More Republicans Support Expansion of Presidential Powers

President Donald Trump signs an executive order to increase sanctions on Iran on June 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

(CN) – Most Americans continue to believe that giving the president more power is ill-advised, but since last year a growing number of conservative Republicans in particular think the executive branch could be more effective with expanded authority, according to a survey released Wednesday.

In a Pew Research Center survey of about 1,500 adults between July 10 and 15, researchers found that 66% of overall respondents said it would be “too risky” to give American presidents more power “to deal directly with many of the country’s problems.”

However, that number has slipped 10% from March 2018. Though Democratic respondents indicated a slight uptick in support for increased presidential power (16% versus 14% last year), most of the increase came from Republican respondents. GOP support for increased presidential power rose from 27% in March 2018 to 43% in the latest survey.

The growing minority of respondents who believe a U.S. president could be more effective with fewer checks from Congress and the courts particularly came from more conservative Republicans.

Among liberal to moderate Republicans, 68% were against and 27% were for expanded presidential power, which is relatively unchanged compared to last year.

While 70% of conservative Republicans thought that increased power would be too risky last year, and 26% supported it, last month’s survey shows 52% of conservative Republicans now think the president could fix problems more effectively with more authority. A 41% minority of conservatives opposed more powers.

Though the divide between moderate and conservative Republicans became more apparent in the last year, GOP views on presidential power today look similar to Democratic respondents’ opinions in August 2016, before President Donald Trump’s election.

No majority of Democratic respondents surveyed by Pew researchers has indicted support for increased presidential power. Their support for expanded authority was highest at the tail end of former President Barack Obama’s administration, when it was at 29%, and has since fallen by 13%.

Researchers also classified respondents by age and education level, and found that younger Republican respondents and Republicans with a college degree were most likely to oppose more presidential power. For example, 64% of Republicans 18 to 49 years old opposed increased power, while a 38% minority of Republicans over 50 opposed additional presidential powers. Likewise, 64% of Republicans with a college degree opposed increased powers and 46% of Republicans without a college education opposed the hypothetical expansion.

Though respondents’ demographics and intraparty ideological differences seemed to contribute to the Republican shift in support for increased presidential power based on the data, congressional approval ratings also seemed to lend itself to the shift. A key part of researchers’ survey question involved the president needing to “worry so much about Congress,” which begs the question of Congress’ own effectiveness in solving problems.

Though respondents have not indicated majority favorability for Congress since Democrats did during the Obama administration, favorability among Republican respondents has hit a low point since Trump took office. GOP support for Congress rose to 44% in 2017 from 23% in the latter half of 2015. But by the 2018 midterms, Republican support for Congress had fallen to 37% and dropped further to 27% in the latest survey.

The data indicated a negative correlation between congressional favorability and support for increased presidential power among Republican respondents, but that did not fully explain the phenomenon. Republicans viewed Congress less favorably during the Obama administration than they indicated this year, but a more significant majority opposed increased presidential powers during that same time.

So while congressional favorability was a factor in the question of presidential powers, the partisan affiliations of the president appeared to make the ultimate difference to Republican respondents. Though Presidents Obama and Trump have reached a tie in overall approval ratings at the same point of their first terms, at roughly 44%, according to FiveThirtyEight, a July survey from Morning Consult indicated that 86% of Republicans approve of Trump.

The Pew survey showed that high presidential approval ratings from Republicans mixed with notably low congressional approval ratings from conservative respondents led to increased support for presidential power expansions.

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