TrumpVoters and Not Trump Voters, Is There a Connection? By Tom Donelson and J.D. Johannes


The crucial issue for the GOP is how do you deal with a President up for re-election that many Americans personally don’t care for but whose policies are popular?  If Trump decides to run for re-election, the GOP candidates will have to run with the top of the ticket and our goal is to review the divide between Trump policies and many voter’s personal disdain for Trump to find issues that can form a winning coalition.  A national online panel poll by Evolving Strategies finds issues that many Trump voters and non-trump voters agree on to design a campaign that emphasizes issues over personalities.  In another report Americas Majority researcher JD Johannes will dig deep into the personality and identity factors that will affect elections in 2020 and beyond.

The first reality is that less than 30% of all voters approve of Trump’s personal behavior and only 2/3 of Trump Voters approve of the President’s personal behavior.

However 45% of voters approve of the job he was doing.  This poll is similar to others as recent YouGov and Reuters have his approval at 45% and Rasmussen over the past months had seen his poll numbers ranging from 46% to 51%.  So many Americans, in spite of their visceral dislike of Trump, do appreciate the job he is doing.  As the chart clearly illustrates, there is sharp electoral divide on Trump’s job approval with only tiny sliver of non-Trump voters approving of the job he is doing.

That sliver of non-Trump voters more than doubles when it comes to approving his economic policies.  Overall 51% of voters approve of his handling of the economy and that includes 97% of Trump voters and 16% of non-Trump voters.  So many voters appreciate the growing economy and this could have helped save the Senate even though it did little to help the House. 

48% of voters including 97% of Trump voters approved of how Trump handles trade issues along with nearly 12% of Trump not trump voters.

            47% of voters along with 96% of Trump voters and 9% of not Trump voters favored his approach to foreign policy

To go with 46% of voters and 96% of Trump voters and 10% of not Trump voters approve his immigration policy. 

Many voters view Trump with personal disdain but are more likely to support his policies.  As we examine specific policies, we found that there policies that a significant portion of Not Trump Voters agreed with Trump policies even if they personally disliked the man. 

Abortion:  55% of all voters including nearly 40% of not Trump voters and slightly over three quarters of Trump voters favored a ban on abortions after 20 weeks.  This correspond with other polls we conducted with Voice Broadcasting and Cyngal in which the majority of voters favored restricting abortions after the second trimester.  Even many who viewed themselves as pro-choice agreed that abortions are not unlimited right for women and that babies are endowed with right to life, the only debate was where do you draw the line to protect the unborn.  While many within the Republican have decided that abortion was a losing issues for many voters, our data showed that so many Americans are now pro-life that the liberal position is out of step with the mainstream.

Healthcare  On single payer, 80% of not Trump voters favored single payer as oppose to only 16% of Trump voters and 55% of all voters but when asked about allowing health insurances that provides choices and fewer benefits to reduce cost, we see consensus.  77% of all voters favored allowing more choices and lower priced healthcare plans along with 65% of not Trump Voters and 92% of Trump voters.  

The reason health care is a near permanent issue is the constant rise in premium prices.  Even in many employer-sponsored plans the employee’s portion of the premium for a family plan is nearly as much as their mortgage.  Many voters see the tax increases associated with Medicare For All as just shifting money from the Premium Bucket to the Federal Income Tax Bucket with the advantage of guaranteed health care coverage for pre-existing conditions and if they are out of work. 

Republicans need to talk about the need for choices, lower prices and most importantly, allowing voters to keep their health care plan if they like their health care plan and keep their Doctor, if they like their Doctors.  These are values that all voters agree with and Single player plans discard the choice elements as the government will determine your care, your plan and your doctor.

Tariffs– Voters are undecided whether Trump’s tariff strategy is designed to increase trade and get better deals or are protectionist approach to protect jobs.  One friend who is a free trader mentioned to us that he can understand the approach of using tariffs to get better deals and increase trade but he is not favoring tariffs as a permanent approach.  Trump ran as a protectionist but his approach so far has moved toward getting better trade deals as with his recent NAFTA deal in which minor adjustments were made to help protect American jobs while maintaining the main framework of trade.  On occasion the White House has stated that the goal is zero tariffs and that can only happen when there is truly free trade.  As long as other countries erect barriers, the White House is going to tit-for-tat against those countries. 

62% of Voters including nearly 39% of not Trump voters and 92% of Trump voters favor Trump tariffs as a means to get better deals, while nearly 56% of voters view tariffs as need to protect jobs including 32% of not Trump voters and 86% of Trump voters.

Trump policies of using tariffs as a strategy to either protect jobs or get better deals have 32% to 40% of not Trump voters already in agreement with Trump on this issue and this gives GOP an opening to use this to get enough of not Trump voters to join their coalition.

Debts, Deficits and Inequality– There is one issue in our polling that Americans agree on, increasing debts, deficits or spending hurts the economy and in this poll, 87% of all voters agreed along with 83% of not Trump voters and 92% of Trump voters.  The deficits worry voters even it doesn’t worry politicians and if nothing else, this shows the potential of a Ross Perot candidate in 2020 or close facsimile.  Trump may be that figure and the GOP as a Party can promote an agenda that protects job creation and growth while dealing with deficits and debts. 

Only 37% of voters wanted politicians to focus on dealing with inequality and only 59% of Not Trump voters favored reducing inequality between the 1% and the rest of us, so that means nearly two out of every five not Trump voters favor policies dealing with economic growth.  In this election, the tax cuts produced economic growth but not necessarily loyalty among many voters as those suburban voters in blue states saw their taxes going up on 2019 due to the deduction reductions in state and local taxes.  Instead of blaming those state legislators who jumped the taxes upward, they blame their GOP congressmen.  And in many cases the benefits of the tax cut for individual workers were gobbled up by health insurance premium increases so they never observed an increase in their paycheck.  However, as we have seen, growth is important to voters, more so than dealing with inequality.  All of our pollsters, Cyngal, Voice Broadcasting and Evolving strategies saw this trend. 

Republicans need to view economic issues as promoting job growth and moving the economy forward by promoting a fair opportunity to succeed.  One way is to talk of an economic policy that uses Tariffs to open up trade opportunities and liberalizing trade while protecting jobs, a fine line to be sure but something that can happen along with reducing debts, deficits and keeping federal spending in line.  Voters will understand the connection between the two if there is a political party that defends it.

Immigration-Evolving Strategies, like our other pollsters, sees a divide on immigration between keep immigration levels where they are or increasing them and those voters who view increased immigration as preventing assimilation or hurts jobs of those in the lower income and lower middle Class. Many voters no longer believe that increasing immigration levels helps the economy and their own economic prospects.  47% of voters see high immigrations levels as diluting traditional values including 20% of Not Trump voters and 84% of Trump voters.  One of every five not Trump voters view increase immigration as a negative not a positive.  A key question for future study is are there enough voters willing to switch on this issue if this is combined with Republican plan on Tariffs to induce better trade terms and pro-growth economic message for the Middle Class?

Energy dominance and climate change– 39% supported energy dominance which is lower than other polls we did, but Evolving Strategies used the qualifying phrase “by reducing regulations” that other pollsters did not.  Without the latter phrase, the support went up over 50% and if Republicans can convince voters that energy dominance can be done safely and protect the environment, then it is a winning issue.

We have found in all of our polls that the majority of voters when presented with a more accurate view of the scientific debate over climate, reject the notion that human activity is the main cause of climate change for a more nuanced view that human activities along with natural events are behind climate change.  All groups were similar with 48% on this score and when you combined those who believe in natural events causing climate change with the combinations of both human events and natural events, over 50% of even Not Trump voters rejected the alarmists positions that climate change is strictly or mostly a man-made affair.

Conclusion- There are many issues in which Not Trump voters agree with Trump voters in large enough numbers for the GOP to make the case that they are the party of change and opportunity and build a winning coalition.  As the Democratic Party moves left, the GOP has a chance to entice enough Not Trump voters to join their coalition even with their personal dislike of Trump. 

On abortion, the majority of voters are pro-life and support restrictions on abortion, the only question is where to begin the restrictions.   On trade, at least a third of Not Trump voters see the merit of Trump trade strategy.  On economic growth, Trump and Not Trump voters view increasing debts, deficits or even spending as hurting the economic showing the rejection of Keynesian economics.  From 47% to 52%, voters overall approve of Trump handling of trade issues, immigration, economy and foreign affairs even if they don’t particularly care for him on a personal level.

On Health care, most voters prefer choices in their health care, they want to keep their plans if they like them or keep their doctor and here the GOP can win if they chose to promote a health care plan that offers those things.

The Democrat’s leading candidates will either be billionaires like Michael Bloomberg or Tom Steyer or they will go to younger more leftist candidates such as California Senator Kamala Harris, so likeability issue may not be factor as it wasn’t in 2016 when the Democrats nominated one of the most unlikeable candidates ever in Hillary Clinton.  Ted Cruz survived a tough Senate race in 2018 despite being unlikable and outspent two to one, so being likable could be overlooked if the alternative is worse and the plan that Trump promoted in 2016 is working.

For many Republican candidates, there is a discomfort with having Trump on top of the ticket. Many GOP voters though like Trump more than their candidates for U.S. House and Senate so Republicans need to run on a positive message that they will be the party of reform and the Middle Class.  Even with the recent gains by Democrats, the Democrat Party is still a Party of the two coasts and no longer the party of Middle America or the South.  Much of Middle America and the South still remains Republican so the key issue for the GOP is whether they can get enough of the Democratic base to build a new coalition in key Midwest States just as Michigan or Wisconsin plus make inroads in Western states just as Colorado and Nevada.

In Florida, school choice prompted 18% of black women to vote for Ron DeSantis and this alone would have propelled DeSantis to victory.  In Tennessee, Martha Blackburn cleaned up in the suburbs, exceeded national average among blacks and Hispanics (gaining 45% of Hispanic voters in her state).  In Missouri, Josh Hawley had similar success in both the Suburbs and with minorities plus turnout among black voters cratered for Claire McCaskill and Hawley did very similar among Hispanics than Blackburn. 

De Santis, Hawley and Blackburn received over 50% of suburban votes while on a national average the GOP only received 49%, the same as Democrats.  The lesson for GOP is to study these candidacies. Rick Scott did well among Hispanics and that even includes Puerto Rican voters and like De Santis, expanded his reach into the Suburbs.

These candidates expanded upon the Trump coalition of 2016 and won as a result.  The key for Republicans is to fight on issues and expanding the theme on fair opportunity to succeed.  In 2020 and as long as the economy holds, the 2020 election will be a values election with values meaning more than just traditional social issues but more broad value battle including should voters chose their health care plan and their doctors or should the government do it for them?  On the abortion issue, the battle will be on the value of when is life worth protecting or does the unborn allowed no rights to life?  On economy, which values is more important, the right to a job and opportunity or do we engage in the politics of envy at the expense of opportunity.

The GOP won’t have an easy time with Trump on the top of the ticket due to his personality but his ideas are more popular than his opponent’s will be and that is the battleground that needs to be fought, the battleground of ideas. 

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