USC Dornsife/LA Times poll reveals troubling numbers for GOP in 2018 midterm elections

January 19, 2018

USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times PollThe national poll shows majority support for immigrants, decreasing support for Trump among his base, and the belief that there are still significant obstacles for women to get ahead. Journalists are invited to participate in 11 a.m. PST call today to discuss results.

Contact: Emily Gersema, (213) 361-6730 or; or James Key, (213) 821-2992 or

Only 40 percent of Americans say they would vote for a Republican congressional candidate in their district compared to 51 percent who would vote for a Democrat, according to a new national USC Dornsife/LA Times poll. The remaining 9 percent would support a candidate from another party.

“These numbers show Republicans are in real trouble,” said Bob Shrum, director of the USC Dornsife College’s Unruh Institute of Politics. “If the elections were held now, Democrats would very likely capture the House. And if Trump’s favorability ratings don’t improve, history shows that’s what we can expect to happen in November.”

The nationwide USC Dornsife/LA Times poll, the first in a series leading up to the 2018 mid-term elections, was conducted between Dec. 15 and Jan. 15, in English and Spanish. The 3,862 people surveyed are members of USC’s Understanding America Study internet panel, recruited from a list of all households in the United States and representative of the demographics of the country. The poll’s margin of sampling error is plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Since the April 2017 USC Dornsife/LA Times poll, President Donald Trump’s approval rating among those who voted for him in 2016 has dropped from 83 to 74 percent. Overall, it has dropped from 40 percent to 32 percent. Among those in 11 key swing states, the president’s approval hovers at 33 percent.

Immigrants and 2020 presidential favorites

As members of Congress face a showdown over immigration reform and the president’s rhetoric heats up the electorate, a majority (62 percent) agreed with the statement that immigrants “strengthen our country because of their hard work and talent” compared to 38 percent who believe they’re “a burden on our country because they take our jobs, housing and healthcare.”

Most of those surveyed had completed the poll before Trump’s controversial statements about immigrants in a recent White House meeting with legislators.

Looking far ahead to the 2020 election, survey participants were asked if their party’s presidential primary were held today, who-among a list of potential candidates-would they vote for? Among those who said they would vote in the Republican primary, 25 percent say they’d choose a candidate other than Trump.

Among a list of ten Democrats, former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden led with 28 percent support, followed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (22 percent) and former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate (19 percent). All other tested potential candidates were in single digits except Sen. Elizabeth Warren, at 11 percent.

Russia investigation

Amid the independent counsel’s investigation into Russian influence on the 2016 presidential election, 59 percent said the issue is “a serious matter that should be investigated” while 41 percent agreed with the statement that it’s “mainly an effort to discredit Donald Trump’s presidency.”

Republicans and Democrats were more polarized. More than 8 out of 10 Republicans called it an effort to discredit the president whereas nearly 9 in 10 Democrats said it was a serious matter. Independents were more aligned with the Democrats, 64 percent to 36 percent.

Obstacles for women

As the #MeToo movement to combat sexual harassment gains momentum, 6 out of 10 people agreed with the statement that “there are still significant obstacles that make it harder for women to get ahead than men,” while the remainder said “the obstacles that once made it harder for women than men to get ahead are now largely gone.”

“In a show of unity that is rare in polling these days, and on the eve of another round of women’s marches, women across race, religion, and socioeconomic lines were united in saying that women still face significant obstacles compared to men,” said Jill Darling, survey director of the USC Dornsife College’s Center for Economic and Social Research.

The more usual partisan divide still applied to men, however. More than two-thirds of Democratic men said obstacles for women remain compared to just under two-thirds of Republican men who said those obstacles are mostly gone. Another notable exception were the 62 percent of Trump voters who said that obstacles for women are now largely gone.

Racial discrimination

When asked to weigh in on the topic of racial discrimination, a narrow majority of 54 percent said the issue of “people not seeing discrimination where it really does exist” is a bigger problem for the country than people seeing it “where it really does not exist.”

The division was much more pronounced within racial subgroups. Nearly 9 out of 10 black people and 66 percent of Hispanics said the bigger problem was real racial discrimination. However, 56 percent of white people said the bigger problem was “seeing it where it doesn’t really exist.”

View the results

The USC Dornsife/LA Times poll is a partnership of the Los Angeles Times and two institutions of the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences: the Unruh Institute of Politics and the Center for Economic and Social Research.

The poll results, methodology and data tables are available at:

Interview opportunity

A media teleconference call about the national poll results was held on Friday, Jan. 19.

A digital recording of the teleconference will be available for reporters to replay until Jan. 26. It can be accessed by dialing 1-800-475-6701 and entering access code 442955.

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