Since Trump, Voters Have Become More Likely to See the GOP as Caring About Them
Since 2016, the GOP has closed its deficit against the Democratic Party on the question of caring about “people like me.” Additionally, Donald Trump’s party has taken a lead over Joe Biden’s on this question among middle-income households, people without a college degree and white people, and has cut the Democratic Party’s advantage among voters of color — most notably Black voters.
At the same time, voters are far more likely to say the Republican Party cares about elites than the Democratic Party (62% to 47%), even as the two parties run neck and neck on the question of caring about working-class Americans.
The data also shows that neither party has any obvious incentive to go out on a limb for businesses: Republicans see a cultural advantage in attacking “woke” corporations and aligning with the working class, while Democrats are trying to stop their bleeding among those same voters on issues ranging from union fights to tax policy.
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Donald Trump’s presence on the American political stage caused electoral challenges for the Republican Party and democratic consternation for the country as a whole. But he and others in his party who have embraced his populist remaking of conservatism have also objectively improved the GOP’s brand since he secured its presidential nomination in 2016: More voters — including those of color and those who make less money — see the Republican Party as attentive to them.
This finding from the eighth edition of our annual State of the Parties survey underscores the former president’s ongoing strength when matched up against President Joe Biden, whose party holds a smaller advantage by this metric among the overall electorate than it did before Trump claimed the White House in 2017. But even with this improvement, the GOP is still struggling to shrug off the long-lasting corporate connection left by its old guard.
Democratic advantage on caring about everyday people is shrinking
While the Republican Party has yet to shirk its reputation of catering to the interests of big business, the shares of voters who think the Republican Party “supports small businesses” and cares about “people like me,” “poor Americans” and “middle-class Americans” have all increased since our first State of the Parties survey in 2016, while the shares who said the same of the Democratic Party are statistically unchanged.
The GOP Has Strengthened Its Working-Class Ties Since 2016
The Democratic Party still holds a comparably large advantage over the Republican Party when it comes to the share of voters who think it cares about poor Americans (48% to 37%), including among lower-educated and lower-earning Americans. However, the GOP has closed its deficit against the Democratic Party on the question of caring about “people like me,” driven by a 9-percentage-point improvement in the share that applied that descriptor compared with the survey conducted ahead of the 2016 Republican National Convention (30% to 39%).
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The Republican Party’s improvement on who voters think cares about them came from across the board when considering voters’ race, education and income level, something that may matter even more than the Democratic Party’s advantage on the question of caring about poor Americans. Since 2016, the GOP has taken a lead over the Democratic Party on the question of caring about “people like me” among middle-income households, people without a college degree and white people, but has also cut its rival party’s advantage among voters of color — most notably Black voters.
Voters Across the Board Are More Likely to See the GOP as Caring About Them Since 2016
The share of Black voters who said they think the Democratic Party cares about people like them has fallen from 71% to 64% since 2016, while the share who said the same about the Republican Party has increased from 12% to 21%. That rise among Black voters is slightly larger than the improvement the GOP saw among white voters over the same time period.
The Republican Party’s improvement on the personal attentiveness question among nonwhite voters isn’t fully surprising, given how Trump improved his standing among a range of nonwhite demographics between the 2016 and 2020 elections. But coupled with Trump’s heightened standing among Black voters in surveys testing the 2024 contest, and Biden’s and the Democratic Party’s diminished standing with white voters, the figures show a troubling predicament for the incumbent president in particular — and for his party, which has long tried to associate itself with the average American.
Republicans still haven’t shirked voters’ elite association
While Republicans have made improvements on the working-class side of the equation since 2016, they have yet to shake off the widely held belief that they care about the rich and powerful.
Voters Are Far More Likely to Say the GOP Cares About “Elites”
According to our 2023 survey, voters are far more likely to say the Republican Party cares about elites than they are to say the same about the Democratic Party (62% to 47%), even as the two parties run neck and neck on the question of caring about working-class Americans.
White voters and, to a lesser extent, voters without a college degree are more likely to say the Republican Party than the Democratic Party cares about working-class Americans, but large shares of those groups join just about everyone else in saying the GOP cares about elites.
The bottom line
While the Republican Party has not necessarily gained an advantage over the Democratic Party on a range of indicators that would suggest it is closer to everyday Americans, it now has a fighting chance of doing so — especially when it comes to perceptions of how it supports the working class. That posture, which other data suggests is driven by cultural divides and general sentiment against the party in power in Washington, is likely to yield dividends for the GOP at the national level.
Meanwhile, Democrats are winning on the question of who is tied more closely to big business and the infamous “elites.” That comes despite the best efforts of Trump and other prominent names in the Republican Party, such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, the longshot No. 2 and No. 3 contenders for the GOP’s 2024 presidential nomination, to rhetorically disassociate the GOP with its pro-corporate reputation.
In the face of this quandary, neither party has any obvious incentive to go out on a limb for businesses: Republicans see a cultural advantage in attacking corporations they see as “woke” to align with the working class, while Democrats are trying to stop their bleeding among those same lower-educated and lower-earning voters on issues ranging from union fights to tax policy.
Taken together, this data shows that corporations — already contending with sluggish trust among the American people — are an easy target for both sides of the aisle in the lead-up to the 2024 presidential election and beyond.
Eli Yokley is Morning Consult’s U.S. politics analyst. Eli joined Morning Consult in 2016 from Roll Call, where he reported on House and Senate campaigns after five years of covering state-level politics in the Show Me State while studying at the University of Missouri in Columbia, including contributions to The New York Times, Politico and The Daily Beast. Follow him on Twitter @eyokley. Interested in connecting with Eli to discuss his analysis or for a media engagement or speaking opportunity? Email [email protected].