The Republican Party is increasingly worried about itself. It’s becoming more critical of its own image and believes more and more non-Republicans are, too.
What does that mean for GOP unity in the fall general election? It’s not a good sign. But November remains a long way away.
Let’s back up a second and look at some new polls that bring these thoughts to mind.
Republicans like themselves less
The first poll is from Pew Research. It says that in recent months the Republican Party’s overall favorability rating – not high to begin with – has edged ever lower. About 33 percent of voters now have a favorable impression of the GOP, according to the survey, released April 28. That’s down from 37 percent in October.
As Pew notes, “The decline in favorability since then has largely come among Republicans themselves.”
About 68 percent of GOP members view their party favorably, according to Pew. Last fall, the comparable number was 79 percent.
It’s not hard to guess what’s driving this. The GOP primary season has at times been an unedifying spectacle. That’s going to take a toll, among nonpartisans and partisans alike.
Republicans worry that others like them less
Republicans are sensitive to what the electorate as a whole thinks about a nomination campaign that’s featured discussion of hand size and energy levels. That’s the implication of a recent Gallup survey, anyway.
Sixty-three percent of Republican and Republican-leaning voters believe the continuing nomination campaign is hurting the GOP, according to Gallup numbers. In contrast, only 24 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters say the same thing about their party. And it’s not like Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have been only exchanging pleasantries since January’s Iowa caucuses.
“Republicans’ higher level of concern about the effect of the campaign on their party may reflect the harsh personal nature of some of the Republican candidates’ attacks and counterattacks, and the looming potential battles over delegates and convention procedures in Cleveland in July,” wrote Gallup’s Lydia Saad and Frank Newport earlier this month.
What does it mean?
Will all this unease keep the GOP from coming together? Right now, the party looks split into Trump and #NeverTrump factions, and never the twain shall meet. Increasing dissatisfaction with the party’s image may presage a number of dissatisfied Republican voters staying home in November.
Lots of past campaigns have been contentious, though, and parties eventually rallied around their nominee. The Hillary Clinton versus Barack Obama campaign was pretty bitter in 2008, and that did little to Democratic Party unity in the end.
Trump is in many ways an unprecedented political candidate. The question is, will he produce an unprecedented party split too?