Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll, posted graphs Sunday looking at views of the Trump presidency to date. Included in the mix was this one, using Gallup’s weekly approval numbers to show splits by party and ideology.
This comports with what polling generally looks like: Strong Democrats at one end, strong Republicans at the other, independents in the middle. But this graph struck me as interesting because of how the line progresses. Steady improvement as the ideology moves right — and then a big spike once Republicans are asked.
Here’s another way of looking at that over the first 17 weeks of Gallup polling on the president. Independents view Trump more positively than conservative Democrats — but there’s a wide gulf between them and Republicans.
That’s not what the polling looked like during Barack Obama’s presidency.
Over Obama’s first 17 weeks in office, independents were about roughly halfway between liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans — but so were liberal-moderate Republicans. (There aren’t enough liberal Republicans to break them out separately.)
As partisanship wore down on Obama’s presidency, those less-conservative Republicans soured on him. Independents remained about in the middle.
This shift is more clear when we look at party identity by itself.
In the first 17 weeks of Obama’s first term, independents were about halfway between members of the two parties in terms of approval of his job performance.
By the last 17 weeks of his second term, the extremes had widened, but independents were still roughly in the middle.
For Trump? Independents are clearly closer to the Democratic position than the Republican one.
We can look at this another way, in terms of the percentage-point difference between Democrats and independents and between Republicans and independents. In the first and last 17 weeks of Obama’s presidency, those differences were about the same consistently. In the first 17 weeks of Trump’s, the split between Republicans and independents is much larger.
Without the animation:
This is critically important for Republicans generally, in addition to Trump specifically. In the 2016 election, almost a third of Trump’s support came from independents.
If independents continue to view Trump as poorly as do Democrats, that suggests he is unlikely to see similar support in four years’ time. What’s more, if Republicans continue to stand with Trump to plaudits from their base, it’s worth asking how independents will respond.
The picture Gallup’s numbers give, then, is not really one of a partisan split. It’s one of a Republican Party that views Trump differently than everyone else.