Over the past several months, there have been numerous reports on declining support and approval for President Donald Trump. For example:
- In June, Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight reported, “There’s been a considerable decline in the number of Americans who strongly approve of Trump from a peak of around 30 percent in February to just 21 or 22 percent of the electorate now.”
- An August Wall Street Journal/NBC poll showed that since April, the number of Republicans and Republican-leaning voters who said they supported Trump in the GOP primary had sunk from 46 percent to 39 percent.
- A Quinnipiac University national poll released near the end of September disclosed that 56 percent of American voters feel that President Trump is “not fit to serve as president,” and 57 percent disapprove of the job he is doing as president.
- A mere 8 percent of Democrats in a Pew Research Center poll released in early October approved of the job Trump was doing as president.
Given these numbers, it would appear the bottom is falling out on the Trump presidency.
Taking a closer look, however, that is not the case.
As so often happens, data in the aggregate conceals as much as it reveals. In this instance, when the layers of the onion are peeled back one discovers that Trump’s support among Republicans and with his “base” remains quite strong.
- 88 percent of the Republican’s in the Pew Research Center poll approved of Trump’s job performance.
- 84 percent of the Republicans in the Quinnipiac poll felt Trump was “fit” to be president.
- Based upon an August survey, FiveThirtyEight reported that 63 percent of “reluctant” Trump voters approved of Trump’s job performance compared to 95 percent approval from “enthusiastic” Trump voters.
These numbers tell the story of Trump’s current support quite clearly. As we noted in a blog in August of 2016 before the election, “Trump supporters are of two principal types: right wing populists and Republican diehards.”
The “diehards” are sticking with Trump but to a lesser degree than the “right wing populists” who have an almost orgasmic devotion to the President. Writing for the Atlantic, David Graham observes, “Every shrewd politician keeps a watchful eye on his base but the relationship between President Trump and his core supporters has become an object of near fetishistic obsession.”
We took an in-depth look at those “core supporters” in our August 2016 blog so we will not repeat it in detail here. Suffice it to say that Trump’s “support base skews male, white, older and less well educated.”
One need only look at the attendance at his campaign style rallies since becoming President to see that is an accurate characterization. For a more statistical confirmation, consider that President Trump’s job performance approval ratings in the WSJ/NBC poll for September went up to 49 percent compared to 42 percent in August.
According to Dante Chinni and Sally Bronston, “Trump’s job approval number among men without a college degree was 55 percent. That was up 11 points from August when 44 percent of that same group approved of his job performance. That group made up the bulk of Trump’s September improvement.”
While Trump’s popularity with his base is overwhelming, his status and impact on what we have labeled the “Republican diehards” is even more intriguing and revelatory. In the September Quinnipiac poll, 59 percent strongly approved of the “way Donald Trump is handling his job as president.” A new CNN poll conducted by SSRS shows that 83 percent of Republicans feel Trump is “taking the Republican Party in the right direction.”
Trump’s high percentages on these and other items in those two polls are indicators that Trump support among Republicans substantially transcends his base of core supporters. They become especially telling when contrasted to the results for the Republican leadership in the same two polls.
In the Quinnipiac poll, only 32 percent of Republicans approved of “the way the Republicans in Congress are handling their job.” In the CNN poll, only 46 percent of the Republicans responding felt the Republican Party leaders in Congress were “taking the party in the right direction.”
Bringing it on home and making it more personal, in the CNN poll 31 percent of Republicans had a favorable opinion of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vs. 39 percent who had an unfavorable opinion. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan fared better than McConnell getting a 58 percent favorable opinion rating vs. a 30 percent unfavorable opinion rating.
The bottom line though is that Donald Trump’s support among Republicans as a group in general is much higher than that of the Republican leadership. This is the story inside the story of the nature of the current support for Donald Trump.
Only time will tell what this means for the mid-term elections and the future of the Republican Party. What we can tell at this point in time is that to a greater rather than a lesser extent, the Republican Party today is the party of Trump.