There's good news and bad news for both parties, in a Pew Research poll out Thursday: Republicans are seen as extreme and intolerant but more trusted to handle international issues, while Democrats' position as the party of the middle class doesn't translate into an edge on the economy.
Compared to the GOP, Democrats are 24 points more likely to be perceived as tolerant and open to all groups of people, and 17 points more likely to be seen as caring about the middle class. They're also 14 points less likely to be perceived as being too extreme.
But "the Republican Party fares much better on issues than image," the survey finds. While Democrats are slightly more trusted on health care, the two parties are about tied on the economy, immigration and abortion. The GOP has a significant lead as the party preferred to handle taxes, the threat of terrorism, and, for the first time since 2002, foreign policy. Americans are now 13 points more likely to trust Republicans than Democrats on foreign policy, up from just a 1-point edge on the issue last October.
Overall, Americans remain decidedly lukewarm about both parties. Only 36 percent approve of Democratic congressional leaders, while congressional Republicans, facing disapproval from half of their own party, are at just 26 percent.
President Barack Obama fares a little better, with 48 percent approval, but there's a nearly even divide on whether he or Republican congressional leaders should take the lead in solving the nation's problems.
Pew surveyed 1,504 Americans between Feb. 18 and 22, using live interviewers to reach both landlines and cell phones.