Republican Support for Increasing Presidential Powers Surges

President Trump Departs White House En Route To Dayton, Ohio And El Paso, Texas
President Donald Trump speaks to members of the press before departing from the White House en route to Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas on August 7, 2019 in Washington, DC. Zach Gibson/Getty

While Americans overall still believe it would be "too risky" to bestow additional powers on the presidency, the share of Republicans who support greater presidential authority has surged in the last year, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center.

Two-and-a-half years into the presidency of Donald Trump, 66 percent of U.S. adults believe granting more autonomy to the White House would be too risky. This represents a stark decline in caution since just the prior year, when 76 percent of the public thought such a move would be too risky.

The decline is largely owed to the number of Republicans who have come around to the idea of imbuing the presidency with greater authority. Barely a majority of Republicans—at 51 percent—now believe this would be too risky, a steep fall since last year when 70 percent of Republicans thought the same thing.

The share of Republicans who think the U.S. president could be more effective without the constitutionally prescribed system of checks and balances that relegates independent authority to the Congress and the courts has likewise increased. Forty-three percent now believe the presidency could be more effective without having to worry as much about the constraints imposed by the other branches of government, up 16 points alone since last year.

Democrats, on the other hand, have remained relatively consistent in their beliefs about presidential authority during the Trump administration. Eighty-seven percent thought an expansion of presidential powers would be too risky in 2017, and two years later that number has budged slightly to 82 percent.

Though trendlines between both parties on this question have differed during the course of the Trump administration, the starkest contrast came about during the 2016 election.

While 87 percent of Democrats took caution in granting additional powers to the president in 2017, that number was at 66 percent during the tail-end of the Obama administration. On the other hand, before Trump took office, Republicans overwhelmingly thought—at 82 percent—that this move would be too risky. After Trump's inauguration, the share of Republicans who thought so plummeted to 65 percent.

According to the survey, Republicans are ideologically divided about presidential authority. Conservatives tend to have a much rosier view of increasing presidential powers compared with more moderate or liberal Republicans. Democrats reported their beliefs in a much more consistent fashion across ideological lines. Moderate and liberal Democrats agreed in relatively equal measure about the propriety of granting more powers to the office of the president.