Writing in the Journal Sentinel, Craig Gilbert finds that Donald Trump has squandered chance to broaden base, increase popularity, polls show:
“He’s done nothing to expand his base and, if anything, he’s sort of where he was, or experiencing greater erosion,” says Lee Miringoff, who conducted polls this month for NBC/Marist in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania that showed Trump with a job approval rating in the mid-30s….
But here are some findings from the NBC/Marist survey of 910 Wisconsin adults, taken Aug. 13-17:
Trump has a negative approval rating from blue-collar whites, a group that is widely perceived as his demographic base, represents about half the vote in Wisconsin and favored Trump by nearly 30 percentage points last fall over Democrat Hillary Clinton. Among whites without a college degree, 38% approve of Trump and 47% disapprove. Democrat Barack Obama is today significantly more popular with these blue-collar voters in Wisconsin than Trump is. Obama is viewed favorably by 52%, Trump by 36%.
Trump’s standing with college grads, women and younger voters — three groups he struggled with in the campaign — is catastrophic. Only 24% of college grads in Wisconsin approve of his performance. Only 29% of voters under 45 do. Only 25% of women do, while 63% disapprove. It’s pretty extraordinary to see presidential numbers that lopsided from groups that represent broad demographic categories. Women make up over half the electorate. If you’re at negative 38 percentage points with an entire gender (25% approval minus 63% disapproval), it’s hard to overcome.
A significant minority of conservatives and Republicans express doubts, fears or disapproval of Trump. This is a polarized age. Modern presidents can expect almost unanimous opposition from voters in the other party, so they depend on nearly unanimous support from voters in their own party. But in the NBC/Marist Wisconsin poll, 19% of Republicans disapprove of Trump, 24% view him negatively, 25% think America’s role on the world stage has been weakened by his decisions, 31% feel embarrassed by his conduct as president, and 37% think he’s done more to divide the party than unite it.
There’s a telling aspect to political life in a rural small town, even if the town (like Whitewater) went for Hillary Clinton. While there’s no significant political cost to criticizing liberals (calling them weak, snowflakes, social justice warriors) or defaming former Pres. Obama (doubting his own religious identification, absurdly insisting he’s not American), there is a huge fear of upsetting diehard Trump supporters.
All these lifelong, proud middle class GOP town notables – so sure and smug – become shaking kittens when a Trumpist walks into the room. Even before Trump, this trend was pronounced.
(Funny story from two years ago. At a public meeting, a slovenly, brash woman asked some candidates if, after “all the money had been spent on special needs students and minorities,” what they would do for “normal people.” Obvious point, in Whitewater or other small towns: only a tiny fraction of any public money allocated goes to either minority or special needs residents. If one listens to talk radio or Fox News all day, however, one might falsely believe that most public expenditures go toward buying McMansions for Obama supporters or Special Olympians.)
For it all, it’s clear that Trump’s base is smaller than he ceaselessly claims, and that even among white working class voters who are supposedly his core constituency, he’s unpopular.
Those who’ve decided that local politics is only possible if they refrain from alienating Trump’s deplorable base are both weak in the face of that band and unnecessarily worried over its size. As it is, Trump doesn’t have a majority, and doesn’t even have a majority from a working class demographic, behind him. This makes sense: a majority overall and majorities within different groups now see well that Trump is an autocratic, bigoted confidence man.
Even if Trump had all the world behind him, opposition would be worth and necessary. It’s useful to remind oneself, however, that Trump never had and never will have all the world behind him. He doesn’t even have the formidable base he claims he has.