Donald Trump the politician has always been more about style than substance — more about personality than policy. The details have shifted with the changing winds, but Trump diehards have stuck with him, even when they acknowledged his flaws.
So it should be no surprise that they're giving him a total pass for working with Democrats rather than Republicans.
A new poll from Monmouth University shows Trump paying virtually no price with his base for going through Democrats on the last two major issues: the debt ceiling and immigration. Trump had previously lost some support from the GOP base, but his recent moves don't appear to have sped things up at all. And if anything, Republicans are taking Trump's side against GOP leaders in Congress.
Among the key findings:
- Trump's approval rating among Republican voters remains at 79 percent — about where it has been in other polls.
- Only 6 percent of Republicans say Trump has been “too willing” to work with Democrats; 74 percent say he has “shown the right amount of willingness.”
- Just 18 percent say his actions over the past month have raised questions about his conservatism; 73 percent say they haven't.
- 71 percent of Republicans say it's possible Trump is working with Democrats because GOP leaders haven't been able to pass his agenda, but just 32 percent think it's possible that Trump just isn't as conservative as he claims.
The most striking finding, though, is on immigration. Trump's agreement with Democrats to codify DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, in exchange for more border security has caused even some of Trump's most stalwart conservative media supporters to balk. They believe it represents Trump going back on his most important campaign promise — the very ethos of his entire campaign.
But the base doesn't really see it that way. Despite the fervor for Trump's hard-line immigration policies, just 1 in 5 Republicans (20 percent) say they would be “very dissatisfied” if Trump softened his immigration position. In fact, a majority say they would either be “very” (14 percent) or “somewhat” (41 percent) satisfied if he did soften his position. Even 50 percent of Trump voters say they would be satisfied.
This is a bit of a chicken-and-egg question. Are Republicans okay with Trump's immigration dealmaking because they aren't actually as far-right as he is on the issue? Or are they warming to a softened immigration platform because Trump has now signaled that's his intention?
It's likely a little bit of Column A and a little bit of Column B. We've seen ample evidence that Trump's supporters are willing to see his moves in the most favorable light, and this poll suggests there is plenty of that when it comes to his dealings with Democrats. When a pollster asks whether Republicans would be okay with Trump doing something, it's clear their default is more toward "yes" than "no." Polls have repeatedly shown GOP voters are averse to compromise with Democrats on their core values; but suddenly Trump does exactly that, and it's A-okay with them.
It also suggests Trump has the upper hand on GOP leaders if they were to ever come to a real impasse. If you're House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and you see this poll, you have to believe Trump can do pretty much whatever he wants with whichever party leaders he pleases.