

    TREND: Jan.
2023
Jan.
2021
Nov.
2020
Sept.
2019
Aug.
2016*
Jan.
2016
Jan.
2015
  Not willing to stand up for principles 42% 41% 42% 41% 36% 40% 36%
  Not willing to compromise 51% 55% 51% 45% 55% 50% 54%
  (VOL) Depends 3% 3% 4% 9% 8% 6% 7%
  (VOL) Don’t know 4% 2% 3% 5% 2% 5% 2%
(n) (805) (809) (810) (1,161) (803) (1,003) (1,003)

        * Registered voters

 

  1. Overall, do you think the current government in Washington has more of a positive impact or more of a negative impact on most people’s lives, or does it have little impact either way?
  TREND: Jan.
2023
Aug.
2016*
June
2015
Positive impact 16% 19% 21%
Negative impact 59% 54% 50%
Little impact either way 22% 21% 23%
(VOL) Mixed/ depends 1% 4% 2%
(VOL) Don’t know 2% 3% 3%
(n) (805) (803) (1,002)

        * Registered voters

 

[The following question was asked of those who said “NEGATIVE IMPACT” to Q19; n=484, moe=+/-7.4%.]

19A.  Do you think it is possible to improve Washington to have a positive impact on people’s lives or do you think it is unlikely that anything can be done to improve Washington?

  TREND: Jan.
2023
Aug.
2016*
June
2015
Possible to improve 69% 75% 69%
Unlikely that anything can be done 30% 23% 30%
(VOL) Don’t know 1% 2% 1%
(n) (484) (451) (539)

        * Registered voters

 

  1. Thinking about people who hold core political principles that are different from yours, how much does it concern you that our country would suffer lasting damage if their policies were put into place – would you say a great deal, some, not much, or not at all?
  TREND: Jan.
2023
Jan.
2021
Nov.
2020
Sept.
2019
Aug.
2016*
Jan.
2016
A great deal 58% 52% 56% 56% 50% 50%
Some 31% 36% 29% 28% 34% 33%
Not much 6% 8% 8% 7% 9% 9%
Not at all 3% 2% 3% 4% 4% 5%
(VOL) Don’t know 3% 1% 3% 4% 3% 4%
(n) (805) (809) (810) (1,161) (803) (1,003)

* Registered voters

 

[Q21-39 held for future release.]

 

METHODOLOGY

 

The Monmouth University Poll was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from January 26 to 30, 2023 with a probability-based national random sample of 805 adults age 18 and older. This includes 281 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 524 contacted by a live interviewer on a cell phone, in English. Telephone numbers were selected through a mix of random digit dialing and list-based sampling. Landline respondents were selected with a modified Troldahl-Carter youngest adult household screen. Interviewing services were provided by Braun Research, with sample obtained from Dynata (RDD, n= 569), Aristotle (list, n= 152) and a panel of prior Monmouth poll participants (n= 84). Monmouth is responsible for all aspects of the survey design, data weighting and analysis. The full sample is weighted for region, age, education, gender and race based on US Census information (ACS 2021 one-year survey). For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 5.7 percentage points (adjusted for sample design effects). Sampling error can be larger for sub-groups (see table below). In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.

 

DEMOGRAPHICS (weighted)
Self-Reported
27% Republican
42% Independent
31% Democrat
 
49% Male
51% Female
 
28% 18-34
33% 35-54
39% 55+
 
61% White
12% Black
17% Hispanic
10% Asian/Other
 
67% No degree
33% 4 year degree

 

MARGIN OF ERROR
unweighted  sample moe
(+/-)
TOTAL   805 5.7%
REGISTERED VOTER Yes 757 5.9%
No 48 23.3%
SELF-REPORTED PARTY ID Republican 206 11.3%
Independent 322 9.0%
Democrat 259 10.0%
IDEOLOGY Liberal 190 11.7%
Moderate 306 9.2%
Conservative 273 9.8%
GENDER Male 384 8.3%
Female 421 7.9%
AGE 18-34 138 13.8%
35-54 264 10.0%
55+ 399 8.1%
CHILDREN IN HOME Yes 199 11.5%
No 605 6.6%
RACE White, non-Hispanic 563 6.8%
Other 217 11.0%
COLLEGE GRADUATE No degree 355 8.6%
4 year degree 448 7.6%
WHITE COLLEGE White, no degree 242 10.4%
White, 4 year degree 320 9.0%
INCOME <$50K 203 11.3%
$50 to <$100K 221 10.9%
$100K+ 322 9.0%

 

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One response to “Monmouth Poll: State of the Union Weakens”

  1. I’m sorry, but you lost me at the phrase “functioning democracy”. For those of you in the intelligentsia, America is a CONSTITUTIONAL REPUBLIC!!!! North Korea is a democracy (People’s DEMOCRATIC Republic of North Korea).

    Secondly, the Monmouth University Poll is a left-wing poll with over 60% of the people they contact being left wing/Democrats. The Poll is unreliable and skewed, so it cannot be used as a relevant source of polling.

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