Top-Level Management Is More Democratic Than Rank-and-File Feds

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Senior managers in the federal workforce are more likely to identify with the Democratic Party than those they supervise, and are far more approving of President Obama, according to a new survey.

About half of GS-15 and Senior Executive Service respondents in a poll conducted by Government Business Council -- Government Executive Media Group’s research arm -- said they were Democrats or leaned Democrat, while 40 percent identified as Republican. Respondents in GS-14 and lower positions reported a 44/38 split favoring Democrats.

Senior managers approved of their top boss by a 48/46 margin. Rank-and-file feds were more likely to disapprove of Obama’s job performance, with 44 percent giving him positive marks and 48 percent holding negative views.

The supervisors are paying more attention to the 2016 presidential race, with far fewer managers saying they did not know about individual candidates than lower ranking feds. While both groups help largely unfavorable views of the Republican field, respondents in each category expressed some significant gaps that outweighed the inherent differences in their political views.

Nearly three in 10 rank-and-file employees saw Republican frontrunner Donald Trump favorably, compared to just 14 percent of managers. Though fewer non-management feds had opinions on Ben Carson, his approval rating among the group was above water. Supervisors viewed him unfavorably by a double-digit margin.

Management held more favorable opinions of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush than their subordinates, and gave glowing reviews to Ohio Gov. John Kasich. His 45/26 split was the highest net favorability for any candidate -- Democrat or Republican -- among top supervisors, and the second highest total favorable rating despite relatively low name recognition. Three in 10 rank-and-file workers approved of Kasich, while about one in four disapproved.

Vice President Joe Biden received the highest total favorable rating among managers, with 48 percent giving him positive marks and 43 percent holding negative views of the not-yet (but testing-the-waters) candidate. In another indication the rank and file is less than impressed with the Obama administration, the group viewed Biden unfavorably by a 10 percent margin. Hillary Clinton held the highest total favorable rating among non-managers, though a majority of them still viewed her unfavorably.

The rank and file is more likely to vote for a candidate who speaks directly to the federal workforce; 70 percent of the group said issues relating to federal employees were very important or essential, compared to 58 percent of top-level managers who said the same.

The poll had 973 federal workers participating, with a 3 percent margin of error. It was conducted from Aug. 7 through Aug. 12. The same poll showed the federal workforce overall leans very slightly toward the Democratic Party, and that a plurality of Republican feds would vote Donald Trump if a primary were held today. 

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