Political polarization has become widespread in the United States, but not everyone favors one party over another. Although nearly a majority of registered voters in California are Democrats, many residents hold unfavorable views of the major political parties. According to our recent survey, half of Californians hold an unfavorable view of the Democratic Party and three-quarters have a negative view of the Republican Party. Interestingly, a third of Californians report having unfavorable views of both parties, and an overwhelming majority (71%) say a third major party is needed, up from a smaller majority of 54% in 2019. Ahead of next year’s primary and midterm elections, we take a closer look at this trend and the characteristics of those who hold negative views of both parties.
The share of Californians who view both parties negatively has increased steadily over the last few years. In October 2020, a month before the last presidential election, a fifth of Californians viewed both parties unfavorably. This percentage increased to 27% in July 2022 and now is up to 33%. The trend is similar on a national scale.
Among partisans, about a quarter each of Democrats and Republicans view both parties negatively, while about half of independents do so. Negative views of both parties have grown more among Republicans and independents in recent years. Back in October 2020, only 13% of Republicans and 28% of independents held these views (19% of Democrats).
Meanwhile, liberals (23%) are less likely than moderates (43%) and conservatives (32%) to have unfavorable opinions of both parties. Similar to the above trends, negative views of both parties have increased among conservatives and moderates. In October 2020, about a quarter each of moderates and liberals held these views (14% of conservatives).
How do Californians with negative views of the major political parties view the country and state? The short answer is more pessimistically than all residents. Among those with negative views of both parties, overwhelming majorities say the United States and California are going in the wrong direction (87% and 74%, respectively) and 86% disapprove of the way the US Congress is handling its job; these percentages are 12–19 points higher than among Californians overall.
Californians who view both parties unfavorably are also much more likely to disapprove of President Biden. Seven in ten disapprove of Biden’s performance, compared to about half of all Californians. If the 2024 election is a rematch between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, about a quarter of the likely voters in this group say they would vote for someone else, and 5% say they would vote for neither candidate or that they would not vote for president. Additionally, about seven in ten of this group say they are not satisfied with the way democracy is working in the United States. Notably, nearly nine in ten (88%) say a third party is needed, a higher share than all residents (71%).
Altogether, about four in ten Californians who view both parties negatively are independents, about a third are Democrats and a fifth are Republicans. About half describe themselves as politically moderate, about a quarter are liberal, and another quarter are conservative.
With the share of people who view both political parties negatively continuing to grow and the desire for a third party rising, the views and priorities of these Californians will become increasingly important. As we head into the next election cycle, PPIC will continue to monitor how Californians view the major political parties.