Americans prefer compromise to inaction in Congress

September 20, 2017, 5:00 PM GMT+0

55% of Americans want President Trump to make a deal with Democrats over “Dreamers”

Americans today say compromise across party lines is a good thing, especially now – a time when the public gives Congress only a 10% approval rating and few see a lot being accomplished by legislators. In the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, even Republicans think it would be fine if President Trump were to reach across the aisle and work with Congressional Democrats on a host of critical issues before Congress.

Their interest in compromise doesn’t mean that Republicans agree with the Democrats on these issues. They overwhelmingly favor GOP positions on immigration and health care reform. But the poll findings underscore the lowered expectations for this Congress. Almost half of the public no longer thinks Congress will repeal Obamacare. Most don’t think there will be funding for a border wall, while a plurality thinks there won’t be comprehensive immigration reform and barely half expect Congress will even pass a budget.

Republicans expect tax reform to pass (55% to 32%) and Obamacare repeal as well, though by a narrow margin (48% to 43%). But they too are skeptical about the prospects for passing funding for a border wall and comprehensive immigration reform.

The first indication of the President’s interest in compromising with Democrats came earlier this month when he agreed with the House and Senate Minority Leaders, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, to increase the debt limit and to provide aid for those affected by Hurricane Harvey. Last week, there were conflicting reports about whether or not there had been another compromise, this time about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program established through an executive order signed by former President Barack Obama. The public approves of an attempt at compromise on this issue.

Republicans generally agree. So do those who voted for President Trump, although they are more closely divided. 45% approve of the President working with Democrats on this issue; 39% do not. Like the public overall, they think protection for “dreamers” will happen.

The GOP willingness for compromise is relatively new. Throughout the Obama Administration, Republicans were much more likely than Democrats to say they preferred to have a Representative in Congress who stuck to principles at all costs, even at the risk of limiting accomplishments. In a 2011 poll, Republicans opposed having a Congressman who would be willing to compromise by nearly two to one. In this week’s poll, 60% of Republicans prefer a representative who is willing to compromise.

However, Republicans and Democrats may have different goals for DACA. Two in three Republicans approve of the President’s decision to end the program. When it comes to the program itself, members of the President’s party are divided: 39% support it, 45% do not.

There is also a significant amount of distrust of both sides. Majorities say they trust Democrats in Congress – and Donald Trump “not much” or “not at all” – when it comes to negotiating an agreement for the Dreamers.

More than two-thirds of Republicans distrust the Democrats in Congress on this issue; more than two-thirds of Democrats distrust the President. And the public is not quite sure of how much their leaders care about the “dreamers,” especially the President – most think he cares little or nothing about the needs and problems of the “dreamers.” This contrasts with the two-thirds of Americans – and a majority of Republicans – who say they care about the “dreamers.”

Increased interest in compromise may also be due to the fact that the Democratic Congressional leaders are more popular with the public and within their own parties than the Republican Congressional leadership is within theirs. The Democratic leadership even has gained support in recent weeks. While more than a third of the public disapproves of the way Schumer is handling his job as Senate Minority Leader, his 31% approval rating this week is the highest ever for him since he took office. 52% of Democrats approve. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has just a 28% approval rating, but 56% of Democrats approve of her performance.

Speaker Paul Ryan fares worse both with the public and with members of his own party. Only 43% of Republicans approve of the way he is doing his job, matching his low ratings after the failure of Obamacare repeal. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell scores even worse. His 30% approval rating among Republicans is his lowest all year.

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