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Sunday, December 11, 2016

In the wake of the Republican Party’s near-sweep of the midterm elections, the Beltway media and politicians from both sides of the aisle profess to agree on one thing: Democrats and Republicans must set aside their partisan squabbles and finally get back to the hard work of governing.

“When the American people choose divided government, I don’t think it means they don’t want us to do anything,” soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) proclaimed after the election. “We ought to start with the view that maybe there are some things we can agree on to make progress for the country.”

Just as long as nobody tells his Republican base.

A new Pew Research Center survey, released Wednesday, finds that Republicans are dead set against seeing their representatives in Congress compromising with President Obama. Overall, Americans agree 57 to 40 percent that Republican leaders “should try as best they can to work with Barack Obama to accomplish things, even if it means disappointing some groups of Republican supporters.” But Republicans and Republican-leaning independents view things very differently; just 32 percent want to see GOP leaders work with the president, while 66 percent would prefer seeing them “‘stand up’ to Obama on issues that are important to Republican supporters, even if it means less gets done in Washington.”

Those numbers are the inverse of Democratic attitudes towards compromise, and represent Republicans’ most obstinate stance in any of Pew’s last three post-election surveys.

Pew Chart

Similarly, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents agree by a 57 to 39 percent margin that their party’s leadership should move in a more conservative direction, rather than moderating. By contrast, Democrats would prefer to see their party moderate its policies.

Pew Chart 2

In other words, Republican voters strongly believe that they have provided a mandate for Congress to bring conservative change to Washington. There’s just one problem: The rest of the nation disagrees. Just 44 percent of the public approves of Republican leaders’ policies and plans for the future, while 43 percent disapprove. Similarly, while 41 percent want Republican leaders to take the lead in solving the nation’s problems, 40 percent would prefer that President Obama sets the agenda.

If all of this strikes you as a recipe for more gridlock, then you are in good company. Just 18 percent told Pew that relations between Republicans and Democrats will get better in the coming year, and less than 50 percent believe that either President Obama or Republican leaders will successfully enact their agendas.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr.com

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