Democrats Are Actually More Upbeat About Their Nomination Contest Than The GOP

The Democrats still have a primary battle going on between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, while Trump seems to have sewn up the GOP nomination. So why are Democrats more upbeat about their contest, while Republicans seem even more nervous about their primary situation?

In 2015, I hosted a GOP debate party at my college, and a similar one for the Democrats later in the year. More students showed up to the Republican contest, but the lengthy negative attacks seemed to wear on them. After 2.5 hours of watching insults over banal concerns, the students began to leave, one by one. Even I was begging the CNN team to end the verbal haranguing by the third hour.

It was a different story for the Democratic debate. Though fewer showed up, the focus on issues seemed to liven up the audience. They fed off the positive atmosphere of the event. No one left early, and most were smiling by the end. Several asked me how I could get in touch with campaigns to work for them.

That battle between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders continues, and should persist all the way to the convention. Meanwhile, Trump's enemies have fled the battlefield. Normally, one would think the Democrats should be more worried that their contest is far from over, whereas we know the outcome of the Republican nomination battle.

Gallup polls say otherwise. According to Justin McCarthy, 70 percent of Democrats say the ongoing battle between Sanders and Clinton is not hurting the party, and may even be helping it.

What's even more amazing is that Clinton supporters are slightly less likely to feel the ongoing contest is hurting their party (23%), as compared to the number of Sanders supporters who are concerned (27%). But still a majority of both camps are cool with the continued nomination battle. Such results are unaffected by age. Younger and older Democratic voters are equally unlikely to feel the Democratic debate is bad for the party.

For Republicans, when Donald Trump was battling with Ted Cruz and John Kasich back in April, it was a different story. Nearly two-thirds of Republicans were terrified that the nomination process was hurting their party's chances of winning in the Fall of 2016, according to Lydia Saad and Frank Newport.

At the same time when Democrats had Clinton-Sanders battles, 71 percent of party faithful felt their nomination contest was a positive thing, and wouldn't hurt the party in November of 2016.

Some of it is the negative tone of the GOP campaign, much harsher than that of the Democratic primary contest, as well as more personal attacks than a policy focus. Some of it also has to do with satisfaction with the candidates. A majority of Democrats are satisfied with Clinton and Sanders. A majority of Republicans wanted someone other than Trump, Cruz or Kasich to run.

While it is true that Republicans are reluctantly warming up to Donald Trump, 30 percent of the party still holds an unfavorable impression of him, according to Frank Newport. That's much higher than negative GOP views of Romney in 2012 (13 percent), McCain in 2008 (11 percent) or Bush in 2000 (nine percent), at this same time in their campaigns. Even now, half of Republicans want someone other than Trump to run, according to Newport with Gallup polling.

Republicans would do well to watch how the Democrats put on a more positive, issues-based contest that may have been less "entertaining" than Trump beating his rivals with insults, but dividing his party at the same time.

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga. He can be reached at jtures@lagrange.edu.