US Midterm Elections: Polarization of Reputation Along Party Lines
In light of the emerging reputation economy and dawn of the era of fake news, the most recent Political RepTrak study provides new insight into the power of reputation — and the likely impact on voting behavior ahead of the Midterm Elections.
About the Study:
Political RepTrak is a US-based survey evaluating the reputation of political figures and parties among the General Public. The latest wave of this study fielded between 18-23 October 2018 and was based on 1094 individual ratings from among a representative sample of the US population who were somewhat or very familiar of the entities measured. This wave of the Political RepTrak study captured the underlying reputation of the two main political parties in the US – Republican and Democratic – and also assessed the reputation of President Donald Trump. The study provides insight into:
- The reputational standing of the parties and president,
- What drives reputation - the 7 dimensions of political reputation: Economic Growth, National Security, Education/Innovation, Global Relations, Health/Wellness, Social Investment or Executive Leadership),
- What factors will impact the General Public when it comes to casting their vote
Figure 1: Political RepTrak Model
What We Learned from Our Midterms Study Data
Midterms are up for grabs. In terms of reputation, the outlook of the political parties is on par. The Democratic Party is only 0.4-points ahead of the Republican Party, and both have a relatively weak reputation among the General Public (40-59-points). The Republican Party drastically improved since January 2017 with a 9.0-point increase. The Democratic Party increased as well, but at a slower rate compared to that of its opposition: + 2.5-points.
Figure 2: Republican and Democratic Party Reputation Scores (May 2016-October 2018)
The State of Reputation for the Republican and Democratic Parties
The Republican Party’s reputation is on the rise. In October 2018 the Republican Party’s reputation has shifted from poor to its initial standing of weak. Among key demographics, the Republican Party sees overall improvements and among its own constituency enjoys a significant increase of 6.0 reputation points. Across generational cohorts, the Party has the highest reputation among Millennials and the lowest reputation among the youngest and, in many cases, first-time voters.
Figure 3: Republican Party Reputation by Key Demographics
The Democratic Party’s reputation is stable but stagnant. Its reputation has been trending positively since August-October 2016 and has an overall reputation increase of 2.5-points. While the Republican Party's reputation is trending positively among key demographics, the Democratic Party’s reputation has not significantly improved among Democrats or women. Looking at reputation by generations, the Democratic Party has the highest reputation among Millennials (ages 22-37) and Gen Z (ages 18-21).
Figure 4: Democratic Party Reputation by Key Demographics
Understanding Reputation and Political Parties
For the General Public and Republicans, the Republican Party has delivered on what matters and then some. Across the 7 dimensions of the Political RepTrak, the Republican Party has an average increase of 7.4-points among the General Public and a 5.5-point increase among Republicans. The Republican Party’s highest scores are in national security, economic growth and executive leadership, while its lowest performance is in health & wellness and social investment. With health & wellness being a key driver for the Republican Party for both the public and Republicans, it is important that the party focuses on advancing beneficial health care policies. The party would also be served well by advancing social causes, which is a key driver among the public (see Figure 5). Compared to the Democratic Party, among the General Public. the Republican Party leads in the metrics of economic growth, national security and executive leadership.
The Democratic Party relying on emotional equity. Across the 7 dimensions of Political RepTrak, the Democratic Party has an average increase of a mere 0.9-points among the General Public and has a negative trend among Democrats. The 1.5 average point drop among Democrats indicates that the Democratic Party may be performing well at an emotional level, the Party it is not up to par on key governmental duties. Among Democrats the biggest reputation decline is in the Party’s ability to drive economic growth. The Party’s strong suits are educational and healthcare policies, while its low points are in economic growth and national security. The Party’s ability to keep the country safe is a key driver for both the General Public and Democrats and should be an area of focus for the Democratic Party to advance its reputation in the US (Figure 5). Compared to the Republican Party, among the General Public the Democratic Party leads in the metrics of education, global relations, health and social investment.
Figure 5: Reputation Drivers for the Republican and Democratic Party, Among General Public and Own Constituencies
What reputational factors impact voters?
Immigration is a hot topic for voters. For 30.6% of the General Public, immigration has the greatest impact on how they will vote. This is especially true for Republicans with 44.0% considering it as a key topic. Among respondents for which immigration matters the most, the Republican Party has an average reputation of 65.6 and the Democratic Party a poor reputation of 28.7. For the General Public, the Republican Party’s immigration policies seem to be more in line with personal beliefs.
Figure 6: Key Issues’ Impact on Voting
Celebrities can be an “X-factor” in impacting the reputation of political parties. Over the past few months, artists Kanye West and Taylor Swift have been politically active by engaging in meetings with President Trump and on social media, encouraging US citizens to vote. Taylor Swift’s political outspokenness has a significant positive impact on the Democratic Party among Democrats; Kanye West’s political views yield a higher reputation for Republicans among those familiar, but the overall increase in reputation is not significant
The President’s Reputation Midst the Midterm Mania
Trump’s reputation increases and remains strong among Republicans. Trump’s reputation increased by 3.2-points since January 2017 and it moved up from the poor to weak range for the first time. Aligned with an increase in reputation, the General Public’s perception of Trump’s executive leadership and his work on national security and economic growth improves as well. Among Republicans, Trump’s reputation has been steadily increasing and its now in the strong range with a score of 76.4. On the other side, the Democrats hold Trump in low esteem and give him a poor reputation of 18.6-points. This 57.8-point difference illustrates the high level of polarization among the parties when it comes to the president’s reputation. In fact, even among Republicans, when asked, “What comes to mind when you think of Trump?” the answers range from a positive - great leader and passionate - to negative - un-presidential and untruthful.
Figure 7: Donald Trump’s Reputation Scores (March 2016-October 2018)
• * indicates directional data
• Generation breakdown: Gen Z = 18-21; Millennials = 22-37; Gen X = 38-53; Baby Boomers = 54-72; Silent = 73+
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Chief Reputation Officer