The latest Economist/YouGov national poll is instructive. When it comes to Russia, despite Trump’s bromance with President Vladimir Putin, only 14 percent consider Russia to be an ally or friendly; 32 percent say it is unfriendly, in addition to 34 percent who consider it an enemy. Trump may be confused about who interfered in the 2016 election, but the public is not. By a 50 percent-to-28 percent margin, Americans say Russia interfered in our election. Unlike Trump, who is convinced Ukraine meddled in our election, only 21 percent of Americans think so.
As for climate change, Trump does not have much support for his insistence it is a hoax. In the last 10 years, some think climate change has affected the world a great deal (42 percent) or at least some; only 18 percent say not at all. By a 51 percent-to-28 percent margin, Americans think we have not done enough to combat climate change. In the next 10 years, 66 percent of Americans think climate change will affect the world a great deal or some.
Trump’s approval (40 percent vs. 52 percent) remains underwater, as does his reelection number against an unnamed Democrat (40 percent vs. 50 percent). His personal ratings are horrendous. (A remarkable 51 percent do not even want him to run for reelection.) Only 31 percent like him as a person (and 18 percent say they like him a lot) or say he is honest and trustworthy. Fifty-four percent say he does not have the temperament to be president. Only 19 percent say he is steady, while 60 percent say he is arrogant, and a strong plurality (44 percent) say he is a racist. Less than a quarter of Americans think he cares about people like him.
While the country remains evenly divided over removing Trump from office, there is a strong majority in favor of calling additional witnesses in the Senate (52 percent to 21 percent), and roughly a third think there will be a fair trial in the Senate.
In sum, depending upon precisely what question is asked, the percentage of cultists who support Trump whatever he says or does is generally less than 30 percent. Another 10 percent to 15 percent may occasionally take his side on positions or policies, but a remarkably large percentage of Americans do not think he is fit and want him gone.
Why, then, do the election polls, especially state polls, show a hypothetical general election to be rather tight? First, we should all keep in mind that the electoral college and the people in key swing states are generally less antagonistic toward Trump than the country as a whole. Second, Trump has already begun, and will continue, to demonize Democratic politicians as unpatriotic, crazy, socialist and a danger to his base’s way of life. He won in 2016 by making Hillary Clinton even more unlikable than he; he will try to do the same with whomever the Democrats choose to nominate in 2020. Third, unless and until a Democratic presidential nominee convinces voters he or she cares about them and is in sync with their values and basic political predilections, there will be a segment of “soft” independent and Republican voters who shy away from the Democrats.
The bottom line: Trump cannot win a majority of Americans’ respect and affection; he can only try to frighten them about their alternative. That’s why you can expect a vicious, anti-factual campaign that likely will make 2016 look like a picnic.