Three-quarters of Americans say they want members of Congress to compromise with the other side, the highest in at least a decade, but most have no confidence they will, the latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll finds.

Seventy-four percent said Congress should compromise. But Americans have gotten more pessimistic that their leaders will try to reach across the aisle. The 58% who said they have no confidence Congress will do so is more than double the level found in 2008, when just 23% said so.

Many Americans say they are simply tired of the bickering, name-calling and faux outrage that have become all-too-common among members on either side of the aisle in Congress.

"You can't have two people, one on one side of the hallway and one on the other talking about each other — you're not going to get anything done," said poll respondent Jeff Daye, 54, of California, Md., who identified as a Republican. "They remind me of a bunch of children."

Stacey Boushelle, a 50-year-old independent and former Republican from Defiance, Mo., said people can't become closed off if they disagree.

"You have to understand where everybody is coming from," said Boushelle, who said she considered herself a Republican and voted that way up until the 2016 election, but hasn't since former President Trump ran. "You are a product of your environment. You have to meet them where they are. Otherwise, you just alienate them, and it's a hard division, as opposed to trying to reach some and trying to bring them back."

Biden's standing improves some, but Democrats continue to look elsewhere

The survey also found that President Biden's approval rating continues to slump at 43%, but on the heels of recent legislative wins and a better-than-expected finish for Democrats in the midterms, the percentage disapproving of the job he's doing has declined.

"I actually think he's doing a great job," Boushelle said. "There's nothing we can do about his hair or his quickness, but when you're older, we make better decisions, more informed decisions."

Looking to 2024, a majority of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents said they would prefer someone other than Biden to be the party's nominee. Just 35% said they wanted it to be Biden, but there isn't a clamoring for anyone else in particular to run either.

The other two named candidates polled saw less than half of that support, with 17% saying they preferred the Democratic nominee to be Vice President Harris and 16% saying Pete Buttigieg, the transportation secretary. More than a quarter said they are looking for "someone else."

Trump holds up in a multi-candidate primary

While a majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said they would rather someone other than Trump be the GOP nominee, in a multi-candidate field, he still would be the preferred candidate by a 45%-to-33% margin over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Just 8% said they would rather former Vice President Pence be the nominee.

A Wall Street Journal poll out Wednesday showed Republican primary voters would prefer DeSantis over Trump if it were just the two of them running.

What people think Congress' priorities should be

Overall, respondents said they want Congress to focus on inflation, preserving democracy and immigration.

To be expected, the parties see things quite differently — Republicans overwhelmingly want Congress to focus on inflation (41%), followed by immigration (23%) and then preserving democracy (11%).

Preserving democracy was top of the list for Democrats (29%), followed by inflation (20%) and climate change (17%).

Of course, when Republicans and Democrats say they want preserving democracy to be a priority, they don't always mean the same thing. Some Republicans are focused on baseless claims of voter fraud pushed by the former president.

Democrats are more focused on the illegitimate efforts to try and overturn the presidential election in 2020 — and current and potential future attempts to continue to sew doubts about U.S. elections.

Serious threat to democracy

Eighty-three percent — and there were similar numbers across the political spectrum — believed that there is a serious threat to democracy. That's the highest recorded in the poll, even after the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

Respondents were split on which party is a bigger threat, though — 49% said Republicans, 45% said Democrats.

Republicans are from Mars and Democrats are from Venus

To see just how differently people in both parties view things — look at immigration and climate change.

Nearly a quarter of Republicans think immigration should be a top priority for Congress, but only 1% of Democrats think it should be.

On climate change, more than 1 in 6 Democrats think it should be Congress' top priority, but only 1% of Republicans do.

Congress gets some points for trying

When it comes what this Congress has been able to get done, 24% said they accomplished more than recent Congresses.

While that may not seem very high, it's actually the highest percentage to say so since 1998.

The positive views are — not surprisingly — driven by Democrats, 48% of whom said they think this Congress has accomplished more than recent Congresses. And it has been quite productive with a string of legislative victories for President Biden and his party, despite a 50-50 Senate.

Forty-percent said they accomplished less and 33% said about the same.

People don't have a very positive view of either party

Neither the Republican nor Democratic parties got very good grades from respondents.

Both parties are viewed almost identically and are upside down in their favorability ratings:

Republicans: 41% favorable, 47% unfavorable
Democrats: 42% favorable, 47% unfavorable

White evangelical Christians, far and away, viewed the GOP most favorably of the demographic subgroups. Members of the Silent/Greatest generation (those between 77 and 94 years old), whites without college degrees and those who live in small towns and rural areas were among the most likely to have more positive views of the Republican Party.

When it came to Democrats, white women with college degrees, college graduates in general, people who live in big cities and the Northeast, as well as Baby Boomers were among the most likely to say they had a favorable opinion of the Democratic Party.

Alarmingly for Democrats, only 41% of GenZ/Millennials had a favorable opinion of the party despite being the generation that voted for Democrats in the midterms by the widest margin. Almost 1-in-5 GenZ/Millennials said they were unsure.

In fact, statistically the same percentage of GenZ/Millennials (42%) had a favorable view of the Republican Party, and 1-in-5 were unsure. That level of dissatisfaction and disconnection from either party could mean this is a generation up for grabs, especially as it gets older.

Not a good time to buy

The economy is at an unstable time, and 7-in-10 said they don't think now is a good time to purchase a big-ticket item like a car or household appliance.

That included solid majorities of respondents in each generation, but the older the respondent, the more likely to say it was not a good time to buy.

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A new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll out today finds Americans want their leaders to compromise.


But while that's the hope, the poll shows they don't have much confidence it'll actually happen.

SCHMITZ: Joining us to talk about this and more is NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro, who has all the numbers as usual. Good morning, Domenico.


SCHMITZ: Domenico, there will be a new Congress sworn in in just a few weeks. Is the idea of compromise even likely?

MONTANARO: Well, people say often that they want compromise, but usually they want the other side to compromise with them, you know?

SCHMITZ: Yeah, that's what I thought you would say.

MONTANARO: But the finding in this poll was striking because it wasn't a small number who are saying so. Seventy-four percent say they want members of Congress to compromise rather than stand on principle, which is actually the highest level we've seen in a decade. We're headed into divided government here in Washington, and it's notable that people want, as one Republican respondent who wanted to see compromise told me, members of Congress to, quote, "stop acting like children." But the incentives in Congress tend to lean in the opposite direction. You know, for example, Republican leader Kevin McCarthy wants to be speaker, and to get 218 votes from his conference to get there, he's probably going to have to make some steep concessions to the far right, not the middle, most likely.


MONTANARO: And those realities and what we've seen over the past decade or so isn't really engendering hope of compromise. Fifty-eight percent in the poll say they have no confidence the parties will do so. People have become far more pessimistic about their leaders. In 2008, it was only 23% that said they had no confidence, so a huge shift here. And it's been Republicans who have been the least likely to compromise or want compromise.

SCHMITZ: Does the poll say anything about what people want Congress to do?

MONTANARO: Overall, they want Congress to tackle inflation. You know, it's still a top concern. That's followed by preserving democracy and immigration, which has seen a surge. But Republicans and Democrats, I have to tell you, seem like they're coming from Mars or Venus or some other planet because when it comes to the issues, they're pretty far apart. I mean, take immigration and climate change, for example. Republicans think immigration should be a top priority, though likely not in the kind of comprehensive way that Democrats want or is needed. But only 1% of Democrats think it should be a priority. On the other hand, Democrats think climate change should be a top priority, but only 1% of Republicans do - so very far apart on their concerns, which makes compromise all the more difficult.

SCHMITZ: That's right. And we've also heard so much after these midterm elections about what the results mean for President Biden and, for that matter, former President Trump, who has already announced that he's running again. What does the poll say about how people feel about them?

MONTANARO: Well, neither of them have the majority support of potential voters in their respective primaries. Majorities say they'd prefer to have someone else, and yet both are the frontrunners still at this point to get the nominations again. Biden, for example, has just 35% who say that they'd prefer that he ran in 2024 as their standard bearer, but they don't seem to love any of the other alternatives. You know, Vice President Kamala Harris, for example, gets just 17%. Pete Buttigieg, the transportation secretary, gets only 16%. On the Republican side, despite all the buzz around Florida Governor Ron DeSantis - and it is very real. You know, Republican primary voters say they'd prefer Trump over DeSantis, 46 to 33%, with former Vice President Pence getting just 8%.

So it really just shows that, like in 2016, a crowded field really is Trump's best friend. And that is a big thing that a lot of people are pointing to, even as Republican primary voters continue to say that they're unsure of Trump and that he maybe doesn't have the best political skills or helped the party in the last few elections.

SCHMITZ: That's NPR's Domenico Montanaro. Thank you.

MONTANARO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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