Partisans Differ Widely in Views of Police Officers, College Professors

Pew Research Center, September 13, 2017

Americans give strongly positive ratings to teachers and members of the military, while ratings of political and ideological groups – Democrats, Republicans, liberals and conservatives – are much less positive, and more starkly divided along partisan lines.

Yet wide partisan and ideological divides are also seen in views of some professions. Educators – particularly college professors – tend to receive warmer ratings from Democrats than Republicans, while Republicans generally have warmer views of people in the military and law enforcement than do Democrats.

A new survey of 4,904 adults conducted online Aug. 8-21 on Pew Research Center’s nationally representative American Trends Panel finds that among the public overall, people in the military receive the warmest ratings from the public – a mean, or average, rating of 83 degrees on a “feeling thermometer” between 0 and 100 – where 0 is the coldest, most negative rating and 100 represents the warmest, most positive. Teachers also are highly regarded, garnering an average rating of 78

Among the public, the mean rating for police officers is 67, but Republicans give police officers a much higher average rating than do Democrats (84 vs. 62). College professors get an overall rating of 58, but the average rating is considerably higher among Democrats (71) than among Republicans (46).

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The wide partisan gaps in views of police officers and college professors are reflected in the differences in the relative rankings (among eight groups tested) among Republicans and Democrats.

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Both Republicans and Democrats feel more “coldly” toward each other than in 2016.

Today, 76% of Republicans have a cold view of Democrats (rating them 0-49 on the 0-100 scale), with about half (53%) rating Democrats very coldly (0-24). Very cold ratings for Democrats among Republicans are higher today than in December 2016 (33%), after the election, or in March of last year (46%) during the primary campaign.

Democratic views of Republicans show a similar pattern. Today 70% of Democrats have a cold view of Republicans, up from 56% in December and 61% in March; very cold ratings (currently 52%) are higher than at earlier points (41% in both December and March).

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Republican leaners less accepting of ‘Republican’ label

Most Republicans and Democrats view fellow members of their party warmly. But when asked how well the partisan label fits them personally, more continue to say it applies fairly well than very well.

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There has been a sizable decline in the share of Republican-leaning independents who say the label “Republican” describes them well.

In general, those who lean to a party, rather than affiliate with it, are less likely to embrace a partisan label. But among Republican leaners, just a third say the term Republican describes them very or fairly well; most (65%) say it describes them not to well or not at all well.

This is a major shift from last year, when nearly half of Republican leaners (48%) said the descriptor Republican fit them well. Among Democratic leaners, there has been very little change in these views since 2016 (45% then, 42% today).

Partisans generally agree with their party on issues

In thinking about the issue positions of the two parties, majorities of Republicans and Democrats say they agree with their own party “almost always” or “more than half the time” – and very few agree with the opposing party’s positions. These views are little changed since last year.

About seven-in-ten  Republicans (72%) say they agree with the Republican Party almost always (22%) or more than half of the time (51%) on issues; another 21% agree with the party “about half of the time,” while just 7% agree “less than half of the time” or “almost never.”

Among Democrats, there is a similar level of agreement with the party’s positions: 73% say they agree with the party almost always or more than half the time.

In both parties, there are ideological divisions in agreement with the party’s positions. Conservative Republicans are far more likely than moderate and liberal Republicans to say they frequently agree with GOP positions. Among Democrats, more liberals than moderates and conservatives say the same.

Republicans feel more ‘warmly’ than Democrats toward military and police officers

Both Republicans and Democrats have largely positive views of members of the military and police officers, though in both cases Republicans’ ratings of the groups are warmer than Democratic ratings.

Fully 93% of Republicans have a warm rating of people in the military, including 86% who give a very warm rating (76 or higher on the 0-100 scale). Though Democrats are less intensely positive than Republicans about members the military, 82% give a warm rating – including 69% who view service members very warmly.

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