The FINANCIAL -- As the two major political parties have settled on their presumptive presidential nominees, Democrats (58%) have become significantly more likely than Republicans (46%) and independents (38%) to say any presidential candidate has come up with good ideas for solving the most important problem facing the U.S. From November to February, Republicans were the most positive on candidates' ideas for solving the nation's No. 1 problem. The two partisan groups were tied from March through May.
Gallup first asked this question last November and has updated it monthly since January. The most recent measurement was June 1-5, prior to the Orlando mass shooting. Gallup uses this question as a follow-up to a question asking Americans, in an open-ended fashion, to name the top problem facing the U.S.
As of the most recent June asking, the Republican nomination had been decided. Bernie Sanders was still battling Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, although Clinton's nomination was all but assured at that point.
The trend in Republicans' responses to some degree parallels the narrowing of their party's field of candidates. Last November and in the first two months of this year, the Republican field was crowded. A significant drop in Republicans' positive views in March took place after the field narrowed with the withdrawal of Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina and Mike Huckabee. At the time of the March survey, however, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and John Kasich were still campaigning against Donald Trump. It is possible that the negative turn in the tone of the GOP debates in March affected Republicans' perceptions of their candidates and their ideas.
Trump's two remaining challengers -- Cruz and Kasich -- both dropped out in early May just before that month's May 4-8 survey, but Republicans' views changed little in that poll. Another significant downturn in Republicans' positive views of candidate ideas took place in June, with Trump entrenched as the nominee.
On the Democratic side, no specific event coincided with the uptick in Democrats' positivity in the March survey. Clinton's main competition, Sanders, has continued campaigning up through this week's final primary in Washington, D.C., and Democrats have become even more positive still this month. Both Democrats and Republicans began paying more attention to the race in March.
Since February, independents have been less likely than Republicans or Democrats to say that any candidate has come up with good ideas for solving problems. This reflects independents' lack of strong allegiance to either party or a specific candidate.
Despite these significant shifts in how each party's constituents feel about candidates having come up with good ideas, the overall trend in this measure has stayed fairly stable. The exception to this pattern came in February, when -- reflecting the uptick in both Republicans' and Democrats' positive responses -- the "good ideas" percentage rose to 52%, the highest figure recorded for any month. By March, however, the overall trend had settled down, and although it is a little more negative in June, has not varied substantially. This reflects the fact that as one group of partisans became more positive, the other group became more negative. The overall trend shows that half of Americans at this juncture do not think any candidate has come up with good ideas for solving the nation's top problem.
Republicans' and Democrats' perceptions of whether presidential candidates have come up with good ideas for solving the most important problem facing the U.S. have shifted notably over the course of the past eight months. The percentage of Republicans saying candidates have come up with solid plans to address the nation's most pressing issue dropped about 20 percentage points from February to June, while the percentage of Democrats holding that view rose by about the same amount from January to June.
It's not entirely clear what has driven these shifts. Clearly, the fact that the number of Republican candidates has gone from many to one could be a factor. About three in 10 Republicans now view Trump unfavorably, and given that there are no other GOP candidates in the field, these individuals could be the ones who now say that no candidates have good ideas for solving the nation's top problem. More broadly, the June data could simply reflect the fact that Democrats are more satisfied with the ideas generated by Clinton (and perhaps Sanders) than Republicans are about ideas generated by Trump.
Clinton has been the expected Democratic nominee for months now, although with dogged competition from Sanders. Her victories in the June 7 primaries that essentially sealed her status as the Democratic nominee occurred after Gallup's June update, thus this does not help explain why Democrats are more positive this month.
Whatever the reasons, the current data are an apparent plus for Democrats -- if they can translate their partisans' positive feelings about candidates' (presumably their candidate's) ideas for solving the big problems into enthusiasm and turnout on Election Day.