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Missouri’s Republicans and Democrats View Issues Very Differently

by Kenneth Warren, Ph.D., Associate Director of SLU/YouGov Poll

Our July 2021 SLU/YouGov reveals that Missouri’s Republicans and Democrats view issues in a very stark, politically polarized fashion. Republicans and Democrats are deeply divided on how they view virtually every issue we asked in our poll from gun laws to abortion rights to Critical Race Theory to Medicaid expansion to the economy to getting vaccinated to whether they see the State of Missouri or the United States moving in the right or wrong direction. Unfortunately, these divisions are wide and deeply rooted, offering no hope that Missouri’s Republicans and Democrats can come together in bipartisan efforts to resolve problems that Missourians face, including getting vaccinated to help end the pandemic.

Electoral behavior scholars have noticed a widening gap between Republicans and Democrats over socio-economic, political issues since the 1990s. Our poll simply helps confirm the reality that polarized political views on issues are intensifying. We polled Missourians on a variety of issues. Below are some of the highlights on how Republicans and Democrats see issues. Since most Missouri Democrats are found in the metro areas of St. Louis and Kansas City, while rural Missouri counties are dominated by Republicans, our findings also show the pronounced “opinion divide” between rural and metro Missourians.

Our poll indicates why Republican-dominated Missouri has often been considered a pandemic hot spot, as compared to more Democratic states with lower cases, hospitalizations, and death rates per 100,000. Almost half of Missouri Republicans are still uncertain about getting vaccinated (13.3% compared to 4.4% for Democrats) or said in our poll, “I will not get vaccinated” (36.5% compared to only 6.3% for Democrats). As expected, while only 11.1% of Republicans gave Biden a positive approval score for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, 95.1% of Democrats did. In sharp contrast, 80.8% of Republicans approved of Governor Parson’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, while just 21.9% of Democrats did.

On highlighted issues from our poll, partisan perceptions were pronounced. Ratings were as follows: 11.3% of Republicans rated as “good” or “excellent” the condition of the economy in the U.S., while 44.1% of Democrats did; 36.3% of Republicans rated as “good” or “excellent” the economy of Missouri, while 19.3% of Democrats did; only 8.2% of Republicans agreed that the U.S. “is on the right track and headed in a good direction,” while 65.9% of Democrats agreed; yet 62.1% of Republicans agreed that Missouri “is on the right track and headed in a good direction” compared to only 14% for Democrats.

Recently, Governor Mike Parson signed into law a bill that invalidates federal gun control laws. The new law also prohibits Missouri’s state and local officials from enforcing federal gun control laws, imposing $50,000 fines for state and local officials who knowingly enforce federal gun control laws instead of this new state law. How do you feel about this Missouri state law?  - I strongly support this Missouri state law: 38% - I support this Missouri state law: 14% - I oppose this Missouri state law: 6% - I strongly oppose this Missouri state law: 31%  - Not sure: 10%

Other highlighted differences we found in our SLU/YouGov poll on how Republicans and Democrats stand on key issues: 79% of Republicans support a recent Missouri law not to enforce federal gun laws compared to 16.4% for Democrats; 79.3% of Republicans agreed that the State of Missouri “should prohibit abortions after 8 weeks of pregnancy”, while 32.5% of Democrats agreed; only 7.9% of Republicans agreed that schools be allowed to teach Critical Race Theory, while 73.8% of Democrats agreed.

 In 2020 Missouri voters voted to approve expanding Medicaid to thousands more low-income Missouri adults, but the State of Missouri has refused to fund the program. How strongly do you feel about Missouri funding Medicaid expansion? - Strongly believe Missouri should fund Medicaid expansion: 41%   - Believe Missouri should fund Medicaid expansion: 21% - Believe Missouri should not fund Medicaid expansion: 15% - Strongly believe Missouri should not fund Medicaid expansion: 15%   - Not sure: 8%

In 2020, Missouri voters voted to expand Medicaid to more low-income adults, but the Missouri legislature refused to fund Medicaid expansion. We asked voters how they felt about this. Again, Republicans and Democrats were very divided. Almost all Democrats polled who answered this question (96.8%) believed that the State of Missouri should fund Medicaid expansion (76.3% strongly believed so, while another 20.5% believed so). But also, a significant percentage of Republicans believed strongly (17.1%) or believed (21.8%) that Missouri should fund Medicaid expansion.

We also asked whether the State of Missouri should spend more to aid the poor. Again, extreme partisan polarization is seen. While 86.4% of Democrats agreed with the statement that Missouri should spend more to aid the poor, only 26.1% of Republicans agreed.

We polled quite extensively on issues, finding sharp partisan divisions between Republicans and Democrats on how they perceive various issues. To see more, please consult our poll data.