CNN/ORC poll: A nation divided, and is it ever

Updated 8:34 AM EST, Sun November 27, 2016
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Story highlights

85% say that the nation is sharply split

A slight majority want to end the Electoral College

(CNN) —  

After a bruising presidential election featuring the two least liked major-party candidates in recent history, more than 8-in-10 Americans say the country is more deeply divided on major issues this year than in the past several years, according to a new CNN/ORC poll. And more than half say they are dissatisfied with the way democracy is working in the US.

The poll’s findings, released Sunday, also suggest a sizable minority personally agree with both parties on at least some issues, and nearly 8-in-10 overall hope to see the GOP-controlled government incorporate some Democratic policies into its agenda.

Read the complete CNN/ORC poll results

The public is evenly split on whether single-party control of government – with Republicans at the helm in both the White House and Congress – is good or bad for the country, with 49% on each side of that question. Almost 8-in-10, however, say the Republicans should make an effort to include Democratic policies in any legislation they pass rather than sticking to a GOP-driven agenda.

And most say they would like to see President-elect Donald Trump, who won with an Electoral College majority despite trailing in the popular vote nationwide, pursue policies that could draw in new supporters rather than appeal solely to those who backed him during the campaign. Less than half, 40%, say that Trump’s win means he has a mandate to pursue the agenda his supporters favor, while 53% say that since he didn’t win the popular vote, he should get behind an agenda that might attract new supporters.

The push for bipartisanship is less intense than the last time a single party controlled both houses of Congress and the White House in 2008.

The percentage in the CNN/ORC poll saying Republicans ought to incorporate Democratic policies into their agenda is lower than the percentage who thought the Democrats ought to do the same in 2008 when they took control of the White House and both houses of Congress. That’s largely because Republicans now are less likely to think their party’s leaders ought to work with the Democrats than Democrats were in 2008 to say that their leaders should bring in GOP policies (55% of Republicans say so now vs. 74% of Democrats who said so in ‘08).

In the wake of a surprising election night loss, Democrats express greater dissatisfaction with the way democracy in the US is working than do Republicans (63% of Democrats are dissatisfied vs. 47% of Republicans), but some of the Republican Party’s core supporters express deeper dissatisfaction than the GOP as a whole.

Among white evangelicals, 60% say they are dissatisfied, 62% of rural Americans say the same, and whites without college degrees, a typically GOP-leaning group which broke heavily for Trump in the recent election, are broadly dissatisfied (61% vs. 52% among whites who hold college degrees).

The sense that the country is sharply riven is near universal, with 85% saying so overall, including 86% of independents, 85% of Republicans and 84% of Democrats. It’s also sharply higher than it was in 2000 when the nation last elected a president who did not win the popular vote (64% thought the nation more sharply split then).

The share who see deeper divides now tops 8-in-10 across gender, racial, age and educational divides. The biggest difference on the question comes across ideological lines, with 91% of liberals saying the country is more divided on top issues compared with 80% of conservatives.

Still, majorities of Americans say there are at least some issues where each party, the President-elect and the current president share their views. And there is some overlap in those groups across parties. About a third of Americans (34%) say there are at least some issues where both parties share their views, though only about a quarter say they personally agree with both Trump and President Barack Obama on at least some issues.

Shared views with both parties are more common among independents (43% say they share at least some views with both Democrats and Republicans, vs. 28% of Democrats and 26% of Republicans who say they agree with the opposite party on at least some issues), among men (38% say so vs. 30% of women), and among younger Americans (40% under age 45 say so, vs. 28% among older Americans).

The public also is divided on the two top Republican leaders in Congress, with more holding favorable than unfavorable views of House Speaker Paul Ryan (47% see him favorably, 35% unfavorably), but tilting the other way on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (39% see him unfavorably, 25% favorably). Both are viewed positively among Republicans, with Ryan outpacing McConnell by 8 points (48% view Ryan favorably, 40% McConnell).

Findings from the same poll released last week found that the President-elect holds a 47% favorability rating overall, with 50% viewing him unfavorably.

Looking back on the election, about half (51%) say the US ought to amend the Constitution so that presidents are elected via popular vote rather than the Electoral College, but 44% would prefer to keep the current system. Support for the status quo is higher than it was in 2000, when the nation last elected a president who did not win the popular vote. At that time, 37% said the Electoral College should stay and 59% favored changing the rules.

And what of the popular vote winner? Americans’ views of Hillary Clinton haven’t softened post election. Overall, 40% say they have a favorable view of Clinton, and 57% unfavorable. That is her lowest favorability rating since immediately after the GOP convention, and represents the second lowest since her husband was elected president in 1992. Among Democrats, Clinton’s favorability rating stands at 79%, down from 86% in late October.

The CNN/ORC Poll was conducted November 17-20 among a random national sample of 1,003 adults. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.