The new Washington Post/ABC News poll finds Donald Trump way ahead of his rivals with 33 percent support among Republicans and GOP-leaning independents. But perhaps the most remarkable finding in the poll is how highly Republicans and GOP-leaners rate Trump on a range of personal attributes:
1) Republicans say by 64-35 that Trump is “qualified to serve as president.” By contrast, Americans overall say by 60-37 that he is not qualified.
2) Republicans say by 60-35 that Trump is “honest and trustworthy.” By contrast, Americans overall say he is not honest and trustworthy by 59-35.
3) Republicans say by 53-45 that Trump understands the problems of people like them. By contrast, Americans overall say he does not by 67-29.
4) Republicans say by 54-42 that Trump “has the kind of personality and temperament it takes to serve effectively as president.” By contrast, Americans overall say he doesn’t have those things by 63-33.
That’s remarkable. And by the way, a recent Quinnipiac survey also found majorities of Iowa Republicans give Trump similarly positive personal ratings.
Now, you could argue that today’s Post poll also shows similar findings about Hillary Clinton: She has very high personal ratings among Democrats, but not among Americans overall. (One notable exception: 56 percent of Americans say she has the right personality and temperament for the presidency.)
But the cases of Trump and Clinton are very different, and in a way, this makes our new polling all the more remarkable. Clinton has been well known to Democratic voters across the country as a public official for over two decades, as a First Lady, Senator, presidential candidate (the first time), Secretary of State, and, now, as a presidential candidate for the second time. Clinton’s national favorable numbers have fluctuated up and down over the years, and are currently on a downswing as she re-enters the political arena; meanwhile, it’s not surprising that her personal numbers among Democrats remain high, since she has that long history as a public official and is widely seen as the likely Dem nominee.
But Trump is largely known to Republicans not as a longtime high profile public official who has long been thought about for the presidency, but as a “brash” (as everyone’s favorite euphemism has it) billionaire who suddenly burst on to the political scene, names big buildings after himself, fires people on television, and regularly insults groups that include millions of Americans. Yet majorities of Republicans think he’s honest and trustworthy, understands their needs and problems, and is temperamentally suited to the presidency.
This may mainly reflect the fact that Trump gets a lot of media attention, so he’s getting far more exposure among Republican voters than his rivals are. That media attention regularly broadcasts images of Trump spewing vaguely Republican-sounding talking points (most of the time, anyway) about things like immigration and China (in addition to all of the insults), which could be helping to create generally positive attitudes towards him. Or perhaps Republican voters just like the show Trump is putting on as he publicly torments the GOP establishment and “tells it like it is” (a quality Republican voters keep telling reporters they admire in him).
Or here’s one other, rather more ominous possibility: maybe Republican voters are beginning to regard Trump as a possible nominee.
Okay, that can’t be right.
Or can it?