The razor-thin nature of Donald Trump’s victory in 2016 — a 78,000-vote margin in three states — has had the side effect of making Trump-voter-watching a parlor game of choice among political pundits. Will his core supporters stick with him through four years in the White House and into 2020? Or, more importantly, will they stick with him enough that Republicans on Capitol Hill continue to fear what his base might do to them in next year’s primaries? Will members of his own party continue to stand by him, no matter what unexpected revelation or embarrassing tweet emerges from the West Wing?
So far the answer has generally been yes. Trump’s historically unpopular, but has continued to be well-received with those base voters. Staunch conservatives like Trump, and they vote more in the primaries, and that has kept Trump’s party in line.
But while that’s true, there’s been another question that we’ve been paying attention to. Trump’s base may support him pretty consistently — but do they support him as strongly? Maybe you like to have an oatmeal cookie as a treat, but you really like a chocolate malted. Trump had a lot of malted-level supporters coming out of the gates. A new poll from Quinnipiac University, though, suggests that a lot of his supporters now fall into the “oatmeal cookie” camp — if not fully flipping to “raw broccoli.”
Quinnipiac finds that 33 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s job performance, compared to 61 percent who disapprove. More than twice as many people say they strongly disapprove of Trump (eating raw eggs as a snack) as say they strongly approve.
Those are low numbers — lower than the RealClearPolitics average of approval polling. We’d expect that; Quinnipiac’s numbers have been worse for Trump than other polls pretty consistently. Looking at the long-term trend just within Quinnipiac’s polls, though, we can see a shift: More strong disapproval over time and less strong approval.
Where that shift is particularly important is, again, among the Republicans that make up Trump’s base. Before this poll, the lowest level of strong support Trump saw from members of his own party was 62 percent in late March. In the new poll, it’s dropped to 53 percent.
At the same time, the percentage of Republicans who somewhat approve of him has increased, a sign that support for Trump isn’t completely evaporating, but just softening. For some Republicans, anyway. The percentage of members of his own party who say they strongly disapprove of him has climbed from 3 percent in January to 10 percent now. Among independents, that figure has also climbed substantially.
Over the course of the campaign, the demographic group that held strongest for Trump was white Americans without college degrees. For the first time in this new poll, that group views Trump more negatively than positively, with fully half of non-college educated whites viewing his job performance with disapproval.
Why? Views of how he’s handling issues have dipped slightly, though not uniformly. It’s clear that one reason Trump’s viewed more negatively by members of his party is because of how he behaves in office.
Since January, the percentage of Republicans saying that Trump is levelheaded has fallen by 14 points. The percentage saying that he shares their values has fallen 10. And, most notably, the percentage of Republicans — members of his own party! — who say he’s a good leader has fallen 22 points.
What’s particularly remarkable about those numbers is that these are negative shifts that can be laid directly at Trump’s feet. It’s no one else’s fault that he’s increasingly viewed as dishonest or a bad leader among members of his party. It’s his own.
And that makes it less useful for members of Congress to stand with him. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) took a lot of heat this week for opposing Trump’s behavior while voting for policies Trump supports. If Trump-the-president is increasingly tainted in the eyes of his party, then Flake is squarely in line with much of the rest of the Republican Party.
Emily Guskin contributed to this report.