President Trump’s affinity for cherry-picking polls — a function of the fact that they have not generally been that good for him since about May 2016 — means that the nugget he’s likely to pull from CBS News’s new survey is this one:
More than half the country wants the Democrats to give in on a U.S.-Mexico border wall to reopen the government. It’s an apparent validation of Trump’s strategy since the outset of the shutdown: make Democrats choose between acceding to his campaign promise or continuing to inflict damage on the country in the form of unpaid workers and unresponsive services.
The only problem with that narrative is this additional question from CBS’s poll:
Two-thirds of the country wants Trump to give in, dropping his border wall push so the government can reopen. The upshot is that although only 43 percent of Americans want the Democrats to stick to their guns, only 31 percent want Trump to.
At first glance, these conflicting results suggest most Americans simply want the shutdown to end. But that’s not really the case. The 52 percent of Americans who want the Democrats to give in presumably include the vast majority of that 31 percent who want Trump to. Same goes for the 66 percent who want Trump to fold and the 43 percent who don’t want the Democrats to. It seems that only about a quarter to a third of Americans simply want the shutdown to end regardless of which side wins — a finding that lines up generally with a Pew Research Center survey released last week.
More alarming for Trump is how Republicans feel about the question of what Trump should do: Thirty percent want him to give up the fight.
In fact, according to CBS’s polling, a fifth of Republicans haven’t even been convinced that a wall is necessary to keep the border secure. That’s a substantially lower percentage than hold that position overall — more than 6 in 10 Americans haven’t been convinced it’s necessary — but it’s still a large portion of Trump’s base.
Those numbers actually line up neatly with Trump’s overall approval rating in the CBS poll. About 6 in 10 Americans disapprove of the job the president is doing — including 20 percent of Republicans. This is the highest level of disapproval CBS has recorded during Trump’s presidency.
CBS’s poll is not the only one to record such a shift. RealClearPolitics’s average of approval polls shows an obvious shift since the shutdown began. Trump’s approval rating has dropped by about a point — but his disapproval average has climbed nearly four points.
Bad news for Trump. In that CBS poll, they get worse.
The pollsters also asked if the fight over the wall was worth the shutdown — a different question than whether Trump should give up the fight. Most Americans, nearly three-quarters, said it wasn’t.
So did 43 percent of Republicans. Support for the fight is outside the margin of error among Republicans, but not by much.
For an impartial observer, there’s a pretty clear lesson: Trump’s position is generally but not overwhelmingly popular with his own party and is unpopular overall. A big chunk of his party seems to wish he hadn’t engaged in the fight, and Trump’s disapproval numbers nationally have spiked since it began.
If past is precedent, Trump probably will instead focus on that first 52 percent number.