President Trump accomplished nothing in Singapore, if you want to be factual about it. The bland statement at the conclusion of the June 12 meeting was no different than previous statements, which were subsequently ignored. Worse, Trump announced he would unilaterally discontinue military exercises with South Korea. He also said many embarrassing, obsequious things to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, essentially giving the worst human rights violator on the planet a pass. But what did Americans think happened?
A Post-ABC News poll shows Americans’ reaction, even among Republicans, was quite muted. For non-Republicans, the summit was a semi-disaster. It’s only the unwavering support of Trump’s GOP base that gives him credit for much of anything.
Asked if the summit was a success for the United States, a sizable majority (55 percent) said it was too early to tell. Of those ready to render a verdict, 21 percent said it was a success and 19 percent said it wasn’t. When you look at the party breakdown of those who thought it a success, it becomes evident this is simply partisan politics. A large plurality (49 percent) of Republicans — no surprise there! — thought it was a success, but not a majority. In other words, Republicans are much more ready to make a snap decision, and a positive one at that. Only 4 percent of Republicans were willing to say it wasn’t a success. The cultlike following of the president continues among Republicans, on this issue like practically everything else. Only 5 percent of Democrats and 16 percent of independents think it was a success for the United States.
North Korea, however, did quite nicely, thank you, according to the respondents. Again, a majority (56 percent) said it’s too soon to tell, but those who said it was a success for North Korea (29 percent) vastly outnumber those who said it was not a success for North Korea (5 percent). That’s remarkable, when you think about it. Americans almost by acclamation think Kim did just swell. Considering what he got out of Trump, you can understand why. Interestingly, some 39 percent of Republicans said it was a success for North Korea. (Have they now changed their opinion on North Korea so it is “safe” to say the gulag country is a winner?)
When it comes to North Korea giving up its weapons, 41 percent said it is very likely or somewhat likely; 53 said it is somewhat unlikely or very unlikely. Again, 68 percent of Republicans thought it is somewhat or very likely; 26 percent of Democrats and 34 percent of independents did. More than 60 percent of Democrats and independents thought that is not happening.
Trump does better with respondents when it comes to making reasonable compromises (40 percent). About a third thought he gave away too much. However, this is again highly partisan, with 70 percent of Republicans saying he made reasonable compromises (their idol couldn’t possibly have given away the store!) but only 17 percent of Democrats and 39 percent of independents saying that. Nearly a majority of Democrats (49 percent) and 39 percent of independents thought he gave away too much.
On a positive note for Trump, a plurality of Americans thought the summit made war less likely (an astounding 66 percent of Republicans did), with 39 percent saying it made no difference and 10 percent saying it made war more likely.
It should not surprise us that Republicans defend Trump’s performance, given that 80 to 90 percent of them still support Trump overall. For everyone else, the degree of skeptics is remarkable given the White House’s full-out attempt to spin the summit and the usual confidence that Americans accord their commander in chief. Be it on domestic policy, the Russia investigation or the world stage, Trump is not able to gain points with non-Republicans. There is some logic there — Trump only cares about pleasing his base, and only his base is pleased with him.