Can Donald Trump Rely On His Shrinking Base To Carry Him Through The 2018 Mid Terms?

by Richard Cameron


National Compass has been periodically examining the health of Donald Trump’s presidency, by looking at the ‘medical charts’ – a variety of national polls revealing approval ratings.  What we have discovered here in January 2018, a full year into Trump’s first term, should be ringing warning alarms for his party.

Here, we will review some comparable numbers ranging from election day 2016 and contrasting them with what Americans think at the moment.

The top line numbers are disconcerting to any administration that is witnessing them. In Trump’s case, an aggregate of national polls, finds Donald Trump’s approval numbers averaging 39 percent.  FiveThirtyEight specifically places it at 39.5%. Not a single president in the past 73 years, has had anywhere near as low an approval rating at 377 days in, as Trump – not Richard M. Nixon, not Jimmy Carter, not Lyndon Baines Johnson and not Gerald Ford

Trump’s situation is equally dire for Republicans in Congress.  23% of Americans approve of the direction of the country in 2018.  That is one point higher than their perception of how things were in 2010 – when President Obama’s House Democrats lost 63 seats in the mid-term.  In 2006, when George W. Bush’s approval numbers were around 40 percent, the GOP lost 30 seats and the Democrats picked up 31. Obama’s approval was at 44% in the 2010 mid-terms.

As of January 2018 – a full year into Trump’s presidency – his approval rating stands at 50 percent in only 12 states, Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma, North and South Dakota. There is deep significance to this metric as well. At the same time in his presidency – a year in, President Obama’s approval was 50% or above in 41 states, so by comparison, Trump has lost majority approval of survey respondents in 29 states in the same time frame.

When one digs down into the granular data of where Trump has lost support in the last year, the specifics spell trouble ahead.  Trump is down:

  • Eight percent among      Evangelicals
  • Eight  percent among     Catholics
  • Eight percent among      Whites
  • Seven percent among    All Christians
  • Seven percent among    Income under $50 K
  • Seven  percent among   Military families
  • Six  percent among        Southerners
  • Six percent among         no college degree
  • Six percent among         age 55-64
  • Six  percent among        65+
  • Five  percent among      45 – 54 years
  • Five  percent among      GOP Women

Of the above, the declines among Evangelicals, Southerners, Military families, Republican women and those voters Trump dubbed as “uneducated” during the campaign, are the biggest red flags, because they are central to the Trump voting base so often referred to by political strategists. 

reproduction of Breitbart headline titled "Amnesty Don"

One of the issues that was a central theme in Trump’s scripted State Of The Union address last night, was his prescription for immigration.

Trump made a conditional pitch for the legalized status of at least 1.8 million young people eligible for protection from deportation under the  Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Breitbart, which has been the go to online destination for Trump’s base, is now referring to Trump as “Amnesty Don”.

Of Trump’s backpedaling on what immigration hawks call ‘amnesty’, Mark Krikorian, executive director of the immigration restriction advocacy group, Center for Immigration Studies, states “There’s a real potential for disaster.  The president hasn’t sold out his voters yet. But I think it’s important that his supporters are making clear to him that they’re keeping an eye on him.”

Among Republicans and Republican leaning voters, Trump’s overall support is soft. Where he has had rock solid support has been among his core base. 

Republican pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson, reviewing data current as of the Summer of 2017, told the Washington Examiner that “Trump’s real base is 24 percent of the electorate.”  She further commented that the one in four are those who “like the tweeting, like the insults, the things other people say are mean or unproductive behavior.”

A graph illustrating the Rasmussen polling data on voters who strongly support and strongly disapprove of Trump's presidency

In the Rasmussen data tracking voters who “strongly support” Donald Trump, the president’s support has trended downward from 35% in January 31st of 2017 to today’s number of 30 percent.

This would translate into a reduction in the Trump core base over the past year, from 25% to 21.5 %.  It is more difficult to predict whether that 21 percent is a hard floor than it is to conclude that it is a hard ceiling.

Trump has no conceivable way to inflate his hard core support, but depending on the reaction to Trump’s immigration policies, they could go lower.

Speaking of those, Bob Dane, executive director of the conservative Federation for American Immigration Reform, puts Trump’s and the Republicans’ situation in even more dire terms; “There’s widespread fear that if Trump capitulates to the Democrats and fails to deliver on his campaign promises on immigration, there’s not going to be any more campaign promises for the GOP to make in the future, because the base will inflict a scorched-earth policy in midterms.”

Republicans are hoping to thread the needle on immigration policy, but it is worth noting that since World War II, every president that has gone into the mid-term election with approval ratings of 50% or marginally higher – has lost an average of 14 seats in the House.  But when a president’s support is 50 percent or less, the average loss is 36 seats.

In the case of Trump, to date, 34 GOP members have announced that they are not going to stand for re-election, including the most recent –  Trey Gowdy (R-SC), Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, who made official his retirement today. Some view this trend as an indication that Congressional Republicans see the writing on the wall spelling out disaster. 

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One thought on “Can Donald Trump Rely On His Shrinking Base To Carry Him Through The 2018 Mid Terms?

  1. Trump’s approval rating is down because so many former supporters have found out that Trump’s campaign promises were really campaign lies. If he gives in to the Democrats on immigration the 2018 mid term election will be a blood bath for Republicans.

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