What Voters Want Congress to Do About Donald Trump

November 21st 2016

Kyle Jaeger

Democratic voters are hoping their representatives in Congress will push back against President-elect Donald Trump on the issues they consider most important — even if that conflict comes at the expense of productivity.


A new Pew Research Center poll found that 65 percent of Democrats want their leaders "stand up to Trump," compared to 32 percent of Democrats who want their representatives to “work with Trump to get things done, even if it disappoints supporters."

That's a pretty striking split from Pew's 2008 survey, which put the same questions to voters after President Barack Obama defeated Arizona Sen. John McCain. Then only 36 percent of Republicans said their federal representatives should stand up to Obama even if that meant obstructing legislation, whereas 59 percent said leaders on both sides of the fence ought to get along in spite of ideological differences.

Does that mean Democrats are less compromising than Republicans?


It's hard to make any sweeping conclusions about voters given the unconventional nature of the 2016 election. Asked to pick a word that best described their reaction to the election, Democrats overwhelmingly said "shocked" — but words like "horrified," "fearful," and "scared" were also strongly represented. Trump's hard-right campaign pledges, such as a temporary ban on Muslim immigration to the U.S. and the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants, likely influenced Democrats' embrace of obstructionism.

In the two weeks since Trump was elected, Democratic lawmakers such as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren have each vowed to resist any efforts by Trump to enact laws that discriminate against minorities or threaten democratic principles. But Sanders has also offered to work with the new administration if it pursues job-creating policies he deems beneficial.


"To the degree that Mr. Trump is serious about pursuing policies that improve the lives of working families in this country, I and other progressives are prepared to work with him," Sanders said in a statement the day after the election. "To the degree that he pursues racist, sexist, xenophobic, and anti-environment policies, we will vigorously oppose him."

The fact that Democrats are more willing to entertain obstructionism in Congress under Trump's administration is telling.

For the past 10 years, Americans have strongly disapproved of the job Congress has done, according to Gallup. The second most important thing that Americans think their representatives should do is compromise and "end gridlock."


At the same time, the single most important thing that voters want Congress to do is "listen to the people." Based on Pew's latest survey, for Democrats, at least, that means gearing up for a fight "even if less gets done in Washington."